Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reducing the browning of avocados

Excerpts taken from a 12/20/10 blog post from DesiGrub

When exposed to air, avocados turn brown. The oxygen in the air reacts with enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) to form brown pigmentation called melanoidin.

There are many theories on how to reduce this browning, such as: squirting lime or lemon over the avocado, adding oil, adding part of the avocado pit to guacamole (or leaving the pit in a whole avocado) and adding salt.

This blogger has done an impressive amount of testing to figure out that the most effective way to avoid browning is to add lime or lemon to the avocado. It's this act of adding ascorbic acid and citric acid - found in lemon and limes - that decreases the rate of browning. It does it by lowering the pH of tissue. Browning is most active in the neutral pH range of 6 to 7 while there is no browning, below pH of 3.

To make guacamole, the blogger suggests that you do the following:
  1. Cut open and mash the avocados as the last step in making guacamole, have all the other ingredients ready to combine with the avocados.
  2. Add lime or lemon juice right after mashing avocados. Cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Don't add salt until you're ready to serve

Fascinating nutritional secrets - starfruit

Excerpt from a 12/20/10 article by By Dr. Kenneth Woliner on HealthTalk.com

You may like the exotic taste of starfruit – sort of a tart cross between plums and pineapples – but you’ll love star fruit’s secret. It’s a type of plant pigment called proanthocyanidins.

These pigments are what make cranberries so good for urinary tract health. And star fruit is loaded with them.

Proanthocyanidins also support heart health… promote better blood sugar control… and may enhance your body’s ability to fight abnormal cell growth. Plus, they’re powerful antioxidants. (2)

Star fruit is also low in calories but provides decent nutrition. One serving (125 grams, or 4.4 oz.) has 45% of the adult requirement of vitamin C. It also provides good amounts of vitamin A (15%) and fiber (12%).All those healthy benefits make star fruit a great addition to your diet

Monday, December 20, 2010

Papayas touting 15% growth in sales

Excerpts taken from an 12/20/10 article in The Packer titled 'Papaya demand remains steady'

Higher prices and rough weather couldn't keep papayas down for long.

"It's been a turbulent hurricane season in Central America, but it's done with and we've been able to come though," said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing at Brooks Tropicals, Homestead FL.

"We've experienced a 15% growth in the papaya category in the last year," she said.

Mid-December prices on 35-pound maradol cartons were about $20-$23, up from $18 the year before.

"The trend will probably continue until fruit from post-hurricane planted papaya trees start coming into the market in the spring," Ostlund said.

Ostlund expects papaya sales to be buoyed by growth in produce sales across commodities.

"The growth should continue particularly since the appearance of a new trend," she said. "If websites and blogs are any indication, this holiday season U.S. consumers are paying closer attention to vegetable dishes, whether it's an attempt at healthier eating or a realization that there's only so much you can do to a bird."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Papaya can reduce cancer rates

Excerpt from an article written by by Katherine Scott on the Here's the Evidence blog.

Summary: Papaya fruit contains high levels of a pigment called beta-cryptoxanthin that can reduce cancer rates even in high risk patients.

Papaya, a rich source of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamins A and C and folate, was described as “the fruit of the angels” by Christopher Colombus when he first discovered its juicy orange flesh in its native Central America. On top of all that, papaya may also help fight cancer.

What makes papaya flesh so vibrantly orange are naturally occurring pigments called carotenoids. The major dietary carotenoids in papaya are lutein, beta-carotene, lycopene and beta-crytoxanthin. The first three are more commonly known and have been associated with improving vision and reducing prostate cancer risk, but beta-cryptoxanthin is what makes papayas so special.

Remarkably, one of the actions of beta-cryptoxanthin is to inhibit new blood vessel formation, or angiogenesis, which is essential for new cancers to develop. If tiny clumps of cancer cells in the body cannot establish their own blood supply, they never grow into large, malignant tumors. Because beta-cryptoxanthin have the potential to stop cancers before they start, regular papaya consumption could reduce cancer rates in even high-risk populations.

Avocado consumption climbs

Avocado consumption in the United States has reached an estimated over 4.0 pounds per person for the first time in 2009/10 and still expected to continue to grow.

Sixth graders name starfruit their favorite fruit choice.

Excerpts from an article written in the Yorktown Press.

YORKTOWN INDIANA - Two sixth-grade classes participated in a fruits and vegetables taste-testing event.

The students sampled five fruits and five vegetables. After counting the 30 surveys, starfruit was named the favorite fruit choice, least favorite was mango. The most popular vegetable was summer squash, least favorite was turnips.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That's how to sell SlimCados

Fairway Grocery Stores in NYC know how to sell SlimCados with a commendable 'stack'em high and kiss'em good-bye' strategy. These photos are from their 72nd and Broadway store.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Avocados, other tropicals hold on into autumn

Excerpts from an 11/1/10 article in The Packer by Doug Ohlemeier

Florida is a leading producer of tropical fruits and vegetables.
While south Florida may be better known for its green-skinned avocados, growers in the Redlands growing region also produce smaller volumes of tropicals such as boniato, star fruit, mamey sapote, passion fruit and kumquats.
Avocados Florida's avocado season typically begins winding down in the fall. Shipments normally start in June and hit peak volume in July with volumes starting to decline in November, with July, August, September and October producing the most volume.
South Florida supplies fall tropicals

Courtesy Brooks Tropicals

Shipments of green-skinned avocados begin to decrease in November. “With our SlimCados, we’re past the peak of the season, but we have a nice crop of late-season fruit to get us through December,”
says Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc., said the late season fruit possesses strong quality.

“With our SlimCados, we’re past the peak of the season, but we have a nice crop of late season fruit to get us through December,” she said in mid-October. “We will go into February with lighter volumes. We really see the late season crop not as affected by the cold weather of the 2009-10 season than the other varieties, but it’s always a lighter crop during that time of the year.”

The leading Florida avocado grower-shipper, Brooks expects to ship more than 400,000 bushels, down from last season.

Other tropicals
During the fall and winter, south Florida is a major grower and supplier of a variety of comparatively small volumes of fall tropical items.

Harvesting of star fruit or carambola normally begins in early July and runs through March.

The colder winter made for a later start this season, Ostlund said.

On mamey sapote, fall typically brings a winding down of production.

Last winter’s cold cut volumes, Ostlund said.

For kumquats, Ostlund said Brooks expects to begin shipments in mid-November.

The crop looks strong and remains on time, she said.

Ostlund said Brooks plans to ship through March.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fundraising for Belize hurricane victims

Belize Fruit Packers embarked on a fund raising campaign to help hurricane victims in Belize. Employees gladly contributed and we raised about $337.75 (Bze). This money will be used to purchase can foods which is really needed in the devastated areas.

Contributed by Santiago Victorin

Packinghouse Manager

Belize Fruit Packers

4 reasons Avocados will make you healthier right now

Excerpts taken from a 9/10 Southern Living Article

  1. Avocados help protect your eyes. Avocados have carotenoid lutein which protects against cataracts and more.
  2. Avocados assist lower cholesterol. Avocados are high in beta-sitosterol which has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
  3. Avocados help regulate blood pressure. Studies show that potassium can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke; avocados are a great source of potassium while being low in sodium.
  4. Avocados deliver vitamin E, shown to contribute to overall good health.

Brooks says papayas a perfect addition to Thanksgiving menus

Excerpts from an 11/01/10 article in The Produce News by ChristinaDiMartino

Is Thanksgiving dinner tried-and-true or innovative and creative?

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals in Homestead, FL, told The Produce News that while it is nice to know the green bean casserole will always be there, she likes a touch of the unexpected at a festive meal.

"I find converting traditionalists to my way of thinking works best when the must-have menu items appear on the table with just a little tweak to them," she said. “So whether someone is hosting the dinner or bringing a dish to another home this year, they should think about mixing it up a bit. And there's no better way to splash some sunshine onto a holiday table than with fresh papaya.”

Ms. Ostlund said that Brooks’ “Caribbean Red” brand papayas from Belize are becoming more well known among consumers for their high quality and flavor. Consumers are also learning the importance of reducing the amount of sugar in their diets — and substituting papaya for sugar- and fructose-loaded processed foods — is a great way to do so without sacrificing flavor.

“Papayas are between 10 and 12 on the Brix scale,” said Ms. Ostlund. “The mild flavor does not hide other flavors but rather integrates nicely with them. Part of the

Thanksgiving celebration is to talk about the foods on the table and what is in them. Adding and substituting papaya will certainly help to create an interesting conversation.”

An added benefit is that papayas are plentiful this time of year. And because of their large size, one papaya can go a long way and end up being a cost- effective ingredient when feeding a large crowd.

“What I also like is that they can be used in a multitude of ways, from a savory-flavored recipe to dessert. And not to be overlooked is the drop-dead gorgeous color they add to any dish,” said Ms. Ostlund.

One of the suggestions Brooks Tropicals makes is to top turkey stuffing with diced papaya to add color to what is typically a drab-looking dish and to add a hint of sweetness.

“Gently stir in finely diced papaya to homemade cranberry relish,” Ms. Ostlund suggested. “It adds a nice texture and, again, offers that beautiful color. Mash pureed papaya into mashed potatoes for a creamier texture and a bit of sweetness.

“Papaya apple pie is a terrific version of the traditional baker’s classic that will please even the die-hard apple pie fans,” she continued.

Brooks Tropicals has created a colorful marketing brochure with suggestions on how to use papaya in Thanksgiving dishes. The brochure, which features recipes and beautiful photos of finished dishes, is being distributing to media outlets across the country.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Another Disney Dinner for Brooks!

Once again Brooks Tropicals was featured at The Wave restaurant at the Contemporary Hotel in Disney World. This time it was a part of Epcot's month-long celebration of food and wine.

Brooks' produce was featured on the menu with:

- Jumbo Lump Crab Shooters with Ugly Tomato Bloody Mary Water and SlimCado Avocados

-Caribbean Red Papaya Pasta with Wagyu Meatballs and Pork Ribs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Schools' healthful food effort bears fruit

Excerpts from an 10/25/10 article posted on Tampa Bay Online by Megan Hussey

DADE CITY - Students at Rodney B. Cox Elementary School in Dade City and 130 other schools in Florida are snacking every day in class. But instead of cookies or candy, the students are eating grapes, kiwi, cauliflower, carrots, celery and even more exotic varieties, such as star fruit.

Maybe even more surprising is that the students like the healthful eats.

It's USDA's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The program, which started in 2008, targets schools where at least 50 percent of the student population gets free or low-cost meals.

The goal: Get kids snacking on fresh fruits and veggies three or five times during the school day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to win best in show

If you'll read the criteria that the judges used to decide 'best in show', the actual booth's appearance was only one criteria.

The second criteria focused on the booth's staffing, how engaged they were with visitors. I couldn't agree more with the judges. With 21 tradeshow years at AT&T, a tradeshow without a booth duty schedule (e.g. so and so must be in the booth between 9 and 11) is unheard of. Kudos to the sales department for giving their utmost priority to welcoming existing and new customers to our booth. Standing hours and hours on your feet with a smile on your face isn't all that easy.

The third criteria in booth judging centered on how well the booth delivered the overall marketing message. Some of you may recognize the eye-catching graphics that were pulled directly from our advertising program. For our customers, the booth delivers yet another reminder of our vertical integration from the field to their stores. It's our main differentiation and the graphics integrated with an open-air farmers' market theme delivers it well. The overall marketing campaign is one worked on by Craig Wheeling, Bill Brindle and myself with a shout out to our graphic artist, David Litwin.

It's the little things and not so little things that sets this booth apart. A big thank you to Jeff Crawford and Armando Monterroso for the papaya and avocados trees that graced the corners of the show.

What might seem inconsequential is how the fruit was displayed. Bill was adamant about wanting the papayas stacked on their sides. It's how they should be displayed in the stores. Numerous existing and potential customers made comments about how they should sell papayas like that in their stores.

One gentleman (whom Sandra had been calling for over 6 months) literally walked up to me while I was standing besides the papaya display and said "that's it, I want those papayas" and with that he handed me his card and told me to call him next week for an order. The papaya display was the final push to give us this new account.

A shout out to the Quality Control team back in Homestead. Johnny, Alex and their team made sure we had the best fruit to show and it paid off.

Thanks to everyone who made winning 'best in show' happen. And that includes IDDG who developed and built the booth.

Best in Show!

Excerpts from the Produce Marketing Association press release of 10/19/10

Orlando, Fla. — Produce Marketing Association (PMA) recognized four exhibitors Oct. 17 at PMA’s Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition with “Best of Show” awards for their exhibits’ outstanding salesmanship and presentation excellence. The awards were sponsored by The Packer and were announced on the show floor on Sunday with presentations made on the last day of Fresh Summit, held Oct. 15-18 in Orlando, Fla., USA.

Brooks Tropicals, booth

3481, Homestead, Fla., and Del Monte Foods, booth 1165, San Francisco, were first and second place w

inners, respectively, in the Island Booth category.

Mooney Farms, booth 1359, Chico, Calif., and Frieda’s Specialty Produce, booth 3143, Los Angeles, were first and second place winners, respectively, in the In-Line Booth category.

“These companies all prepared so well, paid attention to detail and execution, and connected to their customers,” said Bryan Silbermann, PMA president & CEO. “Winning the “Best of Show” awards is recognition of their world-class professionalism. They should be very proud.”

Booths were judged by an anonymous team of industry professionals during show hours on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 16-17 based on the following criteria.

  • Booth presentation: Integration of company identity in booth design, design and graphic elements, clearly communicates message to attendee, and adherence to show rules/exhibitor guidelines.
  • Product presentation: Product displays and benefit messaging.
  • Exhibit personnel: Professional appearance/etiquette, engagement with visitors, and adequate staffing.

First-place winners receive a host of prizes, including: recognition on PMA’s Web site, including multiple photos and a press announcement; two seats at a VIP table and recognition including a digital photo of the booth during the Monday general session of the 2010 convention; a $250 credit towards their 2010 Fresh Summit bill with PMA's official general service contractor, GES; one complimentary full registration to next year’s Fresh Summit in Atlanta, Ga., and a commemorative plaque.

Second place winners receive recognition on PMA’s Web site; two seats at a VIP table during the day’s general session; one complimentary day pass for 2011 Fresh Summit; and a commemorative plaque.

About Produce Marketing Association (PMA)

Founded in 1949, Produce Marketing Association is the leading trade association representing nearly 3,000 companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain. Members rely on PMA year round for the business solutions they need to increase sales and consumption, build strong professional relationshiops, and expand their business opportunities.


* An island booth means the booth stands by itself with no other booths right beside it.

** An inline booth means the booth can have another booth(s) right behind it and/or to its right and left.

PMA Fresh Summit Recap

Excerpts from a 10/20/10 article in The Packer written by Doug Ohlemeier

A record 3,938 retail and foodservice buyers walked the floors of the Orange County Convention Center in the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2010, up from 3,633 in 2009 and the 3,842 that visited the Orlando show in 2008.

Fresh Summit drew 18,284 participants, beating the previous East Coast record attendance of 17,503 in 2008, the last time the convention was held in the Sunshine State.

“There is a lot of energy and excitement on the floor,” said Garry Bergstrom, business development director of produce and floral for Publix Super Markets Inc., Lakeland. “People seem to be more upbeat. They’re not talking about the economy as much as they did two years ago. There’s more optimism.”

Last year’s confab in Anaheim, Calif., set the convention’s attendance record of 19,060.

From one end of the convention hall to the other, buyers from major retail chains and foodservice and wholesale operations visited produce suppliers and others in the show’s 950 exhibitors, up from last year’s more than 800 exhibitors.

Fresh Summit draws high East Coast attendance

Monday, October 11, 2010

How to pick a fresh coconut

Choosing a good coconut: Feel the weight of the coconut. It should feel heavy for its size. Shake vigorously. You should hear a pronounced sloshing sound. You are looking for the maximum amount of juice, it should feel like there is at least a cup of liquid inside moving around freely.

Coconuts have three eyes. Look at the 'soft eye'. The 'soft eye' is the eye that doesn't have the shell slightly raised round one side of it. You can also tell by finding the three "stripes" on the shell. These stripes come together between the three eyes. The angle between the two stripes closest to the soft eye is much wider than the other two angles. Once you find the 'soft eye' check it for any discoloration, it should look clean.

Overall the coconut should look brown without any gray overtone. Check the overall fruit for any signs of staining where there might have been a fracture allowing moisture to seep out. "

Opening the coconut: Using a hammer and a screwdriver, pierce one of the three soft eyes on the coconut shell. Drain off the juice. If saving the juice, strain it to remove any flecks of shell.
Wrap the coconut in a towel. If you've bought a Groovy Coconut, use the hammer and the screwdriver to open the shell. The shell should loosen and break into pieces. 

Pick out the white flesh. The dark skin can be taken off with a vegetable peeler. To make it easier to free the white flesh from its shell, toast the coconut in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Series of tropical storms tests endurance of Brooks' papaya crops

10/1/2010 Produce News article written by Christina DiMartino

The nearly continual daisy-chain of tropical weather systems that has moved across the Atlantic Ocean this summer has held Central American producers at full attention.

Tropical Storm Alex hit central Belize June 27, bringing severe thunderstorms and winds of 40-60 mph.

Tropical Storm Karl hit northern Belize Sept. 15, delivering severe thunderstorms and winds of 40-60 mph. Karl later turned into a Category 3 hurricane before hitting Veracruz, Mexico.

Most recently, Tropical Storm Mathew hit southern Belize Sept. 25, bringing severe thunderstorms and winds of 40-50 mph.

Brooks Tropicals LLC, headquartered in Homestead, FL, grows its papayas in Belize. The elegant papaya trees are long and lanky, with the heavy fruit growing at the tops of the thin trunks. A strong storm cannot only tear the fruit from the trees, it also can cause the tops of the trees to snap completely off.

"A direct hit from any of these storms would have set our papaya production back months," Bill Brindle, vice president of sales for Brooks Tropicals, told The Produce News. “Fortunately we were only partially hit, with the worst damage coming from Tropical Storm Karl. Karl knocked down several of our fields up near the Mexican border. Flooding and wind from all three storms caused tree losses throughout the entire Belize growing region.”

Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory points out that there is nothing magical in these dates. Hurricanes and tropical storms have occasionally occurred outside this six-month period, but the timeline was chosen because it is when over 97 percent of tropical storm activity has been recorded throughout storm-tracking history.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals, added, “We have definitely had our share of severe tropical weather. Now that it has passed, we can focus on getting production back to normal.

“We plant new papaya fields every month,” she continued. “And we are looking forward to some of those new fields coming on line to replace acreage lost to the tropical storms this year.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

Papaya supplies recover from cold-caused shortages

Stung by unexpected colder weather, papaya volume declined considerably during the spring and early summer.

In early August, grower-shippers say volume has been returning to normal.

In Belize, temperatures in January and February fell into the 50s and 60s.

Though not freezing conditions, those temperatures can stunt plant growth.

The plants, however, began recovering in June and supplies have begun returning to normal, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla.

Papaya supplies recover from cold-caused shortages

Courtesy Brooks Tropicals

Though papaya volume declined considerably during the spring and early summer, volume by early August was beginning to return to nomal, shippers say.

“Retailers need wait no longer for promotional opportunities on papayas,” she said in late August. “Our volumes were much lower than expected through June. Now that weather patterns are back to normal, we are starting to see normal papaya production.”

Though Belize growers produce papaya throughout the year, volume surges in the hotter months, when papaya thrives, Ostlund said.

As most plantings occur in June, July and August, Brooks has been able to project volumes throughout the year by coordinating plantings to bring less cyclical volumes to market, she said.

Brooks expects to ship 2 million 32-pound cartons of papayas this season.

Brooks sees papaya demand increasing.

“We think quality makes the demand increase, especially for papaya,” Ostlund said. “The overall demand in the general consumer market is increasing as the Latino and Asian markets are remaining relatively steady. If papaya had a P.R. agent, we would hire him. It’s a great talked-about fruit.”

Once consumers overcome the initial hurdle of deciding how to experience a new fruit, Ostlund said they test the waters and consider ways to include fruit such as papaya in meals.

She said papaya isn’t like an ingredient in a recipe where one can add too much or too little of the item.

Ostlund said papaya is amenable to many recipes as shoppers can add as many chunks of papaya they like.

Brooks markets its papayas under its Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise labels.

Brooks’ ships papayas in redesigned box

Excerpt from an article in the 9/16/10 The Packer by Doug Ohlemeier

Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., has switched to shipping its Caribbean red papayas in a new type of box.

Since January, Brooks has been increasing the packing of its fruit in the box that Mary Ostlund, director of marketing, calls a corner post box.

Replacing a former carton Brooks used that wasn’t as display ready, the new container has a shorter top and graphics, Ostlund said.

“For the past six months, the box has gone through a trial period where we tested its stability and rigidity,” she said. “Designing a papaya box isn’t easy. Papayas love humidity while cardboard doesn’t.”

Brooks had machinery built to the company’s specifications to construct a box that provides optimal fruit protection while giving papayas the humid environment, Ostlund said.

She said Brooks has received strong retailer feedback on the packs.

Besides its Belize papayas, Brooks is a leading grower, packer and shipper of south Florida avocados and starfruit, Mexican limes, Jamaican Uniq fruit and ships smaller volumes of other tropicals.

Friday, September 3, 2010

September is Papaya month

So says the German chocolate company chocri (they spell it lower case), and who are we to argue!

If you go to t
he chocri website you can customize your own chocolate bar. Choose a base chocolate (white, dark or milk chocolate) and your favorite toppings (over 100 to choose from). Dried papaya is one of them. The bars are hand-made in Germany and then shipped to you.

Here's a screen capture of their papaya topping.

New tradeshow banners

Brooks Tropicals goes to several tradeshows and travels to a number of food shows during the year.

Sometimes the space we're given at these different shows won't allow our large PMA booth nor our mid-sized booth. That's where these banners come in. 40 inches wide, 8 feet tall, these banners can fit into any small sized booth, and they're quick and easy to set-up too!

These banners will do double duty for customer visits. With such eye-catching graphics, our visiting customers might actually, perhaps for a moment or two, imagine a red carpet below their feet.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

7 Best Stress-Fighting Foods

Excerpts from an article in Yahoo's Men's Health section by David Zinczenko Aug 20, 201

If you eat when you stressed, that's good. You should eat when you’re stressed—it’s our bodies’ natural reaction to want to store calories to face whatever challenge is causing the stress in the first place. The key, however, is to eat what your body wants—the foods that actually counteract the effects of stress, and make you stronger (and leaner) when the tough times pass. So next time
anxiety runs high, be sure to grab one of these seven stress-fighting foods.

Papaya Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a magic nutrient that could stop the flow of stress hormones—the very hormones that make your body superefficient at storing fat calories? Wouldn’t you want to gobble that food up like crazy, especially if it tasted great? Half a medium papaya carries nearly 75 percent more vitamin C than an orange, and provides potent protection against stress. Researchers at the University of Alabama found 200 milligrams of vitamin C—about as much as you’ll find in one large papaya—twice a day nearly stopped the flow of stress hormones in rats. It should work for you, too.

AvocadosThe healthy fats buried in the avocado’s flesh make it an ideal choice when you’re craving something rich and creamy. The reasons? Monounsaturated (healthy) fatty acids, and potassium--both of which help combat high blood pressure. Avocado fat is 66 percent monounsaturated, and gram-for-gram, the green fruit has about 35 percent more potassium than a banana. Whip up a fresh guacamole or slice a few slivers over toast and top with fresh ground pepper.

The other 5 best stress-fighting foods are

  • peppermint tea
  • pumpkin seeds
  • salmon
  • almonds
  • oatmeal

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A retailer's view of Uniq Fruit and other tropical fruits and vegetables

The article that I took these excerpts from is called Forbidding Fruit and talks about how the produce aisles in a grocery store have changed with a wide variety of what was once considered exotic fruits and vegetables.

Several aspects of the article are of interest. First and foremost, you hear the voice of several local produce managers (Wegeman's included) and how they see their expanded produce line. The second is a more in-depth view of the Uniq Fruit from the retail level. The Uniq Fruit section is included below. Follow the link below to read the entire article.

Excerpts from an article in the Syracuse New Times by Kevin Corbett.

The landscape is definitely changing in local produce departments as consumers become familiar with a wider variety of rare, exotic and culturally diverse fruits that are gaining in popularity with the help of television cooking shows and growing ethnic influences.

Wise consumers overlook outward appearance to try some out-of-the-mainstream produce.

One of the most unattractive looking fruits is a citrus with two appropriate names: uglifruit and Uniq Fruit.

“The Uniq Fruit is actually a cross between a grapefruit, an orange and a tangerine,” Dwyer explains. “This happened naturally. Someone didn’t do this. It happened over a course of nature, over years. It came from Jamaica and that’s pretty much where it’s grown today.”

Although it has characteristics similar to popular citruses, Uniq Fruit’s misshapen, lumpy rind puts off some customers. “With these, they started doing a marketing campaign years ago,” Boucounis contends. “But their marketing is not that great, the shippers, the country this stuff comes from. If you want to sell something, you’ve got to give samples, let people taste it. You’ve got to let them know what it is. I think they’ve only done an OK job with that. They should be doing TV commercials telling people it’s a unique time to eat uniqfruit. It’s in season for two months a year and the time is coming. Get ready.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good year for SlimCado publicity

Article from the Produce News on 8/9/10 written by Rand Green

"We have had a tremendous year for publicity," said Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Brooks Tropicals, LLC in Homestead, FL.

Avocados in general have been getting a lot of good publicity, Florida green skin avocados in particular have been highlighted in the media, and Brooks Tropicals' own SlimCado brand of Florida green skins have received specific mention.

As an example, "in July SlimCado was featured in Better Homes & Gardens magazine," said Ms. Ostlund. As a result of that exposure, "we have had tremendous feedback from consumers."

There was just one downside. Normally, SlimCados would have been in full production in July, but this year "we have had a delay in our harvesting, so much of the consumer feedback was from people wondering where the SlimCados are in their stores," she said July 21. "But nonetheless, there is tremendous interest, not just on the East Coast where Florida green skins have historically been the most popular, but also across the country." So at Brooks Tropicals, "we have been happily giving out information to consumers about where they will be able to buy SlimCados and when they will be available, along with other information about the product."

"Overall, the avocado industry has really been able to leverage some super publicity," not just in traditional print and broadcast media but also "across the social networks." Avocados "have been a very favorite fruit to highlight in recipes, and SlimCados are no exception," she said. "So it has been a good year, and I think that it is going to bode well for overall avocado sales as well as SlimCado sales."

On Brooks' own web site, "we have a new Tropical Nutrition Corner" with information on the nutritional benefits of "all the various tropical fruits and vegetables we sell," Ms. Ostlund said. "This month, we are highlighting SlimCados, not only with information on why they are 'nutritious and tasty' but also with recipes and suggestions of new ways to using avocados."

The season for SlimCado avocados generally runs from July through January, Bill Brindle, vice president of sales, said July 22. However, "the season got off to a slow start this year because of the cold weather that we had this past winter in Florida.But things are finally picking up now, and we see a pretty good crop for the rest of the season....We are seeing good support from retailers all over the East Coast. In August, we will start shipping out to the West Coast and Midwest."

"The state's crop is down about 10 percent from earlier estimates," he said. "The original estimate from the Florida Avocado Committee, I believe, was about a million bushels, and our in-house guess at this point is probably closer to 900,000."

In its SlimCado marketing campaign, Brooks touts "the naturally lower calories and fat" of SlimCado avocados compared to Hass. It is a "successful campaign," Mr. Brindle said. "We are doing that again this year." The SlimCados have 35 percent fewer calories and 50 percent less fat just naturally "due to the varieties that we grow here in Florida," he added. They tend also to be "considerably larger" on average than Hass, "weighing close to 20 ounces" each.

On a "year-over-year basis," demand for Florida green skins is definitely on the rise, he said. "This summer, though, things have been extremely slow, but that is not just across avocados but across most of our tropical items." But the short-term dip notwithstanding, "the avocado category is definitely growing, and Florida avocados, and more specifically SlimCados are in that category and growing as well."

In addition, "we are selling more and more avocados to the West Coast, which is a place we didn't sell avocados five or 10 years ago." That is probably due partly to changing demographics but also to increased consumer awareness, he said. "The more TV food shows they watch and the more educated they get about different tropical products, including green skin avocados, the more likely they are to buy them when they see them in their local supermarkets."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Green-skinned avocados claim their own niche

Excerpts from an article by Tom Burfield in The Packer's Fall Avocado Marketing published on 08/16/2010
About 96% of the avocados sold in the U.S. are the hass variety, according to the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board. But there’s still a market for a handful of other varieties, most of which are known as green-skinned avocados.

Green-skins include the bacon, fuerte, gwen, macarthur, pinkerton, reed and zurtano varieties.Shoppers like the hass because of its smooth, creamy texture and great taste, said Jose Luis Obregon, managing director of the Hass Avocado Board.“It satisfies the consumer,” he said.

But those who market many of the other varieties maintain that their avocados typically have less fat and fewer calories than the hass, they usually cost less, and they’re often larger.

Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals says its SlimCados, the brand name under which the company markets its green-skinned avocados, have half the fat and a third of the calories of a California hass avocado.

“We brand it that way because we want people to know that it’s a different-tasting avocado,” said Mary Ostlund, marketing director. But Ostlund said SlimCados don’t really compete with other varieties.“They really are a complement,” she said.They’re lighter fare that consumers might select when topping a salad or hamburger.

Brooks Tropicals can market more than 70 varieties as SlimCados, she said.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Earl Basto, BFP's artist-in-residence

Posted by Darrell Thompson

Belize Fruit Packers has always been distinguished for its quality fruit and service, but how about the talent of it’s employees?

Earl Basto is an Assistant Supervisor to the Food Safety Department. He’s be known for his excellent interpersonal skill, leadership, but most of all for his creativity and talent. Earl boasts of his talent for tattooing, making piercing, but most of all wall painting and graffiti.

Earl was chosen to paint BFP’s logo inside the packinghouse and to the entrance of the facilities in a project to make the company more lucid and lively. Spray cans, paper, tape, and a picture of the logo was all that he used along with his talent. It took him half day to paint each logo, making it look realistic, but most of all gorgeous.

Earl has been constantly contacted by churches, schools, and other friends to do these types of paintings, giving a touch of colour and harmony to silent walls.

Tropical Storm Bonnie spares south Florida crops

Excerpts from a 7/23/2010 The Packer article by Doug Ohlemeier

Tropical Storm Bonnie has struck south Florida but in early reports, grower-shippers say the first tropical storm of the season hasn’t caused any major damage.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., said the storm’s 40 mph winds weren’t damaging.“We did get a lot of rain but we haven’t seen a lot of damage,” she said July 23.

In mid- and late July, south Florida avocado grower-shippers are normally in the peak of their June-January production.Because of the severe cold that struck the growing region last winter, Ostlund said that peak has been delayed until mid-August.Though volume so far is normal, the deal is running about a month late, she said.

Pal Brooks shows a keen eye for consumer hits

Excerpts from a 7/23/2010 article in The Packer by Don Schrack

In the 1980s, Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc. supplied 25% of all mangoes sold in North America. Today, it sells none.There was a time in the not too distant past when 25% of the limes sold in North America came from Brooks Tropicals. Today, the figure is 1%.In 1990, Brooks Tropicals grew 12 commodities in its home county. Today, it grows two.

Then came Aug. 24, 1992.“Hurricane Andrew cost me 75% — or more — of my total lifetime net worth in one hour,” said Pal Brooks, owner of Brooks Tropicals Inc.That Brooks Tropicals survived the obstacles of the 1980s and 1990s — and continues to thrive — is testament to Pal Brooks and his ability to adapt to an ever-evolving market.

“Years ago, I described my experience in the agriculture business as learning to dance with change and enjoy it,” he said. “Change is always here.”Brooks may be the Arthur Murray of fresh produce. Those dancing skills, however, are wedded to an uncanny ability to target commodities that are about to become consumer favorites.

“Everything I’ve done in my life says I’m market oriented,” he said.Brooks’s marketing insight — through all of the company’s adjustments and changes — has focused on one key segment of the fresh produce industry.“If you solve the buyer’s problems, make his life easier, he will favor you with his business,” Brooks said. “It’s not the cheapest price, not always the best quality or on-time delivery. It’s the entire package.”

Any fantasies for Pal Brooks of a career away from fresh produce were stifled early. His father and company founder, J.R. Brooks, weaned him on agriculture. At age 11, Pal worked the fields. A year or so later, he was elevated to packinghouse duties.It was in 1961 that Brooks, having returned to south Florida with a college degree in his pocket, began to play a more significant role at Brooks Tropicals.

“At the time, my father owned 100 acres of groves, managed another 100 acres and worked with growers who farmed another 100 acres,” Brooks said.Six years later, Brooks purchased the company from his father, and growth skyrocketed.“I call it the heyday, the high times of subtropical agriculture in Florida,”

Brooks said.In his first year at the helm of Brooks Tropicals, the company sold $300,000 of fresh produce.“We can do that in one day now,” he said.The inventory pages of the heyday years look nothing like the list of commodities offered by Brooks Tropicals today.The new commodities are due to one constant: dancing to change. It was a skill the family learned before Pal Brooks was on the scene. As early Florida farmers, they started with grapefruit until the market plummeted, Brooks said. Then it was avocados followed by mangoes.It was Brooks who added limes and then tropical fruits.“Then I lost some of those commodities and added papayas,” he said. “It’s just constant change. You just have to accept it.

”Papayas are among the biggest of the changes at Brooks Tropicals. The company began sourcing papayas — grown on fewer than 30 acres — from Belize in 1993.Over several years, Brooks Tropicals doubled its papaya volume every 15 or 16 months, Brooks said. The Brooks Tropicals papaya farmland now stands at 1,600 acres.

Brooks — now in his early 60s — has no plans to retire, which is good news for those just entering the fresh produce industry.“Nothing stimulates me more than being around young people who say: ‘I want to learn what you know,’” Brooks said.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Florida avocados pack fewer calories than California cousins

Excerpts from an article written by Susan Salisbury in the 7/16/10 edition of the Palm Beach Post

With summer here, South Florida's tropical fruits such as mangoes and avocados - yes, it is a fruit - are in season.

The trademarked SlimCado, with 50 percent less fat and 33 percent fewer calories than the leading California avocado, is grown in Miami-Dade County and marketed across the United States and in Canada by Brooks Tropicals of Homestead.

The SlimCado season runs from June through January and might go as late as March this year, said Brooks' marketing director, Mary Ostlund. They're in stores now.

What did Brooks do to take the calories out of the avocado?
"We did nothing to these avocados to make them SlimCados," Ostlund said. "They are Florida avocados."

Florida-grown avocados are lighter-tasting and naturally contain less fat than the California-grown Hass variety because of our humid climate, Ostlund said. Brooks has grown them since 1928 and began selling the fruit under the SlimCado label in 1987.

Tables in Wonderland, update

Just some photos of the centerpieces and and the dining room. About 50 people came. Great dinner.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Letter of appreciation from the Government of Belize

July 12th, 2010

Ms. Mary Ostlund
Brooks Tropicals
Dear Ms. Ostlund,

On behalf of the Government of Belize, and the Planning Committee for the Prime Minister’s First Official Visit to Florida, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to you for your sponsorship and your active participation on the occasion of the Investment/Trade Show and Dinner Gala held on June 25th-26th, 2010.

The event was the first of its kind to bring together the public sector, the private sector, civil society and Belizeans living abroad, each representing key stakeholders in the development of Belize, in an effort to lay the building blocks for a strategic and mutually beneficial partnership.

Your foresight in seizing the opportunity to become a sponsor and investment/trade show exhibitor to showcase your company is congratulated and we hope it will translate into material business for you.

This is only the beginning. We intend to organize other meetings and events that will help to foster stronger links between the various sectors of our society inclusive of the Belizean Diaspora. We count on your support as we move forward with these initiatives.

Sincerely yours,
Janine Sylvestre-Vega
Honorary Consul General of Belize in Florida -Trade Envoy of Belize in Florida

Weather station

Some of you may have noticed an odd machine perched on the outside fence at the executive building's entrance. Raudel is testing a computerized weather station.

The solar powered weather station measures temperature, humidity, wind and rain. It send the information wirelessly to a console back in our offices.

For the curious, here's a photo of the entirely assembled unit and the console that receives and displays the information sent to it from the field device.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

SlimCados featured on 'And Now You Know'

'And Now You Know' a web publication for the produce industry is featuring our SlimCado avocados.

SlimCado - New Tropical Nutrition Corner

To usher in the new season, our Tropical Nutrition Corner is highlighting the SlimCado avocado.

Donna Shields, our tropical nutritionist, takes a fresh look at our special fruit. Her recipe suggestions are extraordinary, check them out.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ginger: cooking tip

Don't let the big hands (what pieces of ginger are called) of ginger overwhelm you. Fresh ginger is easy to use and can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Using ginger is easy. For every one part of dry ginger called for in a recipe, add 6 parts of fresh ginger.

Taking the dry skin off of ginger is easy; use a spoon and rub it off. Grate the moist beige insides for your recipe.

To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze up to 3 months. Don't worry about thawing for a recipe.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Belize Prime Minister welcomed at dinner

Brooks Tropicals co-hosted a benefit gala on honoring the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean O. Barrow. This was the Prime Minister's first visit to South Florida.

Attending the dinner for Brooks Tropicals was Billy and Jessica Pritchett. Jessica reports that the dinner was a huge success and that she and Billy enjoyed meeting the Prime Minister.*

*I'm sorry about the quality of the photos. We had a camera malfunction. I've asked for photos taken by the official photographer for the event and will post when I receive.

Marketers fill demand for niche produce items

Excerpts from a 6/21/10 The Packer article written by Susie Cable

Deciding whether a produce item is a specialty item can be tricky because there's no universally accepted definition for the category. Geography, clientele, availability and handling requirements can all play into whether an item is considered a specialty.

Brooks Tropicals LLC., Homestead, Fla., sells about 30 tropical stock-keeping units, said Mary Osltund, marketing director. The Caribbean Red papaya is the company's top seller; followed by its SlimCado-brand avocado, starfruit, Uniq fruit and limes. Ostlund said she sees papayas as being mainstream items now.

"There are certain markets where I think it's a highly prized staple," she said.

Disney World's Tables in Wonderland

Tables in Wonderland is a series of dining events that features local farmers and crops. Below is the email blast that went out to the 'Tables in Wonderland' Dining Club. The menu for the evening follows that.

Tables in Wonderland Presents:
The Wave . . . of American Flavors Discovery Dinner
Thursday, July 15, 2010
6:30 p.m. Reception 7 p.m. Dinner
Location: The Wave . . . of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Dress is Casual Evening Attire
$92 per person, includes tax and gratuity

About our featured farmer...
Brooks Tropicals has been growing tropical fruits and vegetables in Florida and the Caribbean since the 1920s. Brooks sells more than 28 different tropical fruits and vegetables; its specialties are SlimCado avocados, Caribbean Red papayas and Florida starfruit. Representing Brooks Tropicals at this event will be Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.

Latinos call Caribbean Red papayas by the nickname “fruta bomba,” literally “bomb fruit.” One look at the three-to-five-pound fruit will tell you why. Consumers sometimes wonder whether the Caribbean Red is genetically modified, which it is not. It is naturally large and naturally good for you.

The SlimCado has a great avocado taste; it’s a much lighter-tasting avocado. It should be, with less than half the calories and a third less fat than the Hass avocado. And it’s so much bigger! SlimCado avocados can be three to five times larger than a Hass avocado.

Last but not least, the last tropical fruit star of the menu for this event is a star in itself – the starfruit. Brooks Tropicals was a U.S. pioneer for this Asian treat. Starfruit grow under the canopy of the rainforests in Southeast Asia. In Florida, Brooks grows them in the sandy soils of Pine Island on the west coast of Florida

Reception in The Wave . . . of American Flavors Lounge
  • Laughing Bird Shrimp Salsa on a Pineapple Crisp
  • Tenderloin Satay on a Sugar Cane Skewer (Side Note-Marinade in Papaya Vinaigrette
  • Clayhouse “Adobe White”, Paso Robles, CA, 2008

Dinner in The Wave . . . of American Flavors Private Dining Room
Seafood Course

  • South Florida seafood Trio: Lobster SlimCado Cocktail, Fried Oyster on the Half Shell (Guava Chili Jam), Blue Crab Slider
  • Domaine Siglas, Asyritiko, Santorini, Greece 2008

Salad Course

  • Roasted Georgia Corn with Santa Sweet Tomatoes, Cipollini Onions, Gorgonzola, and Micro Greens
  • Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, Bourgueil “Les Alouettes”, Loire Valley, France, 2007
    Entrée Course
  • Kubota Pork Loin with Carambola and Dark Rum, Sugar Cane-glazed Sweet Potato and Long Beans
  • La Columbia “Ripasso” de la Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy, 2007


  • Tropical Guava Sorbet
  • Brinley’s Mango Rum of St Kitts


  • Chocolate Truffle “Mirage” with Raspberry Crème Brûlée,
  • Black Currant Gelée
  • SlimCado Sabayon
  • Mamey Sapote Ice Cream