Fruit choices increasing in value-added category

03/21/2009 12:00:00 AM
Don Schrack

“The detection system, which also is used on the company’s whole apple lines, helps bring us closer to those expectations,” Pepperl said.

Economy does not halt plans

Ladera Heights, Calif.-based Dulcinea Farms LLC continues to concentrate on its growing inventory of tuscan cantaloupes and pureheart miniature watermelons, said John McGuigan, vice president of sales and marketing. While neither melon fits by definition into the fresh-cut category, the fruits are convenient and quickly become fresh-cut in the kitchen with the help of a knife and a fork, he said.

“We just like to think our mini-size personal watermelon is just a little more portable than a 16-pounder,” McGuigan said.

Dulcinea is a year-round melon supplier with the winter crops coming to the U.S. from Mexico via both Nogales, Ariz., and McAllen, Texas, he said. The harvest will transition to Florida in April followed by Yuma, Ariz., in late April or early May, McGuigan said. Dulcinea does not source melons from offshore, he said.

The company’s largest domestic growing area is in California’s irrigation water-challenged San Joaquin Valley.

“We’re casting a wary eye toward water situation,” McGuigan said. “We have no plans to reduce any acreage in the valley, and we’re pretty optimistic about where our water is coming from. We’re pretty buttoned up on access.”

Expanding the company’s melon and berry deals is integral to the strategic planning at Salinas, Calif.-based Colorful Harvest LLC, said Doug Ranno, chief operating officer.

The desert harvest of cantaloupes and honeydews will start in May, two months earlier than in the past, Ranno said. The deal will move to the San Joaquin Valley for the summer.

“We will have a substantial melon program this year,” Ranno said. “We’ll probably triple our melon packing count over last year.”

Plans for the immediate future at Colorful Harvest include a year-round berry program with acreage in Florida, Mexico and California.

Frieda’s Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif., reached south of the border for a new value-added fruit item. It is a Mexican import, a peeled and packed fresh coconut complete with a straw, said Jackie Kaplan Wiggins, the company’s vice president and business development manager.

“We worked for three years to make sure we had the right kind of shelf stability,” she said. “It’s like nature’s Gatorade because of the fruit’s nutrients.”

Also new at Frieda’s: pomegranate seeds. Sold in clamshells, the arils eliminate the muss and fuss of getting the aril from the pomegranates, Kaplan Wiggins said.



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