(Oct. 21) ORLANDO, Fla. — New packs of baby artichokes, brussels sprouts, fennel and rapini greeted visitors to the booth of Ocean Mist Farms Inc. at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2003.

Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist also showed off its increased focus on red romaine and red butter lettuce.

Artichokes, of course, continue to be a primary focus of Ocean Mist, which is now growing about 60 acres of organic artichokes, much of which is being marketed by Natural Selection Foods, San Juan Bautista, Calif.

Baby artichokes continue to grow in popularity, and in response, Ocean Mist now offers loose baby ’chokes in a 10-pound box.

“This new box is perfect for smaller foodservice operations and produce departments,” said Maggie Bezart, vice president of sales and marketing. “Both chefs and consumers are loving baby artichokes for their ease of preparation and versatility, especially in Mediterranean-based recipes.”

Brussels sprouts also are gaining popularity, and Ocean Mist has 30% more to sell this year than last year, Bezart said.

And the company is offering them in mesh bags, in clamshells and on the stalk.

“We’ve had one customer want the stalks for a year, and we’ve decided to offer more of them because consumers really like them,” Bezart said. “The stalks make for an attractive display, both on the shelf and even at home on the table.”

Ocean Mist’s new 1-pound brussels sprouts clamshells hold either jumbo or regular-size sprouts and make it easier for consumers to choose one size.

“These convenient clamshells are perfect for today’s busy shoppers,” Bezart said. “We know consumers want to pick up their produce and go, so our expert pickers select only the very best, same-size brussels sprouts for every clamshell.”

Ocean Mist now offers recipes on the backs of labels of many of its products, and brussels sprouts are no exception. The labels also direct consumers to www.oceanmist.com, which has additional recipes and product information.

Trimmed fennel has joined the Ocean Mist product line, as well, said Mark Reasons of Ocean Mist. This fall, the company started offering a two-pack tray pack of trimmed fennel.

“We usually pack it naked,” Reasons said. “This tray pack is convenient, and the label has directions for preparation and recipes on the back.”

The package features two medium bulbs. The recipes on the back include grilled fennel, fennel orange slaw and roasted fennel with parmesan.

“We know from e-mails and phone calls we’re getting from consumers that they really appreciate the preparation and usage information and the easy recipes,” Bezart said. “Our goal with the packaging is to help consumers by selecting premium quality fennel bulbs for them, packaging them for easy handling and storage and providing recipes. We know, too, that the packaging helps front-end ring, so it’s good for our customers.”

With an eye on continuing to make consumer-friendly packaging, Ocean Mist has designed a skirt for its bunched rapini, Reasons said. The skirt design reflects the Ocean Mist wave pattern in a deep red, echoing the tones of other new packaging.

“This is the first time we’ve done skirting on the rapini,” Reasons said. “A lot of people have read about rapini but may not be sure how to cook it. With the skirts, we’ve added directions and recipes, and it’s going over well.”

Finally, Ocean Mist customers will be able to take advantage of an increased focus on red romaine and red butter lettuce. The company now grows about 100 acres of red romaine and 20 acres of red butter.

Ocean Mist has increased acreage on both products this year, Bezart said. She said she’s seeing increased interest at retail and foodservice because the red leaves add interest to salads and sandwiches alike.

“We’re growing both red romaine and red butter lettuce now in Castroville and will start production in the desert Dec. 1 through March 20, so there will be a year-round supply,” said Jeff Percy, Ocean Mist vice president of production for the South.