Kevin Manning and Jeff Krafft are still working with many of the same growers and products they sold as partners at Kingston, Mass.-based Dulce Fresh LLC, but their tropical fruit program is about to get a lot bigger.
Manning and Krafft closed their importing business in March and joined Seald Sweet International, the Vero Beach, Fla., grower, shipper, importer and marketer. Belgium-based Univeg, Seald Sweet’s parent company, said in a March 15 news release that Seald Sweet had acquired Dulce’s tropical product supplies and sales accounts.
“The knowledge and experience of the people in the organization made our decision to join them easy,” said Manning, who is working on sales while Krafft handles operations and logistics. “With their experience in the global market, a tropicals division just adds another piece to their diversification.”
Seald Sweet, which began as a citrus marketing cooperative more than 100 years ago, has expanded its product line in recent years with items such as avocados, grapes and mangoes.
Manning said Dulce Fresh and Seald Sweet both had been sourcing pineapples from Univeg under the Royal Coast label, and Dulce also had been importing plantains under that label.
“We look at it as a merger of two companies coming together to work on the same label rather than being competitors,” Manning said. “We took everything we had at Dulce Fresh, including growers, and brought it to Seald Sweet. It just made sense. We’re already working with Univeg in Costa Rica. Joining a larger company gives us the opportunity to develop an entire tropical division.”
Manning said Royal Coast will continue to be the primary label for Seald Sweet’s pineapples, but the company eventually will offer its Seald Sweet label with all its tropical products.
Before it closed, Dulce’s tropical lineup included year-round supplies of bananas, malanga, pineapple and yucca as well as melons from January through March.
Manning said Seald Sweet’s tropical program will include many of the same items, except for bananas. The company missed the Costa Rican melon deal this season, but he said the company plans to be involved in melons imports next year.
He also said he hopes to build Seald Sweet’s fledgling avocado and mango programs into year-round deals.
Manning said rapidly growing Hispanic and Asian populations bode well for tropical programs, and he added that the average American consumer is becoming more familiar with the products as well.
“The growth is there, and the category is only getting stronger,” he said. “I see it getting bigger and bigger.”