Thursday, April 30, 2009

In a rut? Try new fruits and vegetables

Excerpts from a 4/28/09 Houston Chronicle article by Chris Rosenbloom

The average supermarket carries about 40,000 products, yet many people are stuck in a rut, eating the same food week after week.

Georgia State University nutrition students challenged fellow students to a “nutrition fear factor” test to encourage them to try new foods.

The results? “Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of tasting different foods that were interesting and healthy to eat,” said student Lauren Sieber.

Here are four foods that you may not have tried, but conquer your inner fear and conduct your own “nutrition fear factor” test with your family. Your kids will have fun, and they might learn to like more than baby carrots and apples.

• Carambola: It’s used in Southeast Asia and is also called star fruit because, when sliced, each piece looks like a star. Choose a sweet variety, such as Arkin. Look for one that is shiny and firm to the touch.

• Plantains: A staple of Latin American cuisine, they look like large bananas, but are really a starch vegetable rich in potassium and vitamin C. Ripe ones will look almost black. Slice it, saute with a little butter or margarine and a pinch of brown sugar and salt.

• Broccoli rabe

• Dried figs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Marketers expect tropicals to hold their own

Excerpts from a The Packer article published on 04/24/2009 by Abraham Mahshie

The excitement, flavor and cultural connection to the tropical fruit category are all reasons that grower-shippers say the category will continue to grow despite a down economy. Tropicals are a great opportunity to pick up some of those negative sales trends that stores are experiencing.

"Retailers also will have to do their part and provide value to consumers," says Mary Ostlund, marketing director of Brooks Tropicals LLC. "People want to know what kind of bang for the buck a fruit or vegetable will give them" she said. "They may think, 'tropicals are exotic and they might be more expensive,' but in actuality, they deliver a lot of fruit, a lot of vegetable for the dollar."

Ms. Ostlund added that the Food Network was and continues to be a valuable source of information for tropical fruits and vegetables.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bring your child to work day

Here are just a few of the visitors we had on 'Bring your child to work day.' From left to right
- Alex, son of Deanna Obana-Garcia of Sales
- Kyle, son of Bill Brindle of Sales
- G'anna, daughter of Sue Garcia of Sales
- Abby, daughter of Jack Barron of Sales

The Packer selects Pal Brooks for The Packer 25

The Packer 25 highlights individuals who are the standard-bearers for leadership in the produce industry.
Weathering storms of both the natural and the business variety for nearly a half a century, change is not something Neal Palmer “Pal” Brooks fears.

4/20/09 The Packer article by Doug Ohlemeier

Weathering storms of both the natural and the business variety for nearly a half a century, change is not something Neal Palmer “Pal” Brooks fears.

Owner of the Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., which has become the largest shipper of Florida avocados and the largest U.S. importer of Caribbean red papaya, Brooks, 70, said he likes to consider what his company will do 18 months into the future.

“Change is inevitable,” he said. “You have to understand it’s going to happen. Accept it and use it to your advantage. There has never been a weather event that when I experienced it and came out the other side, I didn’t find some way that there’s an opportunity there somewhere.”

In 1961, Brooks joined his father. James Richard “Dick” Brooks, who died in 1992, in the business shortly after graduating from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in agricultural economics.

One of the things Brooks said he learned from his father — who started operations in 1928 and incorporated in 1961 as J.R. Brooks & Sons Inc. — was to expect and try to reduce the risk caused by hurricanes and accept damages beyond your control.

Hurricane Andrew in less than an hour in 1992 caused millions of dollars of damages to Brooks’ south Florida avocado and lime groves and buildings. Hurricane Dean in 2007 blasted through Brooks’ Belize papaya growing region, blowing off fruit and knocking down 1,600 acres of trees.
Brooks slowly recovered from both calamities that could have easily meant the end for other tropicals shippers.

Instead of returning to business as normal when it replanted in Belize, Brooks used new production and horticultural methods so that the new papaya trees were an improvement over the ones bearing fruit before the storm.

Brooks said he never wants to grow the same crop in the same manner using the same varieties, and said he wants to find new ways of growing and marketing his crops.

Sticking to a business plan as well as hiring the right people and letting them successfully manage your company are other keys to success, Brooks said.

Craig Wheeling said he has learned valuable lessons from Brooks since he joined the company in 1988 as its first chief executive officer. “He has laid a solid corporate foundation for this company, yet he hasn’t hesitated on inaugurating innovative ideas,” Wheeling said. “It’s this way of thinking that has kept Brooks Tropicals ahead in a very competitive industry.”

Wheeling characterizes Brooks as a long-term investor who accepts and understands that you can experience short-term dips but, with perseverance, can gain long-term success.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Caribbean Sunrise Papayas coming on strong with top quality at Brooks

Produce News article in the Florida Spring Produce section written by Christina DiMartino

"We are seeing volumes of Caribbean Sunrise papayas," said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals in Homestead, FL. "This is the smaller single or solo-size papaya. The quality is outstanding."

Ms. Ostlund explained that the current movement of the Caribbean Sunrise papaya represents the first full comeback since Hurricane Dean.

"This is a new variety with a great storage profile," she said. "We are really excited about this movement. We expect significant volumes to be available on the item."

Brooks Tropicals offers year-round movement of Florida-grown boniato. The company is now using a 40-pound bag instead of the 50-pound option. "The lighter bag is easier to lug around," said Ms. Ostlund. "Brooks has worked with its grower-partner on boniato for over 20 years."

Ms. Ostlund said that bulk is consumers' preference when purchasing boniato, saying it is a " stick you hand in and dig around until you find the one you want" type of product. As a collector of recipes on tropical produce, Ms. Ostlund said that here data bank is thickening under the boniato heading. Recipes that highlight or include boniato are on the increase whether on the Internet, in cookbooks or on TV cooking shows, she said."It is a fantastic alternative to a baking potato, " Ms. Ostlund pointed out. "It has a little dryer texture than a potato but is nuttier in flavor. People who get used to the great flavor also learn not to disguise it with fattening toppings like sour cream or butter that are typically used on baked potatoes."

Brooks Tropicals harvests over 70 percent of what the firms ells. Besides papaya, it specializes in SlimCado avocados, starfruit, limes, Uniq Fruit and numerous other traditionally tropical items including root products.

The season for Brooks Tropicals' Florida-grown SlimCado avocados wrapped up in march, but movement res up again in June and July with commercial volumes. The season then continues until the following February or March.

Ms. Ostlund noted that the past season was a good one for the SlimCado and the bloom now on the trees indicates that the crop in the coming season will be equally or even more outstanding.

"Brooks Tropicals branded its avocados with the SlimCado name because it affirms that the product has 50 percent less fat and a third fewer calories than other avocado varieties," said Ms. Ostlund. "Tests are performed weekly during harvesting and from various groves to confirm the fat and calorie content."

Brooks Tropicals is vertically integrated. It coordinates its farm group's harvesting schedule with its sales team to ensure supplies and sizes are consistent with customer needs.

"On the production end, we plan harvesting to meet our customers' promotion and advertising needs," said Ms. Ostlund. "In some cases, we can do this up to a year in advance."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Strong papaya demand should buoy markets

Excerpt from an article in the 4/6/09 edition of The Packer by Andy Nelson.

Demand for ample supplies of high-quality papayas should be strong in April and May, importers said.

Brooks Tropicals is celebrating the return of its Caribbean Sunrise papaya acreage, which had been devastated by Hurricane Dean, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.

Brooks was importing 5,000 to 6,000 boxes of Caribbean Sunrise at the end of March, Ostlund said. That should increase up to 10,000 a week by this summer.

The company also imports Caribbean Red papayas, she said. That variety was in a product lull in late March, with volume shipments returning by late April, Ostlund said.

Debunking myths of the Latino market

Excerpts from a 5/09 Produce Business article written by Jodean Robbins

It's no secret that Hispanics comprise a significant and growing percentage of the U.S. population. According to the most recent Census counts, the nation's Hispanic population reached 45.5 million in 7/07 or 15.1% of the U.S.'s population.

Myth 1: It's not worth the effort.

"If there is any ROI to be had in produce, focusing on Latinos will deliver desirable results," says Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Brooks Tropicals LLC, headquartered in Homestead, FL.

"The Latino lifestyle is based on eating with your family and eating delicious home-cooked meals. Ensuring the family's health by preparing fresh foods and encouraging them to exercise is a common practice among all Latinos. Ironically, a growing concern is the development of bad eating habits as acculturated Latinos are faced with the U.S.'s abundance of cheap, low-quality food," she adds. "Many Latinos and Latino organizations are getting out the important, but basic message: the old ways are the best ways. Latinos appreciate fresh produce as a way to combat bad eating habits."

Myth 2: My store isn't in Miami or L.A.

"I heard this doubt expressed once from a store manager whose location was in the same town in which one of our customers had just opened a store," reports Ostlund. "I knew my customer's tropical section was doing very well out there, and it's not that big of a town."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tropical fruits and vegetables have the highest vitamin C amounts

Excerpts from an article in All about family and health

Vitamin C helps the body in over 300 functions. It is vitamin C that

  • Helps protect against heart disease, cancer and other serious illnesses.
  • Plays an important part in healing the body by helping to form collagen.
  • Keeps your organs in place.
  • Acts as an antioxidant for the body
  • Helps other vitamins and minerals to be absorbed better like folic acid and iron.

No wonder C is the most widely known vitamin of the vitamin family.

The more of this vitamin that the body has, the better the body can defend against colds and other common ailments. C may not prevent you from catching a virus but it does speed up your recovery.

There is vitamin C in almost every fruit and vegetable but some have far higher C content than others. In fact, tropical fruits have the highest vitamin C amounts of all fruit.

Hot peppers are amongst the richest sources of the vitamin C when it comes to vegetables. The hotter the pepper, the higher its vitamin C content is.

Unfortunately, the vitamin C is water soluble so many vegetables lose their effectiveness as a vitamin C provider if they are boiled for a long time. Steaming or quick stir frying vegetables ensures that more of their vitamin C content is retained.

The recommended daily amount of vitamin C is easily obtained from eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day if they are consumed raw or cooked quickly.

There is no danger of having too much vitamin C

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tropical fruit display at Publix

On the back page of Produce Merchandising, the header read "Don't expect mangoes when you plant papayas." I have no idea what that means. However, I did notice a large photo in the article of a Publix tropical fruit display. The photographer tried to turn the fruit over so you couldn't see a label, but he missed a couple.

Caribbean Reds are getting about half the display area as mangoes and almost as much as the pineapples. Not bad, given that mangoes and pineapples are the tropical front runners in sales.

And before you move on, did you see the SlimCado label to the far left?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Brooks Tropicals: Tropical category offers great value for consumers

Excerpts taken from a Produce News article of 3/30/09 written by Christina DiMartino

“Buyers everywhere know consumers are focused on their spending dollars, so they want produce that provides the biggest bang for the buck,” said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals in Homestead, FL. “Tropical fruits and vegetables are fantastic bargains. They give people lots of fruit to chop up into salads, for snacks or in fruit plates, and provide a feeling of luxury.”

Ms. Ostlund used Brooks Tropicals’ Caribbean Red papayas as a good example. Recently, a group representing a Canadian client was at the company’s facility. She sliced up three papayas and filled 13, 8-oz cups to serve the guests.

“That’s why people in Spanish-speaking countries refer to papayas as fruta bomba, meaning ‘fruit bomb,’ “she said. “Fruta Bomba is also the name of our production subsidiary in Belize” in Central America.

Brooks Tropicals has a highly specialized way of producing papaya in order to service its customers efficiently.

“We are truly vertically integrated because we grow over 70 percent of what we sell,” Ms. Ostlund said. “We work four to six weeks in advance with our customers. On the production end, we plan harvesting to meet schedules. That’s not easy because when papayas rare ready to be picked, you have to pick them. Brooks Tropicals plants trees based on projected forecasts from customers. This way we can work with them on promotions and advertisements. In some cases we work with them a year in advance.”

Brooks Tropicals plants papaya trees every month. The trees begin turning out fruit in as short a time as seven months, but they produce for only about 18 months.

“If we were a normal grower, we would probably plant during the optimum season,” said Ms. Ostlund. “But if we did we’d have peaks and valleys in supplies. Our customers want steady volumes, and our integration process ensures they have it.”

The season for Brooks Tropicals’ “SlimCado” avocados comes to a close in March, but movement revs up again in May with commercial volumes coming on board in June and July with the season continuing until the following February or March.

Ms. Ostlund noted that past season was a good one for the company’s SlimCado. The brand is important because if affirms that the product has 50 percent less fat and a third fewer calories than other avocado varieties.

“Samples are taken weekly to ensure a SlimCado is a SlimCado,” said Ms. Ostlund. “Doctors say people should not eat more than 70 fat calories per day. Although avocados contain monounsaturated fat – the heart-healthy fat – it’s not a free-for-all relative to weight control. The SlimCado gives people a lot more.”

Vertical integration extends to Brooks Tropicals’ SlimCado crop, but differently because trees can produce for 15-20 years. Brooks coordinates its farm group’s harvesting schedule with its sales tem to ensure supplies and sizes are consistent throughout the season.

“When working with independent growers, you have to deal with whatever comes in the door,” said Ms. Ostlund. “We provide consistently sized pieces in the volumes desired so grocers don’t want to weigh every piece of product they sell.”

Starfruit movement ended in February for the season, but begins again in June. Ms. Ostlund said demand increases steadily. Starfruit enjoyed an extra bump during the past season because of the election.

“During such times, people look for ways to dress up beverages and dishes, and starfruit makes a great presentation,” she said. “There are strong initiatives across the nation to get children to eat more fruit, and some school systems are using starfruit in snack programs.”

Brooks Tropicals is also tightly integrated with its lime produced in Mexico. Ms. Ostlund said the limes are looking very good, noting that the Canadian group there recently commented on how much they like the company’s limes.

“We’re in season now with Uniq Fruit,” she added. “Its appearance reminds people of grapefruit, but is milder. It’s a delicious and fun fruit to peel and eat, and it’s a great item for retailers to sample.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tropical fruits are better than other fruits

Tropical Fruits have the Least Pesticide Residue
Highlights from an article on Nutrition101 by A. Richardson, 3/30/09

Fresh fruits equal a healthy diet sums up conventional wisdom. It turns out that tropical fruits are better than other fruit.

Based on a 2006 report from the Environmental Working Group which based its findings on tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration it was found that:

  • The lowest levels of pesticide residue was found in avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwifruits, bananas, and papayas
  • The highest levels were found in peaches, apples, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, and imported grapes (not grown in Canada or the U.S.)

Nutritional experts are concerned about the cumulative long term effects of pesticides on human beings. To reduce your exposure to pesticides:

  • Wash all fruits thoroughly under running water.
  • Peel fruits before eating whenever possible.
  • For fruits with high levels of pesticides, buy organic.*
  • Grow your own fruit.
  • Eat more tropical fruits. Avocados are the safest followed by pineapples, mangos, kiwifruit, bananas, and papayas.

* Food label info

  • organically grown fruits have a 9 digit number on their labels.
  • conventionally grown produce - 4 digits on their labels
  • genetically modified produce - 8 digits on their labels.