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“We received our SQF (Safe Quality Food) certification in the past year,” Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties, headquartered in Pompano Beach, FL, told The Produce News. “And we have expanded in other ways. Our foodservice, retail and club store customer banks have been added to with outstanding customers. And we have expanded our capacity to provide 365-day-a-year service.”

Southern Specialties is currently shipping asparagus out of Mexico and Peru. Asparagus from Peru is currently seasonally light.

HandleBags-originalNew ‘Southern Selects’ large format resealable pouch bags with handles for french beans, sugar snap peas and brussels sprouts.The company markets its asparagus under the “Southern Selects” label. It also has a strong white asparagus program from Peru. The item is always in high demand at holiday times. Mr. Eagle said the mild flavor of the white asparagus is prized by Europeans, and it creates excitement on the plate.

“Our french beans are offered from both our East and West Coast distribution facilities,” said Mr. Eagle. “The beans are grown at our farms in Guatemala and in Baja, Mexico.”

Daryl Johnston, vice president of sales for Southern Specialties, said that the company now has good supplies of french beans, papayas, limes and specialty value-added vegetable items. The company is currently promoting its new pouch bags for its large size sugar snap peas brussels sprouts, french beans and asparagus, all under the “Southern Selects” label.

“Our one-pound microwavable bags, however, are ideal for holidays or other celebrations for larger groups,” said Mr. Johnston. “We also have two- and three-pound mesh bags of limes, and a full lineup of specialty vegetables in microwavable bags.”

Mr. Eagle added that Southern Specialties is focused on developing packaging that showcases the company’s product, enhances shelf life and provides convenience and information for the consumer.

“For the upcoming holiday season, we have been promoting our ‘Southern Selects’ french beans in eight-ounce, one- and two-pound packs,” said Mr. Eagle. “The eight-ounce pack is perfect for small families.”

Southern Specialties got its start in a small space on the Pompano State Farmers Market over two decades ago. Robert Colescott, the company’s chief executive officer and president, founded the firm over 21 years ago.

“We are now in our third Pompano Beach location, which is off of the market in an industrial park,” said Mr. Eagle. “We started in this location in a 20,000-square-foot unit, and have expanded tremendously over the years. Our latest expansion brought us to 100,000-square-feet.”

Mr. Eagle said the company has evolved from having only a handful of employees to a staff of over 160 who work at the company’s Pompano Beach, McAllen, TX, and Los Angeles facility locations.

“Additional office space and larger coolers is part of Southern Specialties’ focus on optimizing the handling of product and on quality assurance,” said Mr. Eagle. “We built coolers that were engineered to provide ideal storage atmosphere for each of the products we handle.

“Today we grow, import and process approximately 50 products that we offer in hundreds of SKUs,” he continued. “In addition to building coolers to optimize the storage of products, we also wanted to be sure we had all of the ancillary services that provide for extending shelf life, such as forced air cooling and hydrocooling for asparagus and other products.”

He added that besides enhanced cooling, the latest facility expansion focused on improved product handling, processing, storage, food safety and loading dock capabilities.

Southern Specialties’ continuing focus is on learning more about its customers’ businesses and, Mr. Eagle said, “We want to know what keeps them up at night. Our goal is to be the best partner possible, and to work in tandem to provide value for them.”

The company’s customers are foodservice operations, retailers, club stores and wholesalers. Its products are sold under the “Southern Selects,” “Paradise Tropicals” and “Today’s Gourmet” labels. It also offers private labeling for its customers.

Southern Specialties is also strongly focused on developing packaging that showcases its products, enhances shelf life and provides convenience and information for the consumer.