History

With Ta-De as your supply partner, you can be assured of top-shelf quality plus the professional service that has earned us our long-standing reputation.   We are the first West Mexico produce distributor still in business today!  Our customers say we “go the extra mile”…and that has always been the case.

Beating the Depression

Family patriarch and Ta-De founder Carlos Bennen was from “Cajun Country”, Louisiana:   a clan known for working long and hard.  Although they’re a proud family dating back to the French Acadians of Canada’s Maritime Provinces — even sporting its own crest with the French Fleur de LIs  —  they are, like many, brought down by the Great Depression.

In the early 1930s, Carlos sets out West on foot looking for work and eventually settles in Southern Arizona.

Slow but Sure Steps Up

Carlos Bennen (arrow) unloads produce in Nogales
Carlos Bennen (arrow) unloads produce in Nogales (1930s)

As a young man growing up in Nogales, Carlos takes any job offered, from crushing rocks for the flood control channels to loading of limes being imported from Mexico into the U.S. via The Wells Fargo Co.  Due to his diligence, Carlos is soon offered steady work with Wells Fargo, which had recently secured exclusive rights to distribute all fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico.

It is soon clear Carlos has a particular affinity and passion for produce. From office assistant, he’s promoted to sales, and soon becomes manager of the operation. Carlos continues to work through World War II, earning an exemption from military service because of the business’ vital role in food sourcing during the war years.

Birth of Vine-Ripes and El Rey

With the uncertainty of the War over, Carlos — now 28 — sees an opportunity for professional growth with a local distributor, R. G. James Tomato Co. He works there for ten years when a unique opportunity arises for him to have his own business: a partnership with long-time pal Phil Linde.

Together, they form Ritz Distributing (not the same as the same-named Sinaloa business) focused on distribution for Northern Mexico’s premier grower families at that time: Tamayo and Demerutis. The three partners focus on packing tomatoes, spearheading the practice of reaching a color and maturity level they term “vine ripes” in place of the old term “mature green”.  Ta-De’s vine-ripes become a customer favorite.  The rest, as they say, is history…

elrey3
The brand that took us to the top

The new vine-ripes, packed at the peak of color, along with beans, cucumbers, eggplant and other vegetables, go into their new El Rey brand box. Carlos is instrumental continuous improvement of a pack that lends the brand and company a premium image and eventual commercial success.  This  prompts Carlos and the Tamayo/ Demerutis families to form their own partnership in the early 1960s, Ta-De Distributing Co.

By this time, the second generation of Bennens is at Ta-De.   Robert Bennen Sr. begins working there after proving himself in the tough Los Angeles Terminal Market.

Largest regional energy-efficient warehouse

Robert helps his father launch extensive land development and construction activities that result in one of the largest and most modern produce distribution warehouses in Southern Arizona.

Bennen Sr. tries out Ta-De's new tomato repacking machine
Bennen Sr. tries out Ta-De’s new tomato repacking system (1980s)

Their state-of-the-art, climate-controlled tomato de-greening rooms — designed by renowned Arizona architect David Fraker – features efficient space use, high-tech and energy-efficient panels.

The impressive building stands out from the masonry-build competition and becomes, in effect, the first “green” produce warehouse in the region.   It also has the unheard-of capacity at the time of being able to process almost 60 loads of tomatoes.

Today, Ta-De has the capacity to handle over 130 truckloads…continuing its expansion with environmentally-friendly construction, including solar energy systems.

Ta-De Today: Continuing a Family Legacy

Ta-De CEO Bob Bennen
Ta-De CEO Bob Bennen

Upon Carlos’ death in 1988, Robbie becomes CEO and begins grooming his son, Bob Jr. , to succeed him.  In 1996, after Bob works in quality control in California and Arizona, he joins Ta-De’s sales force full time, and is promoted to CEO in 2011.  Including Robbie’s wife and sibling in management positions, the company remains a full-fledged family business.

Now, with the reintroduction of the company’s famous El Rey brand with its promise, “Flavor that Reigns”, Ta-De enters a new area yet continues its legacy of efficiency, reliability and integrity.