The California date industry is on a roll and Atlas Produce & Distribution is rolling along with it, converting new date enthusiasts along the way.
“Our date almond rolls and date coconut rolls have a traditional feel to them and are great introductory items,” said Luke Fountain, of the Bakersfield, CA-based company. “In addition to our regular Medjool and pitted Deglet Noor dates, which are a great snack, people come to us wanting these entry-level items because they lead the way in getting consumers to try dates.”
The date shipper is in year three of its successful Fresh Energy brand dates and is continuing its upward growth trajectory with unique products and eye-catching packaging.
“That’s the thing,” said Robert Dobrzanski, president of Atlas Produce. “Just to get people to try them. I started in 2003 and I saw the opportunity to market dates for growth. The bottom line is the way you present it, that’s the reason the packaging needs to be spot on and we’ve seen 30 percent growth with some of our retailers just by changing the brand.”
As consumers in general become more educated and their tastes more refined, they’re looking for healthier snacks and Atlas, like many California date shippers, are playing to that trend. “We rolled out the fresh energy brand three years ago and we’ve seen our sales increase year-over-year.” said Dobrzanski. “It resonates with younger consumers who are looking for healthy, easy snacks, a sugar replacement. Pre or post-workout, on a bike ride or climbing, instead of grabbing a Power Bar, people are looking for dates.”
That’s no surprise as dates are high in potassium and feature a huge amount of natural sugar, in addition to a high fiber content, which allows that sugar to remain in the bloodstream longer. As the market for California dates heats up, Dobrzanski noted that the company has upgraded its packing capabilities.
“We’ve added capacity to our packinghouse, automating processes to cut down on the amount of handling and to help us be efficient and be able to compete.” he said. “New optical sorters and automated fillers will increase consistency and quality. It’s exciting times for the date deal. There are more people marketing dates. I think with the Medjool date industry, our marketing has bypassed our supply and that’s driven a lot of our growth.”
Innovation is running rampant at Atlas, as well. The shipper is rolling out an all new 32-ounce zip seal bag for its pitted Deglet Noor dates with its Coachella-centered Fresh Energy brand prominently displayed. “We ship 100 percent California grown dates,” said Dobrzanski. “We’re stewards of this place and we’re proud of that.”