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Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties, headquartered in Pompano Beach, FL, told The Produce News that tropical fruits and vegetables have had strong growth in produce aisles and on foodservice menus for the past several years.

“The evolution of the fresh tropical produce demand in the U.S. remains in its infancy today,” he said. “As awareness and exposure to the world of flavors, and knowledge about the nutritional benefits these products provide increase, the category will continue to grow. And availability will, of course, increase proportionately.

Picture1Southern Specialties’ ‘Paradise’ brand mango.“It is interesting,” he continued, “that in a world where buying local and locally grown movements continue to have an impact on our buying habits, we realize the value of offshore production and what it brings to the plate, literally.”

The tropical mainstays for Southern Specialties continue to be its Guatemalan lime program. The fruit is excellent quality with very high juice content. This year-round program is available in traditional bulk sizes as well as the company’s “Paradise” brand two- and three-pound bags.

“Right now we are in the middle of our Peruvian Tommy Atkins’ variety mango program,” Mr. Eagle said Feb. 19. “The program is expected to run until about the end of March. The fruit has been good quality with nice volumes. At the end of the Peruvian season we switch to Guatemalan mangos. This program runs through early May, and then we switch to mangos from Mexico. The programs provide us with year-round supplies.”

Mangos and limes are shipped from Southern Specialties’ Pompano Beach headquarters. Besides this location, the company provides national and Canadian coverage and distribution of its wide range of fruits and vegetables through its offices in McAllen, TX, and Los Angeles. The company services retailers, foodservice distributors, club stores and wholesalers.

Today the company is a totally integrated grower, importer and processor of a wide range of fruits and vegetables such as French beans, green and white asparagus, hand-peeled Brussels sprouts, hand-peeled baby carrots with tops, hand-peeled rainbow baby carrots with tops, sugar snap peas, sno peas, yellow beans, baby squash, limes and much more. Its “Southern Selects” brand is highly recognized by retailers and consumers alike.

Southern Specialties is also shipping papayas from Guatemala. “These are the large Tainung papaya variety,” said Mr. Eagle. “They are slightly smaller than the Maradol variety. This too is a year-round program for Southern Specialties. We also ship papayas from Mexico.”

He noted that the company’s starfruit season has ended, and it is looking forward to starting the summer starfruit deal from Florida in July.

In early February, Southern Specialties announced that the company had hired Andre Escobar as its new general manager of its McAllen division. Mr. Escobar has more than 20 years of experience in the produce industry.

“Andre brings a wealth of experience from both the retail and grower-shipper side of the business,” Robert Colescott, chief executive officer and president of Southern Specialties, said in a press release. “I’m excited to have him on our team. His extensive industry knowledge and skills will be a great asset for our company. Andre’s experience working at this gateway into the U.S. will add value to our existing programs in the region, which include avocados, limes, mangoes, chili peppers, specialty tomatoes and berries.”

Assisting Mr. Escobar in his new position is Manuel Saldivar, who is working in sales and in quality control.

“Andre is currently shipping Ataulfo mangos out of Mexico through our McAllen facility,” said Mr. Eagle. “We also have light supplies of Mexican Tommy Atkins and Hayden mangoes, which we expect will pick up in volumes by early March.

“Andre is also shipping bulk 40-pound Mexican limes and two-pound consumer packs of keylimes,” he added.