In business since 1950, Fresno, CA-based Fowler Packing Co. has been part of the citrus industry since the mandarin revolution began in the late ’90s. The company is currently the third-largest mandarin producer in the United States.
“We planted our first mandarin tree in 1996, with our first crop in 1999,” said Sean Nelsen, vice president of sales and marketing. “We have been committed to the mandarin category since the beginning and are amazed with the growth that has occurred throughout the last two decades. Mandarins continue to be a leading choice in the produce aisle and the citrus category.”
A lot has changed for Fowler Packing this year, as the company has launched its very own brand, Peelz, which is now available in one-, two-, three- and five-pound pack configurations.
“The biggest change with us and the industry is that people finally realize the role Fowler Packing has played over the last 20 years with mandarins,” Nelsen said. “It has been very humbling to see the support people have given us because they trust our quality. They knew the Fowler Packing label ‘SamSons’ in both tree fruit and grapes stood for quality and trusted that Peelz would have the same commitment from the Parnagian Family.”
The company attributes its success to hiring the right people and reinvesting back into the operation.
“We are constantly re-evaluating how we can improve our operations to deliver superior tasting fruit in the most efficient and sustainable way,” Nelsen said. “We have the most advanced farming techniques and a 600,000-square-foot state-of-the-art packing facility that is automated and has the most advanced robotics for quality control and decay detection.”
This season the crops have looked strong, with both sizing and internal qualities packing ahead of last season. With that, the company is expecting a full crop.
Fowler Packing plans to expand its Peelz program over the next two years and hopes to see it continue to grow.
“The biggest challenge is the name recognition that Cuties and Halos have within the category,” Nelsen said. “Both brands have been instrumental in building this category. So, the challenge is getting our name out there and allowing consumers to taste the quality of Peelz. We will continue to highlight that Peelz will be consistently the industry leader in high-quality mandarins from November through May.”
The best way to expand California citrus on the retail level, in his opinion, is to keep it top of mind with consumers.
“Mandarins are an impulse purchase,” Nelsen said. “Large displays, front of store displays, ads and digital coupons will drive sales.”