Company History

Purcell International traces its beginning back to the 1950's when Emmet J. Purcell established EMMET PURCELL & ASSOCIATES as an import food broker/agent after having worked many years with the Wilbur-Ellis Company of New York.

Emmet Purcell

The first significant account for the firm to represent was the government of Formosa (Taiwan) Food & Agriculture Sector.  To handle the growing import distribution of canned foodstuffs, Purcell started the ISLAND SUN COMPANY and opened an office in Taipei.  The company was also appointed as North American agents for the J. C. Hutton meat companies of Australia and New Zealand. The business expanded into national distribution in the USA culminating in a full line of “ISLAND SUN” brand canned retail and institutional food products-fish, fruit, vegetable and meat represented by 40 major brokerage companies throughout the United States.

During the 50’s and 60’s the business grew to include the representation of various primary producers in Japan, Korea, Australia (Metro Meat), New Zealand (government Apple & Pear Marketing Board), Peru, the U.K., South Africa and Alaska.  During this period, Emmet Purcell began a lifelong involvement with a firm known then as the French Sardine Company and today known as Star-Kist.  EMMET PURCELL & ASSOCIATES functioned as both a procurement division and as private label broker for “Star-Kist” over the years.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s the sons of Emmet Purcell entered the industry and were sent to work in foreign countries within the factories represented by the firm. In 1974, William Purcell departed to work in factories in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Taiwan & Japan.  The sons returned to the firm and proceeded to work in various facets of the industry (trucking, warehousing, retail sales, institutional contracts and field work with brokers representing the lines sold by the firm).

In the mid 70’s aware of the changes in the global marketplace and the worldwide expansion of the food processing industry, the company made a bold decision to expand the business by withdrawing from national branded distribution and in turn entering into additional representational contracts with major emerging foreign processors.  This representation involved the commitment to support and supply the private label industry with its primary ingredients and to introduce both supplier and buyer in the effort to establish mutually beneficial long term supply programs.

In 1984, upon the announced retirement of Emmet Purcell, the firm merged EMMET PURCELL & ASSOCIATES, INC. and the ISLAND SUN CO., INC. to form the new organization of Purcell International. William Purcell became President of the firm.

William Purcell

Sales have grown more than 10X since the merger and continue to grow every year.  The company today specializes in sales of “private label” products to retail grocery chains, national brands and foodservice accounts.  The company also supplies many major manufacturers with ingredients such as juice concentrates, processed fruit & vegetable, beef, pork, tuna, pineapple, mushrooms, fruit, vegetables, shellfish and fin fish.

In 1985 the company relocated from San Francisco, to its present Walnut Creek headquarters. Purcell Internationalhas expanded its representation of primary producers in foreign countries (Thailand, the Netherlands, China, Ecuador, Indonesia, Peru, Australia, New Zealand…) while increasing the staff to better service their clientele worldwide.  The company is fully computerized – EDI, GTIN and HACCP compliant.

Key ‘strategic alliances’ have been signed with primary manufacturers to compete in the changing business environment. These relationships have assisted the company in marketing the products produced and helped to facilitate the direct importation to primary end users. Salespersons travel extensively throughout the United States visiting customers and management frequently travels overseas to review and audit the foreign manufacturing facilities of current and potential suppliers.

Purcell International has also established overseas affiliate offices established to assist in gathering information, sourcing of products, inspecting factories and overseeing shipment details on a regular basis.

2004 was the Bi-Centennial anniversary for the company. Now 59 years after it’s beginning, the company is going strong and expanding. A third generation is now working in the company.

John Purcell, Vice President, joined the company in 2002 and after working in a Uruguay slaughterhouse and travels abroad to work with suppliers, is managing the meat department.

Colleen Purcell-Kangas, is Vice President of Operations. She worked part time since 2002 and after a year at Clorox in 2007, joined the company full time and is handling key ‘private label’ grocery accounts as well as managing Purcell’s logistics team that is responsible for the importation and delivery of all shipments.

John and Colleen Purcell