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Atlas Produce & Distribution seeing uptick in dates sales

atlaAtlas Produce & Distribution Inc., producer of the Fresh Energy line of Medjool dates, has experienced an upward growth trajectory with its unique products and eye-catching packaging, even during the uncertain times of COVID-19.

“Our volume stayed the same with most retailers and even went up with a select few others,” said Luke Fountain of the Bakersfield, CA-based company. “We did have to implement some higher safety standards, and on the packing side, that caused a minimal slowdown, but overall volume went up, so I feel like we handled things really well.”

In the office, most employees worked remotely for almost two months, and in the packinghouse, people were spread apart.

“We have a brand new packinghouse and our packers are younger in age, so we’ve been able to avoid any slowdowns,” Fountain said. “The new packing house makes us more efficient, and it’s been a nice showcase to bring customers to, though obviously right now, we can’t do that. But it’s been a nice selling point.”

Fountain noted the Medjool date is the premier variety of the date category due to being larger and sweeter than other varieties. The company uses no pesticides, additives, or preservative in the cultivation or packaging of any of the Fresh Energy products.

“Dates are so nutrient-dense and have such a long shelf life, that when COVID-19 happened, a lot of people would stock up on dates and we saw a huge surge in sales,” Fountain said. “A couple of dates during the day gives you a huge portion of your potassium percentages, your magnesium percentages and overall things the human body needs.”

He also noted dates are trending as a natural sugar. Many are finding their way into trail bars and are all over the internet with consumers talking about the nourishment they offer.

“The date crop was up this last season and we foresee for next season, which starts in October, an increase as well,” Fountain said. “Primarily, what we’re seeing is more growth coming into production. That means a natural increase. It’s not necessarily that the crop is bigger per tree, but just that there’s more new planting coming online.”

Atlas Produce & Distribution prides itself on its customer service and innovation on packaging to provide varieties consumers are looking for.

“Everything we have conventionally, we also have in organic. So, just having availability year-round and great quality helps us be successful,” Fountain said.

Though the date category hasn’t had huge growth, it’s been nice and steady over the past five years or so, and the company has enjoyed watching the category grow. In fact, he said one large retailer has seen increases of more than 25 percent with the Fresh Energy brand year-over-year.

“It’s a lifestyle brand and people are starting to see the benefits,” Fountain said.

Atlas Produce & Distribution has always served figs but now is doing so in its own Fresh Energy brand, and that will complement its other offerings.

“We noticed the fig buyer is often the Medjool date buyer as well, so we’re providing that service to some of our customers,” Fountain said. “Our fig suppliers approached us to do our own brand, which gives our customers more offerings from us and a name they know and trust.”

The company is also about to start its grape season out of the San Joaquin Valley and Fountain said the crop looks “really nice” and everyone is optimistic about where the company is going.

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