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SunFed continues to expand organic line

SunFed in Nogales, AZ, which significantly expanded its organic category last season with new items and increased volume on the organic items the company was already handling, has continued that expansion of its organic program for the 2013-14 season, according to Matt Mandel, vice president of sales and marketing.

In “our entire line of ‘SunFed Perfect Organics,’ we keep adding both volume and product lines to the mix,” he said.

“This year, we are going to have organic hot peppers, organic eggplants, organic seedless cucumbers, as well as greater volumes in our squash program,” he said. “That complements the melon categories and our zucchini, yellow straight neck, and colored bell peppers that we have done in years past.”

SunFedAt the SunFed sales office in Rio Rico, AZ, were (front) Mari Danielson, Frank Camera and Denise Quiroga, and (rear) Matt Mandel, Gary Stevens, Omar Losolla and Eric Meyer. (Photo by John Groh)When The Produce News talked to Mandel the third week in November, the company was just coming to a close on its fall melon deal, “one of our hot and heavy seasons,” Mandel said. “It was a great deal for us” with high volume and high throughput on conventionally grown honeydews, cantaloupes and watermelons as well as “organic versions of all three of them,” he said. “It was a great time to be part of SunFed.”

The melons were coming from both Hermosillo and Guaymas in the Mexican state of Sonora. “All of the honeydews and cantaloupe were Flavor Rich certified, which guarantees a great eating experience,” Mandel said. That has “definitely helped us with our retail business.” Retail customers “see the value in providing a great eating experience for their customers, which helps them become repeat customers of ours.”

SunFed will also have a winter program in melons, he said. “It is a smaller program, coming from further south,” with production out of Colima and Jalisco starting around the first or second week of January. “We are going to have honeydews and watermelons,” but no cantaloupe through the winter. “Those will carry us through until we start up again in the springtime out of Guaymas and Hermosillo again.” That gives SunFed nearly year-round continuity on its melon program.

Currently, “we are working on” a summer melon program, but it is “not yet defined,” he said. “We are putting a small melon program together for the summer months” out of northeast Mexico.

The company looked at domestic melon production for the summer as well, he said, “but we are experts at doing business in Mexico, so that is where we have been staying.”

As for other items, “we are getting to the traditional hothouse season,” Mandel said. “We started with hothouse colored bell peppers a couple of weeks ago. Markets are strong. Production looks fantastic so far, with great quality.” That is all coming out of Jalisco.

SunFed expected to begin harvesting organic bell peppers out of the Guaymas area around the first week of December. That program will continue into May, he added.

In cucumbers, “we have great supplies and great quality” in seedless, mini and American slicer types.

“Those are actually grown all over,” Mandel said. “We have the pleasure of being geographically diversified to protect against any weather issues.”

SunFed has cucumbers from as close to the border as Caborca as well as in Guaymas and Culiacan, “then we also have some growers down in Jalisco,” he said.

Eggplant would be starting shortly for SunFed, and “the crop looks outstanding,” he said. “We have high hopes for another great season.”

SunFed is expanding its East Coast operations, Mandel said. “We are leasing a portion of the Kingston cross-dock facility in Pompano Beach, FL, where we are going to be receiving our hothouse tomatoes from Guatemala,” consisting of beefsteak and Roma tomatoes and tomatoes-on-the-vine, “as well as a squash program from the Dominican Republic.”

The tomato program out of Guatemala is “a new product line for us,” Mandel noted.

To go along with that expansion, SunFed has “a couple of new hires” in sales this season, he said. They are Gary Stevens and David Glisson.

Both will be “selling our full product line, but Gary is going to focus more on organics and David is going to be working with retail partners in the Southeast, based out of the Kingston facility in Pompano Beach.”

Stevens “had his own deal going on for a little while,” but has also worked for Herb Thyme Farms and Albert’s organics, he said. Glisson was most recently with Alderman Farms in the Pompano area.