Friday, August 31, 2007

More Photos from Belize

Brooks Tropicals' ninety member clean-up crew went into the papaya fields to clear debris, prune and reset toppled trees.

Field damage varied greatly between fields and within fields.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Photos from Belize

Photos from Belize are showing little damage overall to Brooks Tropicals' infrastructure. Meanwhile field footage is showing that younger fields and fields further south sustained much less damage.
This shed's roof is off, but the main roof is mostly intact.

The roof in accounting is partially off.

This garage door got damaged.

Sections of the warehouse's roof flew off.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Press Release: Papaya Operations Poised to Come Back Strong and Fast

Press Release, August 29, 2007

“Six months,” said Craig Wheeling CEO of Brooks Tropicals, “that’s how long it should take to get back up to normal levels of papaya production. In fact, 2008 will set new heights in papaya production for us.”

Just one week after Hurricane Dean made landfall just north of Belize - where Brooks Tropicals’ Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise papayas are grown and packed - Brooks Tropicals is in the final stage of clean up while the majority of the work effort is now refocused on the replanting process.

“We expected that downed trees and power outages would make clean-up top priority,” said Wheeling. “But with the nursery having made it through the storm in good shape, we’re replanting. And we started replanting as soon as possible. Our customers are inconvenienced but in six months Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise papayas will be back and will be back better than ever.”

Brooks is replanting with nursery stock that’s a result of five years of research and development that will produce papayas with the best in taste and shelf life.

“I wasn’t surprised to see photos coming out of Belize showing acres of papaya trees down and scattered fruit. That’s to be expected given the ferocity of Hurricane Dean. But we are prepared for this. We’ve done this before,” said Neal (Pal) Brooks, Owner and President of Brooks Tropicals.

“We’ll come back from Hurricane Dean larger and stronger in papayas,” said Wheeling. “That’s our commitment to our customers.”

Proof that the firm has the capability to do so can be seen on the walls of the executive offices in Homestead where an aerial photo showing fields of overblown SlimCado trees and torn off roofs from hurricane Andrew is hung next to a recent photo showing today’s manicured fields and larger headquarters complex. Brooks was the first south Florida agricultural facility back in operations after that August category five hurricane. To do so the firm’s pulled together building supplies and a supplementary workforce from further north to bring the facility back up to full operations in early December.

Having set historical precedence with its comeback from hurricane Andrew, it should be of no surprise that construction work on the new headquarter buildings is scheduled to quickly resume. Plans to install custom-designed machinery for packing Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise papayas are going forward. It’s scheduled to be in place before Thanksgiving.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Introducing the SlimCado Chefs' Corner

The new SlimCado Avocado Chefs' Corner is up and running.

The popular Chefs' Corner on the Brooks Tropicals' website has been enhanced with an entire section on SlimCado avocados.

For culinary professionals or recreational chefs - those who take cooking seriously for family or friends - the SlimCado Chefs' Corner has exciting new recipes that show off what the SlimCado avocado can do for entrees, soups, sandwiches, and wraps. Even party favorite guacamole develops an extra kick with two new looks and tastes.

Link also to the SlimCado Chefs' Corner for storage and preparation tips essential for cooks wherever they're cooking, restaurant or at home.

Point your browser to the newly updated Chefs' Corner and see what's so special about the SlimCado avocado and how this avocado can perform for your family or friends.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Marketing Low-fat SlimCado Lite

Excerpts from The Packer, August 20, 2007 by Pamela Riemenschneider

Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals is pushing its SlimCado avocado hard this year.

"We're having a great year for SlimCados," said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.

Brooks Tropicals, which grows and markets about 60% of Florida avocados, took a couple of seasons off after hurricanes Wilma and Katrina struck. Now that the trees are rested, growers are having a bumper crop.

The company will be launching a new SlimCado section to the Chefs' Corner of its web site by the end of August. This section will have all new recipes and photos.

"We're basically addressing the needs of the culinary profession along with recreational and family chefs," she said. "We're catering toward the guy or gal who is looking for an exciting dish. They can go to the chefs' corner and really get into the recipes."

Always on the lookout to raise awareness of the benefits of Florida avocados, branding them as SlimCados has helped Brooks to get some good press. SlimCados were highlighted in an article in the August/September edition of Saveur magazine.

"The message needs to get out," Ostlund said. "The SlimCado brand is sometimes misunderstood. It's not genetically modified. It's grown naturally."

"If you think about where SlimCados are grown versus where a hass is grown, the climates are very different. Hass avocados are grown where it is very warm and very dry. Florida is very hot and very humid so SlimCados are less oily, naturally."

Weight Watchers has SlimCado avocados as one of their core foods.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Brooks Tropicals awaits hurricane damage report

Excerpts from, Aug. 22

Brooks Tropicals Inc. was preparing to survey damage to its papaya-growing regions after Hurricane Dean slammed into the Yucatan Peninsula.

During this interview the storm had just made landfall. Brooks' Homestead officials were in contact with only a handful of the 1,200 workers at its Corozal, Belize, papaya operations. Bill Brindle, Brooks’ vice president of sales management, said his "packinghouse and grove managers were in the cone of the storm’s path."

Brindle said the avocados and tropicals grower-shipper expected to suffer damage but said "the company should know more about the storm’s damage by Aug. 24 or Aug 27."

Brindle said, "Hurricane Dean, a Category 5 storm, passed slightly to the north of Brooks’ operations."

Jose Rossignoli, Brooks’ director of national sales, said "the company shut down its operations Aug. 20 to allow its workers to take care of their families."

In anticipation of the monster storm, the company had secured buildings and took other preparatory steps such as filling diesel tanks.

"Brooks officials planned to fly to northern Belize to assess damage as soon as the area’s airport reopened," Brindle said.

Most of Brooks’ groves are a couple of miles inland. Brooks is North America’s largest papaya importer. Belize remains second only to Mexico in shipping papayas to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Papaya Industry after Hurricane Dean

Excerpts from Belize's Channel 5 newscast of their interview with Santiago Victorin, General Manager of Brooks Tropicals' subsidiary Belize Fruit Packers

Interviewer: "I have travelled to the papaya processing facility, belonging to Belize Fruit Packers, just outside Corozal Town. The buildings may have taken a hit, but that damage was nothing compared to the punch landed by Dean on the industry as a whole."

Mr. Victorin: “We didn’t have any major damages, just some roof damage."

Interviewer: “In terms of the company itself, the employees, the nature of your work, packaging, how has that been affected by this Hurricane Dean?”

Mr. Victorin "I’m guessing we'll be four to five months out of production. We work hand in hand with Fruta Bomba (the Brooks Tropicals subsidiary that manages the papaya fields). I know the papaya fields had extensive damage. Employees of Belize Fruit Packers will assist Fruta Bomba with the planting and cultivation of new fruit trees. We’ll be helping out Fruta Bomba to recover as soon as possible so that we can come back again and continue with our work.”

Interviewer: “I’m standing in a papaya field in Calcutta Village, Corozal. The destruction to this field was almost one hundred percent, leaving only these trees behind me standing. The losses are said to be in the millions of dollars to the industry and it will take several more months before new trees begin to blossom.The company’s papaya’s are harvested on twelve hundred acres of land, mostly in the Corozal District. Fruta Bomba is by far the largest grower in the country."

Broadcaster:”Assessment of damage to the sugar industry is not yet complete, while sources in Blue Creek report that while there was some toppling of trees in the Mennonite Community, the vital rice industry was not affected by the hurricane."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Brooks Tropicals prepares for Hurricane Dean

As Hurricane Dean intensified (possibly a category 5 later today), Brooks Tropicals and its subsidiary Fruta Bomba has braced itself for the storm.

The company put its hurricane alert plan into effect over the weekend which allowed company employees in the storm's path to go home and finalize their personal preparations for the hurricane.

"Our first concern is with our employees," said Brooks Tropicals' CEO, Craig Wheeling. "Timing is critical. Hurricane preparations were started early enough in the field and in our packing house to give our employees the time they need with their families. After the storm, we'll immediately send a team down to help in clean-up efforts,
set-up satellite communications and support the needs of our employees and their families."

Brooks Tropicals' has almost eighty years of dealing with hurricanes both at its headquarters in Homestead, Fla. and at its Northern Belize, CA location where the company grows, packs and ships Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise papayas.

Hurricane preparations routinely include: completely filling fuel tanks for on-site generators, taking down all satellite equipment for safe keeping, securing all buildings and vehicles and a general sweep of the packing facility and fields to take-in or secure any equipment that might
sustain damage during the storm.

At its Homestead location, the business' hurricane alert plan allows the firm to go back to 'business as usual' immediately after a storm despite local electrical outages that sometimes lasts for a week or longer. In Belize, the company plans on having a complete assessment of damages within a week.

Weather conditions are predicted to deteriorate over the eastern Yucatan peninsula and northern Belize
tonight ahead of the storm. The center of Hurricane Dean is expected to make landfall further north on the Mexican Yucatan peninsula very early Tuesday morning. Northern Belize, where the Brooks Tropicals' papaya operations are located, will get the southern part of the storm. Tropical storm force winds are expected.

Category five hurricanes have winds speeds of 156+ mph and storm surges of 18+ feet based on the Saffir - Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Avocados Touted as Food for the Aging Mind

Excerpts from the first in a series of articles by Rosalie Marion Bliss, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
For the entire article go to:
Agricultural Research magazine, August 2007 issue

The oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) scores of fruits vary. In this mix of fruit, the ORAC score of blueberries is highest, followed by (in order) the scores of black plum, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, sweet cherries, avocado, navel orange, and red grapes.
Scientists know that certain nutrients and other key chemical compounds are essential to human brain function. Serious deficiencies in some of these, such as vitamin B12 and iron, can lead to impaired cognitive function due to neurological, or nerve fiber, complications. Cognition can be defined as the ability to use simple-to-complex information to meet the challenges of daily living.

So, could careful attention to diet help protect the aging brain from problems with nerve cell signals involved in memory and cognition? A clear-cut answer could greatly affect the 77 million baby boomers who are now facing retirement. Their independence, quality of life, and even economic status will largely be defined by their ability to traffic information signals as they age.
In researching the nutrition-brain connection, new technologies are being used, such as those that take images of the brain or actually count individual brain cells. Behavioral tests that measure motor and cognitive skills—or lack thereof—are also providing insights. Yet the science of nutrition and brain function is relatively new and evolving.
The brain’s billions of neurons “talk” to one another through chemical neurotransmitters that convey signals through neural pathways. These chemical transporters—which include norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine—are key to signal movement.
Although people naturally lose brain cells throughout their lives, the process of neuronal death does not necessarily accelerate with aging. “There is a lot of individual difference,” says ARS neuroscientist James Joseph. “Loss of mental agility may be less due to loss of brain cells than to the cells’ failure to communicate effectively.”
“Vitamins and minerals in plant foods provide protective antioxidants,” says Joseph. “But fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains contain thousands of other types of compounds that contribute significantly to the overall dietary intake of antioxidants.
“A partial measure of the antioxidant effect is called ‘ORAC,’ for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. ORAC scores are now showing up in charts and on some food and beverage packages. They may be helpful in choosing foods to include in your diet.”
One of the first of Joseph’s studies, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed a protective effect of consuming antioxidants. Study rats were fed—from adulthood to middle age—vitamin E, strawberry extracts, or spinach extracts, all with similar ORAC values. Animals receiving the high-antioxidant diets did not experience the age-related cognitive performance losses seen in control rats fed standard chow.

A later study, also published in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed a reversal of functional loss among rats on special diets. Each of three groups of rats, equivalent in age to 63-year-old humans, was fed a different high-antioxidant extract. A control group was fed standard chow. After 8 weeks—equivalent to about 10 years in humans—the rats’ performance levels were measured.
The rats fed the spinach, strawberry, or blueberry extracts effectively reversed age-related deficits in neuronal and cognitive function. In addition, the blueberry-fed group far outperformed their peers while traversing a rotating rod to test balance and coordination.
Other study results were reported in the article.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Avocados' versatility shines in foodservice

Excerpts from the Fall Avocado section in The Packer, 8/13/2007
by Pamela Riemenschneider, Staff Writer

Brooks Tropicals is reaching out to foodservice with its SlimCado-brand Florida avocado, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.

Ostlund said Brooks attended the Produce Marketing Association's Foodservice Conference in Monterrey, Calif., this summer and also visited with the Louisville, KY-based International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Working with chefs, Ostlund said, is key.

"We're really getting to the source of folks who are going to build the interest," she said.

SlimCado promotions have to be timed appropriately, Ostlund said.

"With food service, we've got to be careful," she said. "it often demands a year-round product, and we don't have that with the SlimCado. Nevertheless, we see it as an extremely healthy choice to put on the menu."

Business Updates

The Packer, 8/13/2007
compiled by staff writer Pamela Riemenschneider

Homestead, Fla. - based Brooks Tropicals is updating its Web site, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.

"If you go to the Web site, we have really trimmed it, so it's extremely easy for the consumer to go in and get the information that they need," Ostlund said.

Brooks plans to add avocado recipes to its Chef's Corner section as part of the update. Ostlund said Brooks expects to have the new site online by the end of August.

Florida's avocado production bounces back strong

Exerpts from the Fall Avocado section in The Packer 8/13/2007
by Pamela Riemenschneider

Marketers say regaining shelf space alongside the hass variety could prove challenging.

Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina still are doing a number on Florida avocado producers. This time, however, it doesn't have anything to do with too few avocados.

"Volumes for the past two seasons were seriously reduced because of damaged trees," said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals, LLC., Homestead, Fla.

"At Brooks, rather than trying to get crops out the year of the storms and the year after, we pruned our trees and really took care of our groves," Ostlund said. "The result is that we've got a fantastic crop to sell."

"Peak volumes of Florida avocados are available in late July through October," Ostlund said. The season usually starts wrapping up in January.

The marketing push is on for Florida producers. New Limeco and Brooks both are touting the benefits of Florida avocados, which have less calories and fat than their darker-skinned cousins.

"Brooks Tropicals has branded its fruit as the SlimCado and is marketing it heavily," Ostlund said. Brooks has generic and custom point-of-sale materials available for retailers.

Ostlund stressed the fact that Florida avocados need not be considered competitors to other varieties.

"The biggest thing is that we're not trying to replace the hass or the California avocado," she said. "It is really a separate commodity, a separate avocado."

Retailers should make sure to merchandise Florida avocados with information about the variety.

"II think it's a really great idea," she said. "People think it's supposed to taste the same as a hass. Because we're two totally different varieties, it's not like we're fighting for shelf space. They're so different that retailers can sell both of us right next to each other."

Ostlund said Florida avocados also appeal to a different population. She said Hispanics who are of Caribbean decent typically prefer Florida avocados.

As avocado volume increases, restaurants develop uses beyond guacamole

Excerpts from The Packer article of 8/13/2007

by Pamela Reimenschneider

There's huge potential out there when you get away from guacamole.
"That message has caught on already," said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals, Homestead, Fla.

"Five or six years ago,we would have definitely been talking about guacamole," Ostlund said. "Nowadays, people realize that you can eat them as a half or put a salad in it. A seafood salad in half an avocado is divine."

Friday, August 3, 2007

Know your avocados

Excerpt from an article in Saveur Magazine
August/September 2007

by James Oseland

Though the famously rich-tasting hass variety dominates the American market, hundreds of other types of avocado exist - all of them descended from three primary subspecies: West Indian, Guatemalan, and Mexican. Here are nine of our favorites.

1. DONNIE Resembling a bright green papaya, the roughly six and a half inch long donnie can weigh as much as one and a half pounds but has a surprisingly small seed, or pit. When this avocado is ripe, its thick skin is taut and shiny and, if the fruit rubbed against a branch as it matured, occasionally sports brown leathery patches. The donnie's light, mild flesh, low in fat and in calories, pairs well with richer ingredients such as cream and olive oil in velvety soups and salad dressings. Since it's so large, the donnie is the perfect avocado for stuffing, especially with crab meat salad.

Other varieties shown in the photo:

2. Zutano

3. Fuerte

4. Macarthur

5. Gwen

6. Bacon

7. Hass

8. Frey

9. Pinkerton

Like Butter, the mystic of avocados, which lend depth and creaminess to coutless dishes, is timeless

Excerpts from an article in Saveur Magazine, August/September 2007

by Andrea Nguyen
Americans have developed a prodigious appetite for avocados in recent years; since 1990 the consumption of avocados in this country has more than doubled, thanks in part to an influx of immigrants from Latin American and also to the ever diversifying tastes of Americans of all backgrounds. Today, we eat more than we produce, importing the fruit in greater quantities (almost 300,000 tons in 2005) than any other country.

Today avocado orchards thrive in many countries, but the bulk of the world's commercially grown produce comes from Mexico, Indonesia, the US and Colombia.

The most familiar to American consumers is the bulb-shaped , dark-skinned hass. Some of the lesser known, like the donnie are large, smooth, and shaped like eggs; others like the macarthur, look more like bartlett pears.

Well into the 20th century, many Americans referred to the fruit as alligator pears, likely owing to the scale like marks that appear on some avocados skins when the fruit rubs against a branch or the trunk of its tree. This scale appearance doesn't bruise the fruit, the creamy buttery flesh will bear no mark.

Though farmers had started growing avocados in Hawaii, Florida and California by the mid-1800s, few American home cooks had heard of the fruit. Those who had heard of it thought it on par with the banana or pineapple, both rarities at the time. Not surprising given one fruit costs 40 cents or roughly $9 in today's money.

Soon avocados began to appear in recipe books of the era, often thanks to the promotional efforts of growers. The recipes didn't tap into authentic foreign cuisines. Food writers instead deftly mixed avocados with sugar and sherry or deep-fried them.

It was a single Mexican side dish, however, than definitively sparked mainstream America's passion for the fruit. Guacamole become a tabletop staple in themed restaurants and bars and a party staple in the 1970s.

The cover of a 1970 issue of Sunset magazine summed up its popularity: "Versatile, it's a dip, a sauce, a dressing, a spread." Today Americans have made guacamole their own. On Super bowl Sunday alone, nearly 55 million pounds of avocados are sold across the 50 states.

The Pantry - a guide to resources Saveur discovered while producing this issue.

Avocados...To find donnie and other varieties of avocado grown in Florida or for more details on the seasonality of Florida's avocado varieties, visit

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Brooks Tropicals Donates $10,000 to Belize Scholarship Fund

Brooks Tropicals has donated $10,000 (Belizean dollars) to Belize's Corozal Bay Scholarship Education Fund set-up by the Corozal Bay Executive Committee.

Brooks Tropicals grows, packs and ships its Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise papayas in Belize's Corozal region.

Through Brooks' Belize subsidiary - Fruta Bomba - the company in years past has worked closely with local schools in meeting their specifc needs. With this program, Fruta Bomba managers work directly with school principals to determine then deliver and/or install the annual company gift. Depending upon the schools' needs, these educational institutions have received photocopiers, refrigerators, water pumps, rewired buildings, school books, student desks and much more.

For Brooks and Fruta Bomba, the $10,000 Belize Scholarship donation is in addition to this ongoing school donation program. The Honorable Vildo Marin Deputy Prime Minister made the request for the contribution to the Corozal Bay Scholarship Education Fund. Brooks' donation will be used to directly assist students in finishing high school and sixth form.

The Belize government has made education their top priority, having decided to employ all possible efforts to assist young people in need of financial assistance. Brooks Tropicals and its local Belizean subsidiary Fruta Bomba welcome the chance to assist the Belizean government in this effort.