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Dragonberry dares to be different

Amy Nguyen, sales executive for Dragonberry Produce Inc., said that the specialty boutique-style company, located in Clackamas, OR, is known for out-of-the-box thinking.

“We are daring to be different,” she told The Produce News. “That is the fun for me. We are a very unique company. We are not a cookie-cutter company.”

The company’s efforts in this regard have proven to be a hallmark in the produce industry. Last year, Ms. Nguyen returned to her birth place in Ho Chi Minh City as the only woman and youngest member of an historic two-way agricultural, fish and forestry trade mission designed to promote trade between theDragonberry United States and Vietnam.

The mission was a success, and Ms. Nguyen said that Dragonberry Produce is now regularly receiving shipments of dragonfruit grown in Vietnam.

“It’s going to be our new product item at PMA,” she said.

Ms. Nguyen and company staff will be available at booth No. 524 to talk about the dragonfruit import program in greater detail. Dragonberry Produce also markets a full array of fresh produce including blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, spring and summer mixed vegetables, apples, pears and other specialty produce.

Dragonberry Produce receives shipments of dragonfruit at the ports of Long Beach, CA, and Seattle. “We want to provide consistent quality to our customers,” Ms. Nguyen said.

The beautiful fruit, which is a shocking pink color on the outside and sports a snowy white pulp with black seeds, is unique. “The sheer look of the fruit sells itself,” said Ms. Nguyen.

But it’s about more than eye candy. Dragonfruit, which has a sweetness that is not overwhelming, is a nutritional powerhouse, and Ms. Nguyen said that the fruit’s healthful attributes are being increasingly recognized in the United States. “The health benefits associated with dragonfruit consumption are becoming increasingly recognized,” she said. “In Asia, it’s a fruit known to diabetic people. It has the look, and it has the benefit.”

In addition to Asian populations, dragonfruit has long been consumed by Hispanic populations. “Hispanic people know it as pitaya,” Ms. Nguyen commented.

She is gratified that Americans are becoming more open-minded about dragonfruit consumption. “Eighty percent of consumers who’ve bought our fruit have never bought dragonfruit before,” she noted. “I am very excited about bringing in this awesome product.”

After negotiating business agreements with Vietnamese growers in 2011, Dragonberry Produce initially received one or two containers of dragonfruit a month. “Now we are looking at four containers a month,” said Ms. Nguyen of the growing dragonfruit volume. “Now we’re ready to bring this product in on a mass scale.”

The company test-drives its produce offerings at retail to ensure both customer and consumer satisfaction.

“Winco Foods has given us an opportunity to test this product,” Ms. Nguyen said of the dragonfruit introduction. “I want to show my gratefulness to them for giving us this opportunity.”

Dragonberry Produce currently markets dragonfruit in the Pacific Northwest and West Coast. According to Ms. Nguyen, the foundation is being laid for future expansion throughout the United States.

She expects the coming holiday season will be promising for dragonfruit sales. “This will be a very ideal item to be marketed by retailers because it’s in a category by itself,” she said.