Thursday, August 7, 2008

StarPac launched for starfruit

excerpts from 7/28/08 article by Christina DiMartino

With its starfruit program ramping up for the season, Homestead, FL-based Brooks Tropicals has introduced a new clamshell pack for the product that will improve shipping and merchandising.

"The launch of our new starfruit Starpac was timed with the season revving up," said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for the company. "The package is being released in August. It's basically a clamshell with two divisions for one starfruit each."

From a logistical standpoint, Ms. Ostlund said that the new pack makes it easier to display, move and stack starfruit. There is less bruising of the fruit, and it adds an element of food safety because the product is protected from direct handling by staff and consumers.

"But we found another interesting benefit of the StarPac," said Ms. Ostlund. "It enhances the ripening process, and it helps to maintain the fruit's color better. It also extends the shelf life. Consumers see the fruit in its entirety, and the StarPac ensures them that it will get home in great condition."
Ms. Ostlund added that the UPC coding on the StarPac's label eliminates the chance of inaccuracies at the register because code numbers consistently will ring correctly.

Facility Completion
Brooks Tropicals also announced the completion of its new facility in northern Belize, near the town of Corozal, about 30 miles from the Mexican border.

"The 12,000-square-foot administration building holds our farm managers' offices, accounting group and other personnel," said Ms. Ostlund. "There are also new maintenance buildings, garages, fertilizer buildings and a break room where workers can congregate comfortably."

"Brooks spared nothing when it came to equipping the facility with the latest technology." Ms. Ostlund said that the Homestead office communicates with its two subsidiaries in Belize - one that handles farming and the other that oversees harvesting, packing and shipping - on a continuous basis. The new facility was built for the farming subsidiary.

"It is equipped with satellite communications, satellite video, high-speed Internet abilities and VOIP (voice over IP, technology that allows phone communications over the Internet)," she said. "We hold video conferences with our staff there at least once a day, which is invaluable for seamless product movement."

Food Safety Audits
"The most recent audit at our Belize facilities was in June, and we received a 95 percent, which is an excellent rating," said Ms. Ostlund. "It takes a great deal of focused effort by every staff member. Once standards are set and people get used to it, it becomes the normal way to function. Every employee must do their part and always be diligent."

Although 95 percent is a high rating, Brooks is particularly proud of the recent audit rating it earned at its Homestead packinghouse and cooling/cold storage and distribution center.

"The distribution center received a rating of 99 percent, and the packinghouse was rated at 97 percent," said Ms. Ostlund. "The auditor said he was so impressed that he asked if he could take photos of the facilities to use as examples for other companies. He also said that he would like to bring other operators to see our facilities in person.

Ms. Ostlund said that the auditor was impressed that every staff member was involved with the food-safety initiatives.

"It takes a commitment from every person, and that means everyone must be educated and aware of what they should be doing and exactly why," said Ms. Ostlund.