Friday, June 27, 2008

Specialties add pizzazz but require some effort

Excerpts from The Packer 6/23/08 article
By Haley Jones, Staff Writer

Promotions are vital in the produce industry -- especially when it comes to marketing rare and specialty varieties.

Companies that offer specialty produce are finding that information really is their strongest selling tool. Some companies have found a combination of methods effective in marketing their specialty products to their clients.

Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., provides retailers with updates on lower-volume crops so they know what is in season.

"Mangoes, guavas and kumquats come in and out of season. We make sure our retailers know what's in season because some of these seasons aren't very long," said Mary Ostlund, marketing director.

Brooks is working to help retailers make unfamiliar fruit appeal to their patrons.

"We don't expect people to walk up and say, ‘I'm going to pick this up and eat it.' We've got to get it into folks' diet as part of an overall recipe," Ostlund said.

Brooks recommends serving suggestions in its tropical fruit displays to show consumers how to include the variety in their daily meals. Suggestions include blending in a mamey sapote with bananas in a smoothie or replacing tomatoes with papaya or SlimCado avocado in a homemade salsa.

"It's no longer just tomatoes in salsa. It's also not betting the whole dinner on an exotic specialty, that's new to you," Ostlund said.

Introducing customers to a new variety by incorporating it into familiar recipes makes the consumer more comfortable and likely to try it, Ostlund said.

"Salsa is the perfect 'whim' food. Chop up whatever suits your fancy. I've never known a salsa to fail and it's a perfect way to try new and exotic fruits and vegetables," Ostlund said.

Florida takes on specialty crops, Homeowners transform backyard gardens.

Excerpts from The Packer article of 6/23/08
By Haley Jones, Staff Writer

The high cost of living on the coasts is prompting an increasing number of Florida homeowners to turn their backyards into gardens for specialty crops. Residences of Miami-Dade County are taking advantage of an agricultural tax break opportunity by growing various crops on their own acreage.

Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals is a big supporter of the growing local produce trend, including backyard gardens. Brooks has brokered local produce since 1928, said marketing director Mary Ostlund.

"But we're losing farmland to the suburbs. We've seen acreage go from pre-1992 amounts when it was over 5,000 acres to 3,000 acres after Hurricane Andrew hit."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2002 census, Florida farmland has decreased by almost 250,000 acres since 1997.

The unique sub-tropical climate of southern Florida provides a desirable palate for growing a variety of commodities year-round that are becoming increasingly difficult to find.

Star fruit gets new packaging

Excerpt from The Packer 6/23/08 article

By Haley Jones, Staff Writer

Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., is introducing a clamshell package for its star fruit.
The custom-built StarPac will hit stores in August, in time to kick off star fruit season. The new package costs about 10 cents more than the regular package. Brooks expects to ship 120,000 cases of star fruit, said Mary Ostlund, marketing director. The number of new packages that would be shipped had not yet been determined.

"We know that customers will buy it, but we think it will be a gradual increase. We're letting the orders dictate what we pack," Ostlund said.

The package provides a plastic wall of separation between the two pieces of fruit that come in a package. It also allows air to circulate throughout the package with improved ventilation, Ostlund said.

Brooks performed a number of pilot trials testing the effectiveness of StarPac at protecting the fruit.
The company found StarPac kept fruit fresher than standard packaging and increased ripening time, improving the fruit's shelf life and quality. During the tests, the clamshell also protected against bruising from excessive customer handling, Ostlund said.

The star fruit is grown near Fort Myers, Fla. Ostlund said the soil is acidic enough to give the fruit a good size while maintaining its sweet taste.

The specialty produce company expects the new packaging to enhance star fruit sales nationwide.

Star fruit is especially popular with kids, who love fun the shape, Ostlund said. "StarPac showcases the oddly-shaped fruit that kids love to see and retailers are catching on," Ostlund said.

New addition to the Brooks Tropicals' family

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The winner of the food safety contest is...

Congratulations Kristen Pritchett for winning our food safety contest. Ismael Gonzalez came in second. Both will receive a deluxe Brooks Tropicals pen.

Here are the food safety violations Kristen found.

Organic avocado packing house
1) No hairnet
2) No gloves
3) She’s wearing jewelry

4) No id badge
5) No apron
6) She's wearing labels around her neck, which are now contaminated by her sweat.
7) There are open areas where
birds and/or pests can get in (any sign of 'droppings' is an automatic failure in a food safety audit). Anyone can walk in and either steal, or tamper with all of the boxes that are lying around.
8) The white bin is not marked for what it is used for (EXAMPLE: REJECTIONS, #2, GARBAGE)

On the tomato packing house, she found
1) No gloves
2) No aprons
3) Open areas

4) Bins are not marked for what it is used for (EXAMPLE: REJECTIONS, #2, GARBAGE)
5) Rubbish all over the floor
6) No hand dip/sanitation stations
7) No trash cans anywhere
8) No pest control devices, such as rat traps or bug zappers.

10) There’s a box of tomatoes laying on the ground totally open.
11) There are cross contamination problems with how boxes are stored and stacked
12) No signs stating where #1 produce is stored and where the rejects are being stored.
13) The men are not wearing beard nets.
14) No evidence of a FIFO policy in use for commodities or packaging.
15) All exposed materials such as the tomatoes are not protected from overhead contamination.

Fruta Bomba hosts field trip for local school

Fruta Bomba hosted a field trip by a local school on May 22nd. The children were shown a papaya grove and our nursery.

Apologies for not finding out the school's name.

The Big Move!

The time has finally come, where we can say good-bye to the old building and hello to a gorgeous building complex.

The building is waiting with new furniture, new phone system and new pictures. Just about everything is new except for the people!

The move was supposed to be last week except for a delay from a local utility. Nonetheless, the move started last Thursday. By the end of the week we should be all moved in.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Food Safety Contest for Brooks Employees

First things first, these ARE NOT photographs of Brooks Tropicals' facilities.
These are photos that these companies submitted to trade publications to promote their produce.

Probably every single Brooks employee could pick out at least three major food safety violations in each photo.

A small prize to the Brooks Tropicals, Fruta Bomba and/or Belize Fruit Packer employee that picks out the most food safety violations in both pictures. Send your entries by 6/25/08 to

Auditor can't believe his eyes! Brooks again excels in food safety.

Yes you read it right, our Homestead packing house, maintenance department and storage cooler were so good that the food safety inspector had trouble believing his eyes! He says he's coming back to see it again.

During the audit - while the auditor snapped dozens of photos to show other houses what a packing house should look like -he said that these facilities were one of the cleanest he has ever seen. He even said it looked like a museum.

During lunch the auditor raved about the company's efforts and performance.

So how high are the scores? 99% on the Homestead facility shipping coolers and 97% on the avocado packinghouse,* Brooks Tropicals has a lot to be proud about.

Other companies can say they passed a food safety audit with only 80%. Brooks is heads and shoulders above that.

To shout our success to customers, our advertising will have a new icon (see above).

*And let's not forget the recent 95% score achieved at our Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise packing facility in Belize. Second excellent audit for our Belize operations.

Friday, June 13, 2008

These no-cook dinners will keep you cool

Excerpts from an article by ROSEMARY BLACK June 10th 2008

If you'd like to stay cool as a cucumber in your kitchen, eat more fruits and veggies that are often 80% or more water. That's the word on how to stay healthy and hydrated in the heat from nutrition experts, who advise eating small meals and plenty of produce.

When people are hot, small meals are better. Among the easiest no-cook meals of all is to toss a salad says Caroline Bohl, RD, a supervisor in nutrition services at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Though ice cream's not a great beat-the-heat option due to its high fat content, you can still make a great smoothie with ice, fruit juice and fruit. Try something new like papayas in your smoothie. For a cool desert add a fat-free sorbet to the smoothie (blogger note: lime sorbet and papayas are a treat).

Here are a couple of no-cook recipes to make your summertime cooking easy.

Caribbean Fruit Salad
Serves 4
4 tablespoons prepared vinaigrette dressing
4 tablespoons honey-Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 1/2 pounds cooked shrimp (peeled and de-veined)
1 solo papaya, peeled and diced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced (blogger note: make it a SlimCado avocado for 50% less fat and 35% fewer calories*)
1 large package salad greens
In large bowl, mix the vinaigrette, mustard and yogurt. Whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, papaya and avocado. Toss and refrigerate for 1 hour. Mount salad greens on 4 plates. Divide shrimp mixture among the plates and serve.

Tuna Boats
Serves 4
3 (6-ounce) cans oil-packed white tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Mayonnaise to moisten
4 large club rolls, halved and hollowed out (blogger note: this recipe makes tuna sandwiches, make real tuna boats by cutting - your choice - 2 SlimCado avocados, or 2 Caribbean Sunrise papayas in half with the seeds scooped out.)
In a large bowl, combine tuna, celery, scallions, parsley, salt and pepper. Add mayonnaise until it reaches desired consistency. Fill the 4 halves of rolls, Caribbean Sunrise papayas or SlimCado avocados with tuna. If not serving immediately, spray the avocado meat with lime juice to prevent oxidation (turning brown).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mexican lemons, limes attract U.S. importers

Excerpts from a 6/9/2008 article in The Packer by Don Schrack
Brooks Tropicals a Homestead, Fla.-based importer, restricts its Mexcian lime imports to a single grower who has consistently met the company's specifications, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.
Sourcing limes from Mexico through McAllen Texas has opened up the West Coast for us tremendously," she said.

Assistant Supervisors head-up donations for tropical storm Arthur

Two of our assistant supervisors, Mrs. Graciela Ancona and Mrs. Juanita Matu, embarked on a mission to raise funds for the victims of Tropical Storm Arthur in the southern part of Belize.

With the generosity of all of our employees, Graciela and Juanita were able to raise about $608.50 Belize or roughly $300.00 US for Tropical Storm Arthur victims.

Brooks Tropicals supports the arts

Artist Luisa Caldwell of Brooklyn, NY is doing a commissioned art piece for the city of New York. The piece uses fruit and vegetable stickers to draw a landscape. Nice to know our outdated labels are being beautifully recycled.

Luisa sent us this as a sample.

Friday, June 6, 2008

New SlimCado marketing campaign officially launched

We're picking SlimCados and launching a new marketing campaign to announce their arrival.

New ads, new web home page, new email signatures, and a new look for our Weekly Market Update. It doesn't get any more exciting than that in marketing.

If you are familiar with our advertising, you'll see we've gone a totally different direction, taking our ads in the last three months from illustrative to photographic.

It's a change I didn't simply charged into because the old illustrations are easily recognizable as Brooks'. Customers opening The Packer (an industry trade publication) would quickly recognize that it was a Brooks ad on the page. For three years*, the benefits of an updated look was trumped by brand recognition.

So why change now?

Between January and March of this year, our advertising has been minimal with SlimCados being out of season and our papayas still feeling the impact from Hurricane Dean. I decided to use the break to renter the advertising fray with a refreshed and updated advertising look.

The campaign centers around how SlimCado Avocados are healthy toppings for various dishes. The first ad shows a colorful salad. Soup, hamburger and sandwich ads are in the works.

* Today is my work anniversary, I started at Brooks Tropicals three years ago today.
Most folks would have to give their work anniversary date some thought before answering the question. For 22 years I worked at AT&T where your 'work start' date was constantly used for a wide variety of benefits and other calculations.
Although I loved working at AT&T and thankful for all the opportunities that company afforded me, I treasure working at Brooks which has a much more conducive environment for marketing (and just about anything else, I might add).
Here, I have to count the number of PMAs I've pulled together to figure out how many years I've been here. PMA number four is coming up.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The latest construction photos from Belize

The new buildings look great. It won't be long before we're moved in.

Superior score on food safety audit

Brooks Tropicals' papaya packing house in Belize was given a 95% score on their latest food safety audit performed by Primus Labs.

95% is considered superior by the third party food safety auditing organization. For this Brooks Tropicals' facility this audit is recertification.

Congratulations to the Brooks Tropicals' Belize team for a continuing to do a job well done.