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“We still have good supplies of ‘SlimCado’ avocados,” Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead, FL-based Brooks Tropicals told The Produce News on Oct. 22. “We’ll have good supplies through Thanksgiving, and following that we will still have some volumes but we will be off of our peak production. Avocados wrap up in January for the season.”

packerBrooks Tropicals ‘SlimCado’ avocados on the packingline. (Photos courtesy of Brooks Tropicals)Ms. Ostlund added that the company is thrilled with its avocado production this year. She said that production is now at pre-Hurricane Andrew volumes. The hurricane swept across South Florida 20 years ago causing massive human and crop devastation.

“We are now growing on less acreage and on fewer fields than we were before the hurricane,” she said, “but we’re growing with higher efficiencies in our groves. We are very happy about how this crop has evolved to what it is today.”

Brooks Tropicals, she added, has a fantastic aloe vera grower in Florida. Aloe vera, she said, “is one of those tried-and-true produce items that you almost forget, but it’s always there and it’s always a staple.”

The company ships its aloe vera in 16-count boxes of very long, thin leaves. Some people make a tea or beverage with it because of its believed healing properties. And it’s long been known to offer soothing relief to sunburns. Brooks Tropicals’ aloe vera is a very popular item for the company, and it is carried by major retail chains.

Florida starfruit was experiencing a slight production dip in October, which is normal for this time of year.

“We’ll be picking back up in volumes in December and January,” said Ms. Ostlund. “And the crop is looking great at this point.”

Guava, she added, is also doing very well. The company handles Florida Red and Thai guava, both of which are grown in Florida.

“We always look forward to the start of kumquats,” said Ms. Ostlund. “It’s such a fun and delicious citrus fruit that people love to just pop into their mouths. The crop movement will start in November.”

Sugar cane is also a popular product for Brooks Tropicals. Ms. Ostlund said that people commonly use it for beverages.

Culinary aspects are just one of Ms. Ostlund’s numerous creative aspirations, and Brooks Tropicals is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Her involvement with IACP led to a co-branding initiative with Concord Foods that combined Brooks Tropicals’ “SlimCado” avocados with Concord Foods “Guacamole Mix.” That program then led to a contest on the company’s Facebook page.

“We had virtually thousands of hits for the contest, which lead to the development of a newsletter to help people learn about the products we carry,” said Ms. Ostlund.

The newsletters have been very well received. They describe the product, offer storage and handling tips, uses, recipes, nutritional value and even tidbits of history and folklore. A late September newsletter was about “SlimCado” avocados.

“We are getting a very low opt-out response to our newsletters, which I take to mean that people are learning from and enjoying them,” said Ms. Ostlund. “We sent one out on Caribbean Red papaya today, and next week we’ll be sending one out on green papaya.

“Many of the items that we carry are somewhat unique, and the newsletters help consumers with ways to enjoy them to their fullest,” she added.