Carl Denholtz ’57
President & CEO,
Coastal Marketing Service
This profile originally appeared in Bowdoin magazine, Vol. 72, No. 3, Spring 2001
In business since 1960, Carl Denholtz has seen his share of vegetables come and go. Carl's company, Coastal Marketing Service, ships vegetables to chain stores and to wholesalers nationwide and in Canada. Based in Ft. Myers, Florida (with another office in Nogales, Arizona), Carl handles produce as the marketing arm for cooperatives and as a representative of independent growers. He came into the business naturally, learning the trade from his father in New York City. Carl's natural propensity for getting along with people and an athletic background that lends itself well to the juggling act of food marketing have been instrumental in his success in the industry.
The American consumer spends more than $500 billion each year on food. Food marketing in the United States accounts for over 20 million jobs and around 15 percent of the Gross National Product. "The greatest challenges that we face in the vegetable market today are consistent with most other businesses challenges," says Carl, "to be aware of new trends in the industry and cognizant of the specific needs of our customers." A mutual interdependence exists between farmers and food marketing brokers, but it's neither a mechanical nor an automatic operation. "We sell millions of dollars worth of vegetables over the phone by verbal commitment. Our word is our contract. This makes the produce business unique," explains Carl.
Food marketing is a business of movement, a series of actions and events that take place sequentially, and some form of coordination is necessary if goods and services are to move in orderly fashion from producers to consumers. As a large part of our nation's economy, today's food system is the product of many forces, affected by trends in growth, employment, inflation, and interest rates, both domestic and international. Science and technology also provide major influences, as do food consumers' wants and needs, social capital, and infrastructure. Competition plays a major role, and is often a source of contention between producers, processors, and consumers. Rules, customs, and societal ethics act on the industry as well. The food marketing system is one of communication, conflict resolution, and coordination, transmitting useful information to buyers and sellers alike while achieving compromise between producers' and consumers' goals.
The ups and downs-"the excitement of the price fluctuations which can, and frequently do, change daily"-as Carl says, are among his favorite aspects of the business. The perishable vegetable trade is especially exciting. Prices fluctuate due to weather conditions, over supply, and quality factors, none of which prohibit "the significant buyers in today's marketplace to demand quality control as well as guaranteed prices for a specific time frame," continues Carl. "The consolidation of the retail chain stores in North America, and the growth of the food service industry, insist that we key into their requests for less volatility in price. It's a fun ride."