United With Earth propels date market to new heights
Ten years ago, Daryoush Davidi founded United With Earth, a Berkeley, CA-based company catering to Middle Eastern people with its Persian cucumbers and Medjool dates.
“We saw the potential of taking these products mainstream,” Davidi said. “We are the youngest company in the industry with Persian cucumbers and are also the fastest-growing date company. What sets us apart is we represent the co-op of growers.”
Each year, United With Earth adds on to its grower base and then handles the exclusive sales and marketing for them, allowing them to provide competitive pricing, ensure quality and help scale the business overall. “We’ve grown 24 percent year-to-date, and have grown double-digits every year,” Davidi said. “We do about 1.5 million pounds of dates, which for a company our size is pretty big. We’re also a Nielsen-rated company.”
With success like this, one would expect Davidi to have grown up in the industry, but his background is unusual for this field. He was practicing psychology when he saw the huge potential for dates because of their being high in antioxidants and potassium, and wanted to get involved with this super fruit.
“We cater to a lot of the younger demographics and millennials because they are looking for healthier options and companies that they can trust,” Davidi said. “We do a lot of marketing through social media channels, so this lets us pass savings to the consumers. We have the lowest national retail for a package of dates, so we’re kind of disruptors of the industry.”
The company motto is to “pay better returns to our growers,” and this is something that Davidi takes seriously.
United With Earth employs a host of renewable and environmentally friendly growing practices and is a proud member of California Certified Organic Farmers. Its entire line is available in non-GMO, gluten-free, raw, and kosher. “My parents taught me to work hard and become what United With Earth stands for: be inclusive of diversity, be fair, be good to Mother Nature, and I think if you are passionate about something, you will be successful,” Davidi said. “I stopped practicing psychology so I could introduce dates to more people in the world.”
The company started offering Persian cucumbers after its ethnic customers desired more from them, and Davidi knew the Middle Eastern market used this produce quite heavily.
“At that point, I travelled quite a bit and went to Mexico and found a group of growers who were looking for a distributor who could be honorable and sell their product,” he said. “All of them are grown in hothouses, which allows for water to be sustainable and the process to be much cleaner.”
He’s found that Persian cucumbers are much sweeter and crunchier than the average cucumber, and because they are seedless, they are popular.
“We take ethnic produce and take it more mainstream,” Davidi said. “We don’t handle onions or potatoes, we go after unique products that haven’t reached its full market potential and we introduce the public to it.”
Davidi feels that not enough in the industry are tapping into Ramadan, which he described as a “Thanksgiving for Muslims for one month. They fast from sunrise to sundown so they eat very heavily in the morning and at night and they have to eat dates, which is a holy fruit, so they consume a lot during this period. The industry sells more dates during Ramadan than it does for any other holiday.”
That’s why United With Earth encourages its distributors and retailers to come up with more promos and specials educating consumers about the holiday.
“What we lack in the industry is education for people about what to do with dates,” Davidi said. “A lot of people have never tried dates and don’t know how to use them in recipes, but we should be encouraging ways to utilize them. Some popular dishes now are dates wrapped with bacon, dates stuffed with cheese and some people are using it as a supplement to sugar for baking or in smoothies.”
United With Earth recently sponsored Chef Penny from the Food Network to help educate consumers about using dates in different recipes. It also offers an interactive website for people to learn more.
“Our growth plan relies on consumer education and being able to meet the demands of millennials,” Davidi said. “The way we grow is through our quality, pricing and our culture, that’s what attracts people to our brand.”