Desert Produce business updates

05/03/2013 10:39:00 AM
Tom Burfield

Anthony Vineyards hires safety manager

Bakersfield, Calif.-based Anthony Vineyards, which has a growing operation and cooling facility in
Coachella, Calif., has hired Marti Chavez, most recently with Kerry Inc., a food products company in Mecca, Calif., and previously with Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, as food safety manager, said co-owner Bob Bianco.

The company has always had good food safety practices, Bianco said, but the need for extensive documentation has necessitated hiring a full-time manager. The company also continues to expand its organic program.

Eventually, 40% of Anthony Vineyards’ table grapes should be organic, he said. The company grows red, green and black organic grapes.


Bagdasarian increases organic program

Richard Bagdasarian Inc., Mecca, Calif., continues to celebrate its 60th anniversary, which officially took place last year, said Nick Bozick, president.

The company developed a 60th anniversary logo and has been spreading the word about the company’s longevity among its customers, he said.

The company grows table grapes, bell peppers and dates as well as more than 2 million boxes annually of lemons, tangerines and minneolas, which are sold through Sunkist Growers Inc.

Also this year, Bagdasarian has stepped up its organic program for its nonproprietary and proprietary varieties.

Five Crowns Marketing opens cooling space

Five Crowns Marketing, Brawley, Calif., has added a 55,000-square-foot cooling facility, said Daren Van Dyke, director of sales and marketing.

About 30,000 square feet consists of a gravity-fed racking system.

Product is vacuum-cooled then goes into the racking system and eventually is gravity-fed into trucks.

“It enables us to cut our forklift use in half,” Van Dyke said.

“It also makes us much more efficient on the energy side because it’s a brand new, computer-driven cooling system.”

That operation combined with the company’s new solar operations should enable 90% of the firm’s energy needs at its corn and cantaloupe facilities to be supplied by in-house solar power.

Peter Rabbit Farms packs medjools

Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, Calif., has offered medjool dates for several years, but now the company has taken over production and packing of the dates, said John Burton, general manager of sales and cooler.

“Medjools has been a great crop for us,” he said.

Dates are picked in the fall and shipped year-round. The company started packing medjools last fall and plans to expand its date program every year, Burton said.


Prime Time upgrades packing facilities

Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif., is upgrading its packinghouse, adding new bagging equipment for peppers and mini sweet peppers and upgrading and expanding lines “to make us more efficient and put up a nicer pack,” said Mike Aiton, director of marketing.

During the spring, the company grows bell peppers, mini sweet peppers, yellow, white and bicolor corn, seedless and seeded watermelons, hard squash, cucumbers, green beans and eggplant.


Stevco Inc. doubles scarlet royal volume

Los Angeles-based Stevco Inc. has doubled its production of scarlet royal table grapes this season, said president Dave Clyde.

“We went from 100,000 (packages) to a little over 200,000,” he said. “We’ve got a very good following overseas in the export market, and the domestic market is asking for the scarlet more and more.”

The company expects to ship up to 600,000 cartons of grapes out of the Coachella Valley this season.
Picking should start around May 20.

Sunkist campaign promotes grapefruit

This season, Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif., is promoting grapefruit with a marketing campaign called “Not Your Mother’s Grapefruit,” said Joan Wickham, manager of advertising and public relations.

The campaign highlights how grapefruit can be used to help aid weight loss, explains why the fruit is considered a “super food” and offers recipe ideas that provide new ways to incorporate the fruit into consumers’ diets, she said.

A brochure on the topic is available at sunkist.com.

The company also recently conducted a satellite media tour with women’s health expert Donnica Moore encouraging consumers to talk to their doctor about drug interactions before cutting nutritious foods like grapefruit out of their diet.


Sun World adds bins, upgrades grape bags

Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International LLC, which has a Coachella Valley grape program, plans to roll out high-graphic table grape display bins this season, said Natalie Erlendson, marketing manager. The bins will highlight the health benefits of grapes.

Also this season, the company will upgrade its standard polyethylene slider bag to a slider bag made of clearer polypropylene film.
All of its Superior Seedless, Midnight Beauty, Scarlotta Seedless, AutumnCrisp, flames and crimsons will be packed in the new bags. Sun World will begin adding item-level traceability to all of its bagged grapes, Erlendson said.

The process likely will take a few years to complete.

Vessey & Co. Inc. plans for spring organics

Vessey & Co. Inc., Holtville, Calif., already has a strong winter organic program, and now the company plans to expand into the spring, said Jon Vessey, owner and president.

Starting next season, the company will offer some organic squash, tomatoes, eggplant and watermelons, he said.

Margins on organic products are decreasing, he said, but, “the demand is there, and we want to grow with it.”
By Western correspondent Tom Burfield



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