This a growth year for Miami-based J&C Tropicals, said Jessie Capote, vice president/owner.
“The dragon fruit is amazing, the growth in demand we’ve had,” he said. “We’re going to pack and distribute 2 million pounds or more — that will be 100% more than we did last year, so we’re going to double up this year and, I’ll be honest, we just can’t get enough of it. We’re pleasantly surprised where that’s been trending.”
J&C launched its Dragon Fuel brand in May, Capote said.
“We did something this year that also was new to the industry and started packing dragon fruit in counts,” he said. “We’re packing a 10-pound bulk box in counts anywhere between seven and 20 pieces.”
The new packaging has been well-received, he said.
“The bulk packaging that everybody is doing is small, medium and large, so the inconsistency in sizes of the fruit was a problem,” he said.
“You’d get some large variances in a box of mediums because some would be closer to the small size or some closer to the large size. We knew that was something that we’d have to do eventually to be able to showcase the fruit and have it do well at our retail stores.”
The new packs have more standardized fruit sizes and feature new designs and colors, as well as improved airflow, Capote said.
The Dragon Fuel brand also has its own microsite, www.dragonfuel.us, which also launched in May, Capote said.
“We have a lot of educational information on there,” he said. “We also developed a very informational tag that goes around the dragon fruit.”
“We’ve done a lot on the educating the consumer at various points — obviously at the store shelves, they see this informational piece to attach to the fruit,” he said.
“It drives you to the microsite and you can read more about it. And of course, our retail partners will basically go on promotion for the various items to stimulate demand and have them take them home to have it at a price point that makes them at least try it.”
J&C recently moved into a new 60,000-square-foot building in Doral, Fla., near international airport and seaport facilities, Capote said.
“We’re seven months in and finally feeling comfortable and really leveraging our capabilities at the new facility,” he said.
The new plant has about 5,000 square feet of office space, as well as kitchen space, Capote said.
The company doesn’t pack product there, Capote said.
“It’s very well situated,” he said.
“We still have our packinghouse in the Redland (Fla.) for everything we pack. They’re close in proximity, but the truth is you want your packing close to the farms because you want to get that stuff refrigerated and you don’t want any break in the cold chain and, the sooner you do that, the better.”