Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fruta Bomba Construction Update

Construction is well on the way on the office/field operations complex for Fruta Bomba in Belize. Projected completion date is around January or February of 2008.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Papaya a Rising Star in the Tropicals Section

Article from Fresh Plaza Newsletter

Brooks Tropicals, the specialist in tropical fruits and vegetables from Homestead, Florida, is the largest importer of papaya into the USA. These papayas are grown in Belize and are sold under the labels Caribbean Red (Maradol-like papaya) and Caribbean Sunrise (Solo papaya). These papayas are marketed through retail, wholesale and food service and is used in fresh cut solutions increasingly more often.
Many retailers find that the papaya is now the biggest growing item in the tropicals section. Traditionally the main market for the fruit consisted of Asian and Hispanic clientele, but as more people are introduced to the fruit, often through holidays and cruises around the Caribbean, more people become aware of the excellent nutritional properties of the fruit.

The fruit is a bit melon-like in texture and has a distinct taste, but generally people that appreciate honeydew and cantaloupe melons will also appreciate papaya. As the fruit’s characteristics also provide a digestive aid, the papaya is perfect if you’re on a diet or watching your weight. Papayas are full of vitamins A and D and antioxidants.

Brooks Tropicals actively works together with retailers to provide customers with nutritional information to stimulate papaya consumption, but retailers can also choose to transform the look and feel to what suits their profile.

While the fruit is available year-round, papayas are generally a difficult fruit to grow. It takes careful planning to smooth out the production to cover a steady supply to market. Because of the professionalism required, Brooks Tropicals has its own grove operations and packing facilities in Belize, where it employs a total of 1300 people. Brooks' packing facilities recently passed a third party safety audit with flying colors.

The company is building a new headquarters facility in the area. Brooks Tropicals leases its papaya groves from farmers in Belize in a way that is beneficial to both. While Brooks grows papayas, the land itself is further nourished and replenished in such a way, that after the lease period farmers find crop production is improved significantly.

While hurricanes may impact shipping from Belize to the US, the area is generally out of their path and the company is flexible to the point where it can be 100% operational the next day after a storm. Sometimes eddos, calabazas, chayotes etc may be in tight supply after a storm or hurricane, the geographical spread of Brooks Tropicals production helps to ensure a steady inflow of fresh product.

For more information about Brooks Tropicals’ papayas contact Brooks Tropicals - Mary Ostlund, Director of Marketing(305)247-3544 ext.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Printer Friendly Merchandising Tips and Care Guide Now Online

For our retailers, wholesalers and foodservice customers, the SlimCado Avocado Care Guide is now available online in Adobe .pdf file formats for sharp and colorful copies that can be printed on desktop printers.

Also available in printer friendly format are merchandising tips for SlimCado avocados, Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise papayas. These are reprints of Produce Business' Masters of Merchandising 4/07.

Monday, June 18, 2007

SlimCados, avocados that trim fat and calories

Article for website and newsletter

Brooks Tropicals, the specialist in tropical fruit and vegetables, markets its avocado’s through an innovative concept. While the most common avocado consumed in the US is the Hass avocado, Brooks Tropicals grows and packs a range of avocado varieties called SlimCados which share one common characteristic: they have less fat (up to half) and fewer calories (up to 35%) than a Californian Hass avocado.

While the climate conditions where the Hass avocados are grown are typically dry, the SlimCado has its roots in the hot and humid environments of the subtropics helping to give the SlimCado its nutritional advantage.

Many Latin Americans are familiar with the smooth green-skinned avocados having grown up eating them. Today the SlimCado finds a broader audience that likes having avocados in salads, on sandwiches, garnishing soups without the additional calories or fat. There’s no need to wait for a special occasion to have guacamole.

Each SlimCado carries a label with the address of the companies’ website on it, which allows many consumers to find their way to more information about the SlimCado.

Brooks Tropicals, which is in business since 1928, grows SlimCado avocadoes on an acreage of 6.000 in the area south of Miami, Florida.

For more information about Brooks Tropicals’ SlimCado avocados:
Brooks Tropicals
Mary Ostlund
Director of Marketing
(305)247-3544 ext. 372

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Download Brooks' Calendar for Your Computer's Desktop Background

Brooks Tropicals' popular deskpad calendar has gone digital. Download it and use it as your desktop background.

Every month the beauty of the tropics are illustrated as a backdrop to the month's calendar. Enjoy scenes from Mayan temples, views of vintage postcards, and panoramas of the Caribbean's tropical paradise.

It's simple to set-up. Go to (Brooks' employees can go to the company's intranet site) and click on the above icon. Select the month you want and the size you want for your monitor. Right click on your choice and set it as your background.

It's an easy and practical way to make the Caribbean a part of your day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Publix Visits Brooks Tropicals' Homestead Facility

Carlos Martinez, Produce Buyer and Curt Epperson, Category Manager from Publix Supermarkets visited Brooks Tropicals today.

Showing Carlos and Curt around the packing house, shipping docks, quaility control facilities and offices were Jack Barron, Sales Representative; Bill Brindle, Director of Sales Management; and Mary Ostlund, Director of Marketing.

Owner and President, Pal Brooks; CEO, Craig Wheeling and Director of National Sales, Jose Rossingnoli joined the group for a presentation and lunch.
After lunch Pal took Carlos, Curt and Bill on a tour through the area's avocado and starfruit groves.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Lime Demand Widens

Section:Shipping Profile;
Page Number:C3

Although it’s among the smallest of the citrus varieties, the demand for limes is expanding. Importers have taken notice with the focus on a year-round supply. The summer supply should easily meet demand.

Four Seasons Trading Co.

At Four Seasons Trading Co., Ephrata, Pa., the emphasis was widened to include freshness. Ken Mobley, the company’s general manager, said Four Seasons Trading has streamlined the shipping process to ensure freshness. “Because of the constant flow of fresh limes into Four Seasons Trading, our turnaround time from arrival to shipping is down to about two days, so we’re shipping very fresh limes to our customers.” Mobley said. The grower support the company receives in Mexico is a contributing factor. Mobley said the Mexico-grown, seedless Persian limes are very good quality. Because of that high quality, he said retailers gobble up 96% of the limes sold by Four Seasons Trading. Mobley said Four Seasons Trading offers limes in place packs, bulk packaging and bags. The company also imports a limited supply of key limes at customers’ requests, he said. The demand for limes prompted Four Seasons Trading to make certain it could provide them throughout the year.

Brooks Tropicals

That’s also the approach at Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., but it took some doing. At one point in the 1990s, Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals, said the company’s primary source of limes was Florida, which produced 90% of the limes sold in the U.S. In one year, she said citrus canker wiped out the Florida lime crop.

Ostlund said the company redirected its focus to work with several Mexican growers over a number of years. She said the company eventually concluded one grower was superior to all others. “He is a great supplier,” Ostlund said. “The 2007 crop is very good with lots of juice.”

She said that the grower was providing a wide range of sizes. Ostlund said the large lime crop offered retailers a good opportunity for promotions in July when the avocado and papaya crops hit the shelves. Consumers have developed a taste for mixing lime juice with avocados and with papayas, she said.

Monday, June 4, 2007

'SlimCados' Poised to Make Strong Comeback for Brooks Tropicals

by Christina DiMartino

When hurricanes Katrina and Wilma hammered south Florida in 2005, they caused extensive damage to every crop that was in bloom, fruiting or planted, including avocados.

It has taken two years to recover, but Brooks Tropicals in Homestead, FL is celebrating the first great crop of Florida avocados sinces the storms.

"We are projecting 1.1 million bushels, or about 4.4 million 12.5-pound flats this year," said Mary Ostlund director of marketing for Brooks. "It is reason to celebrate because the hurricanes caused a 50 percent drop in volumes over the past two years. This crop is the first since then with normal volumes and high quality."

Ms. Ostlund explained that prior to the storms, trees were heavy with fruit, proving a major target for the strong wind and heavy rain. Fruit was torn from trees, causing extensive limb and tree damage.

"Following the storms, the trees had to be trimmed back and pruned" she said. " It takes more than a year for them to recover, so we have eagerly anticipated this season, which is living up to our expectations."

Pal Brooks, president and owner of the company has many years of experience with tropical fruits and is known as an expert in the category. Ms Ostlund said that he can look at a tree and determine its overall health. He and his staff have created a formidable forecast model based on their extensive experience.

"Pal can just look at a tree and tell you how old it is, its general health and how it will produce," she said. "I toured the groves with him in March to assess the early conditions. The heavy-flower blooms, he explained, indicated a strong crop. In mid-May I went back with him for an updated assessment, and he showed how the heavily laden trees were an indication of high volume and a great-quality crop."

Brooks Tropicals markets its avocados under the "SlimCado" name in order to distinguish them from Hass and other types. It markets about 70 varieties, which are all considered Florida avocados. The item's profile is considerably different that product grown in California and other areas. It is grown only in the Miami-Dade County region because it requires a true sub-tropical climate. It is larger and has a different appearance than Hass avocado.

"The early varieties are typically two to three times larger than the Hass," said Ms. Ostlund. "Because avocados don't ripen on the tree, they continue to grow larger until they are harvested. They can grow to as much as four or five times the size of other avocados as the season progresses. Between 12 and 18 ounces is not unusual, and late in the season they get as large as 16 to 26 ounces. The seed does not grow as the fruit increases in size, however, so consumers get more meat with the SlimCado. The skin is smooth, glossy green even when ripe.

"They are shipped hard and have a shelf life of about a week plus a couple of days after purchase. The only way to tell when they're ready to eat is to squeeze them gently to test the softness. People from the Pacific Rim, Caribbean and other tropical regions know this variety and tend to prefer them over others."

Another distinctive characteristic of Brooks' SlimCados is the considerably lower fat content. It has the "good" fat that makes it a permissible food for some of the more popular diet programs, but is has less of it, which makes the name SlimCado a suitable description.

Brooks Tropicals has already begun harvesting early varieties and will have promotional volumes beginning in July. The company grows some of what it sells, and it maintains groves for regional growers, but it packs, markets and ships all product. The firm is also unique in how it handles avocados.

"We hydrocool the fruit to the seed as soon as they are picked, " said Ms. Ostlund. "They are shipped hard to ensure good shelf life."

SlimCados are distributed to retailers and wholesales primarily along the East Coast with heavy representation in Florida and the Northeast. They are also shipped into parts of the Midwest.

Ms Ostlund said that this year's crop should see big demand. Several consumer magazines have contacted her expressing editorial interest, which is likely to send consumers hunting for SlimCados at their local supermarkets.

Avocado Growers Hope for Hurricane-Free Year

Section:Crops & Markets;
Page Number:B3


Florida avocado grower-shippers began their new season in late May with higher production and quality and more optimism following successive years of hurricanes that damaged their groves.

Growers began first pickings May 21. While growers are expecting to pick avocados in light volume through the end of June, promotable volume isn’t expected until the Fourth of July holiday, shippers said.

Florida normally ships avocados from the Fourth of July through the Super Bowl, with volume decreasing in February and in March. Estimates call for up to 1 million bushels or 4.4 million equivalent 12.5-pound flats, double last season’s 520,792 bushels, or 2 million equivalent flats.

Neal Palmer “Pal” Brooks, owner of Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., the deal’s leading grower-shipper, said he has not seen such quality since 2003, Florida’s last normal avocado shipping season.

A REBOUND CROP: During the 2006-07 season, Miami-Dade County production was rebuilding from the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes that ravaged the region.

“Hurricanes toughen you,” Brooks said. “Repairing storm damage is hard work, but hard work can produce a quality crop. I think that’s what we got.”

Brooks Tropicals plans to ship 550,000 bushels or 2.2 million equivalent 12.5-pound flats, about half of the deal’s avocados, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing. A drought that has scorched south Florida produce production hasn’t harmed the region’s avocado trees, she said.

Ostlund said the region has experienced average to below-average rainfall. She said the season should bring nice sizings. Ostlund said she thinks there should be plenty of 10-12 count avocados — among the most popular sizes. While Florida avocado sizings range from the larger 7s to the smaller 24s, the 7s, 8s, 9s, 10s and 12s account for a majority of production, she said.

Friday, June 1, 2007

In Praise of the 'Alligator Pear'

The Dade/Monroe County Grower Newspaper

Florida avocado season is here. With their luscious, buttery texture and delicate, sweet nutty flavor, Florida avocados might seem just a little too good to be good for you.

But not to worry -this is one delicious indulgence you don't need to feel guilty about.

The 'alligator pear' is a treasure trove of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health fats.

"Avocados are something you can enjoy on a regular basis, especially SlimCados," said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals of Homestead, the nation's largest producer of tropical fruits and vegetables."

"SlimCados are considered very health. No need to reserve them for parties and special occasions for Florida avocados are actually lower in fat than other well-known varieties. The fat they do contain is mostly the good kind of fat - monounsatuarated. It's the kind that lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and contributes to heart health."

"Brooks' SlimCados have half the fat and about 35% fewer calories than the leading Californian avocado," said Ms. Ostlund. "SlimCados are lighter, a quarter-cup is about 70 calories and six grams of fat. "

Florida avocados are rich in vitamins C and # - two powerful antioxidants- and folate, which may play a role in preventing cardiovascular disease. Ounce for ounce, avocados have 50% more potassium than bananas.

Studies show a potassium-rich diet may help maintain normal blood pressure. Avocados are high in fiber, which can help with weight control and lower your risk for certain cancers, and they are cholesterol-and sodium-free.

The avocado probably originated in Mexico and Central America, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. It was prized by the Aztecs and the Toltecs.

The avocado was introduced to Florida in 1833 by Dr. Henry Perrine, a noted horticulturist and pioneer of tropical agriculture in Florida: he planted avocados, mangoes, agave and other tropical crops on Indian Key before being killed during the Second Seminole War.

Today, Florida is the nation's second-largest producer of avocados (California is the largest). Most of the state's commercial avocado acreage is found in Miami-Dade County, in the agricultural communities of Homestead and the Redland, the hub of Florida's tropical fruit industry.

Florida's avocado season runs from June through January and is at its peak from June through September.

When shopping for Florida avocados, don't be shy about picking them up: you're looking for fruits that are heavy for their size. The skin should be taut, shiny and free of cuts and bruises.

"The skin should be bright green," Ostlund said.

"That surprises people. The Hass avocado from California turns dark, almost black, when it's ripe. But Florida avocados are a beautiful green."

A ripe avocado should yield slightly to gentle pressure, but if a soft squeeze leaves a dent in the fruit, the avocado is overripe.

"If you want tot eat the avocado right away, look for the fruit that gives just a little," Ostlund said. "But if you don't want to serve it for a day or two, choose a firm avocado and let it ripen on your counter. Avocados mature on the tree, but they won't ripen until you pick them. Once a mature avocado is picked, it will ripen pretty quickly."

You can speed up the ripening process by placing the avocado in a paper bag with a banana or an apple. When storing avocados keep in mind that they are topical fruits and re susceptible to chilling injury.

"You don't want to keep them too cold," Ostlund said. "The ideal temperature for storage is between 42 and 48 degrees. We don't recommend storing them at temperatures lower than 40 degrees".

Avocados are versatile and taste terrific in everything from salads and dips to main dishes.
Add avocado chunks to curries or fold them into omelets. Use them to stuff tacos and burritos or to dress up a burger.
You can even spread mashed avocado on a bagel in place of the usual cream cheese.
"Avocados are great on top of sandwiches, or in fruit salad with melon and papaya." Ostlund said.

"To make my favorite avocado salad, I buy coleslaw mix at the market and add chopped firm avocado, some sesame oil and a little hot sauce. It's a great, healthy alternative to traditional coleslaw and kids really love it."

Avocados work well in desserts too. You can make moist, cinnamon-spiked avocado bread and creamy avocado ice cream. There are recipes for avocado milkshakes, sorbets and cheesecakes.
"I know an avocado grower who swears the very best key lime pie you've ever could taste has avocado in it," Ostlund said.

"You make the key lime pie just as you normally would but then you fold in mashed avocado at the very end. I've tasted it and it's great."

For more "Fresh from Floridia" cooking ideas, visit