( File photo )

Amazon Produce Network names Texas manager

Tonya Hill is the new regional manager of the Texas division of Vineland, N.J.-based Amazon Produce Network.

Texas-born Hill has more than 13 years of produce experience, said partner and sales manager Greg Golden, including roles as director of sales and transportation, category manager and director of new customer development.

"The veteran of the Texas citrus industry will bring insight into our new citrus category," said Golden, "and her experience in category and retail management will add to the strong position Amazon Produce holds in the mango industry."

Having led marketing campaigns to increase sales and category growth in limes and mangos, Hill is well eqipped to help grow Amazon's mango program and help establish it as a leader in limes and a one-stop shop for tropical produce, Golden said.

She attended Texas A&M University and started her career in accounting. When not selling produce, Hill helps her husband run their family farm and registered cattle business.


Brooks Tropicals hires operations chief

Homestead, Fla.-based grower-shipper Brooks Tropicals has a new chief operating officer.

Luis Brito comes to Brooks with more than eight years of tropical experience with Coral Gables-based Turbana Corp.
Originally from Brazil, he obtained an MBA in finance and strategic management from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Business.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity," he said. "Tropicals are a fast-growing produce category, and this firm has definitely proven itself as best in class. Brooks' papaya and Florida avocado programs are unsurpassed."


Central American Produce opens Sinaloa plant

Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce Inc. worked with its Mexican mango shipper to open a facility in May in El Rosario, Mexico.

"The new facility gives us better handling and cooling and a more efficient process from the product entering the plant to placing it in the box," said president Michael Warren, who packs under the Capco Farms label.

Warren said the Eat Brighter! sticker on many of Central American's mangos have been well received.

"I haven't found a child yet who hasn't tried a mango and been crazy about it and come back for more," Warren said. "It's a good fruit high in vitamin C and gives us an opportunity to improve consumption and get mothers and kids interested in healthy eating."


Coast Citrus chili pepper deal grows

San Diego-based Coast Citrus Distributors is harvesting a "tremendous" supply of chili peppers, including jalapeño to poblano, said vice president Isabel Freeland.

"We've got the whole line, and it's growing significantly 20% to 30% a year," Freeland said.

She attributed the program's success to the fact that Coast Citrus controls the entire production process from seed to table.

"A lot of retailers are concerned about food safety and traceability and like to work with suppliers that control their fruit," she said.

"When you buy from many growers, it makes traceability a lot more difficult."

She also sees the demand for hot peppers growing in foodservice, with jalapeños showing up in everything from sushi to burgers in national chains.

"It's all because of consumer demand," she said.


HLB Specialties pushes organic papayas

Pompano Beach-based HLB Specialties has created a box for its organic papaya from Mexico and Guatemala, launched a year ago in the US.

"We've very happy with the response and have large retailers on board," said president Homero Levy de Barros. "Now the problem is finding enough supply."

Organic papaya is exceedingly difficult to produce," de Barros said, "but we can't stop now because more and more people want organic fruit."

He said shoppers who won't only buy organic fruit may never have tasted papaya, so his organic line opens up a new market.

"We're not doing much advertising because we want to walk before we can run," he said.


J&C Tropicals upgrades boniato packing

Miami-based J&C Tropicals is working to improve the handling and quality of boniato, the largest tropical root crop in South Florida.

The white sweet potato with cream-colored flesh is also imported from Central and South America said Luis Cintron, director of sales and procurement.

Cintron said the root is typically packed by hand, but J&C is bringing in new automated machinery, trucks and tractors to ensure a more uniform crop and give retailers the consistency in sizing they've requested.

J&C grows 2,000 acres of tropical roots, vegetables and fruit in South Florida.


Mango board promotes palmer variety

There's a new mango working its way up the foodie charts.

The mild-flavored, firm-fleshed palmer mango from Brazil continues to attract interest from consumers and retailers, said Angela Serna, communications manager for the Orlando, Fla.-based National Mango Board. The palmer is oblong with a skin color ranging from purple to red and yellow. It's imported mainly from Brazil.


Procacci Bros. calls plantain supply tight

Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., which markets the Feliz line of tropical produce, says plantains are hot, but supply on yellow plantains is tight as Guatemala struggles to meet the demand.

"We can barely keep anything in here, it comes in and goes out, and it's a challenge getting everything ripe to cover orders," said director of tropical sales Carlos Rodriguez.

He recommends grilling yellow plantain alongside burgers and steaks.

Vice president of sales Rick Feighery said people used to walk by beat-up looking yellow plantains, but now they're looking online for recipes, and retailers are starting to build appealing displays.

"If you go into a supermarket ,and there are two plantains on the shelf, are you going to buy one?" Feighery asked. "But if you see an eye-catching display of 50 or 100 fruit, all of a sudden you think that must be something I should try, and there's a real demand."

As for starchy green plantains, Rodriguez said unseasonably cold weather in Ecuador has led to smaller, immature fruit, with shippers turning to Panama and Guatemala for supplies.