Apache Produce expands into Nayarit

Nogales, Ariz.-based Apache Produce Co. will source greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from the Nayarit region of Mexico this season, said Alberto Maldanado, the company’s general manager.

The company built new greenhouses on about 25 hectares in the region, Maldanado said. The Nayarit production supplements the company’s main Mexican greenhouse production in Sinaloa.

Apache decided to expand into Nayarit to get a jump on the season, Maldanado said. Typically, production in Sinaloa runs from October to June.

The plan is for Nayarit production to begin a month earlier, in September, he said. It didn’t happen this season because of unseasonably cool weather.

In this first season, Apache expects to import just 250,000 to 300,000 packages of greenhouse vegetables from Nayarit, Maldanado said.

But he expects that to grow in future years.

“It’s a trial,” he said. “It will depend on the results. I think it’s going to work — the quality looks great.”

Apache expects to source vegetables from the new Nayarit operation through June or July. That could give the company extra supplies at the end of the Mexican greenhouse deal, too, since Sinaloa typically winds down in June, he said.

Oppenheimer Group introduces pepper

Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group has added a new employee to its greenhouse vegetable staff, said Aaron Quon, the company’s greenhouse vegetable category manager.

Darren Bonnell joined Oppenheimer in the new position of greenhouse category specialist Dec. 6, Quon said. His tasks will include working with growers on special projects and strategic initiatives.

Bonnell joins Oppenheimer from Langley, British Columbia-based BC Hot House Foods Inc., where he worked for the past seven years, Quon said.

At the end of December, Oppenheimer will introduce a new greenhouse miniature pepper pack, expected to be available through the end of May, Quon said.

The red, yellow and orange mini peppers will come in two-pound bags and dry pints, Quon said.

The past couple of years, the company’s Mexican growing partner, Divemex, has had good success growing minis in the field, he said.

Because of that strong demand, Divemex decided to try a greenhouse-grown mini, with the aim of marketing a more consistent and premium product, Quon said.

In other product news, despite continuing economic woes — not to mention the fact that greenhouse vegetables are often premium-priced products to begin with — Oppenheimer is seeing strong growth in its organic red and yellow bell program, Quon said.

The category has grown 15% each of the past two years, he said.

“What we’re finding now is that despite the sluggish economy, consumers are still willing to pay more for organic,” he said.

Quon describes a new norm in which consumers have acclimated themselves to paying more for organic.

The other greenhouse categories where Oppenheimer has seen robust growth recently include mini-cucumbers and grape and strawberry tomatoes, Quon said.

SunFed adds pickles to greenhouse cucumbers

Nogales, Ariz.-based SunFed is growing fresh greenhouse pickles this season for the first time, said Danny Mandel, a principal and the company’s chief executive officer.

“We did trials two years ago and found that, when packed under our Metabolic Reduction Model in conjunction with the Xtend Modified Atmosphere/Modified Humidity bag, the pickles maintained their freshness to the extent that you have probably never seen (with) fresh pickles,” Mandel said.

Also in SunFed’s cucumber category, the company has been so impressed with the quality of its shadehouse-grown American cucumbers, it stopped growing them in fields, Mandel said.

Production of shadehouse American cukes are projected to grow more than any other SunFed product this season.

“For a time, it cost us volume, but it allowed us to focus on what we saw as the future of the category,” he said.

“The trade has since really come to appreciate shadehouse cucumbers for their high quality and appearance.”

SunFed ships American, or “slicer,” cucumbers from late September through June. Its European cucumbers ship from late October through March. Its fresh pickle deal will run from early December through April, Mandel said.

By Markets Editor Andy Nelson