Ever since The Grower Network began in the summer of 2016, by several of North America’s premier growers of high-quality Bell peppers, the Lake Park, GA-based entity has created a solid network of experienced farmers who share their passion for excellence in farming and customer service.
More importantly, by leveraging the broad range of growing seasons across the continent, these growers can offer a year-round supply of high-quality, field-grown Bell peppers.
In early 2020, The Grower Network added two more people to its sales staff — Cody Harwell and Tom Ryan.
“After our first season of launching our Besties brand of mandarins, retail and consumers received it well, so we felt the need to hire some additional salespeople to help manage the product,” said Eric Bolesta, sales manager.
The company is also doing another expansion at its facility, adding on more cooling capacity for its citrus operation. The plan is for it to be finished and ready by May 1.
The Grower Network will also be growing colored peppers in Georgia.
“We’re excited about doing that,” Bolesta said. “From a standpoint of people like to buy multiple items from one location, we had customers ask about colored Bells and we felt the need to give it a shot and fill customer demand.”
This year’s colored pepper crop will be somewhat limited being as it is its first year, but there will still be supply.
Also new in 2020 is the addition of value-added packaging for peppers, which was another reason the company decided to grow these peppers in Georgia this season. The hope is that it will expand the program up and down the East Coast.
Last year, the company introduced its new line of Satsuma, a mandarin orange, and the citrus crop was strong.
“Once consumers tried the product, we saw good demand,” Bolesta said. “Retailers liked promoting the product and showed good sales and margins on it. As we move forward, we are going to continue having more offerings for our mandarin program, and in the future we will also have other varieties of citrus, including navels, grapefruit, limes and lemons.”
The Grower Network also recently added an additional line in its value-added segment, offering green beans bagged or trayed.
Business in 2020 has been strong, with markets for post products coming in higher than anticipated.
“Until recently, both foodservice and retail have had good demand, and now retail has overtaken the foodservice with many restaurants closing down,” Bolesta said. “It’s been pretty steady with people looking for just about everything.”
In 2019, the company offered tray-packed zucchini and straight-neck yellow squash. Bolesta said both have been well received and the program will expand this year.
“We learned that 60 percent of all people would prefer their produce individually packaged or in a sealed package and we are just capitalizing on that,” he said. “Retailers are seeing a shrink in waste, making them more profitable.”