Nogales, Ariz.-based Divine Flavor’s West Mexican farms are very “program-driven” with retailers, said Michael DuPuis, quality assurance and public relations coordinator for the company.
“We need to offer the best quality, best flavor products for our customer programs so they can deliver the best fruits and vegetables to their stores and customers,” he said.
DuPuis said West Mexico plays a pivotal role in the company’s core vegetable items.
“Our main items include organic bell peppers (of all colors), organic mini peppers, organic cucumbers (Euro, Persian, and Slicer), and organic tomatoes (grape tomato and beefsteak),” he said. “We also have programs for organic yellow squash and zucchini. We also have conventional offerings but even these items are grown as organic as possible.”
The company doesn’t have much change in its lineup from a year ago, he said.
“We are still focusing on the same items, but as with every year, there’s always an opportunity to do everything better,” he said, noting attributes such as flavor, quality and start/finish times.
“Between our farms, sister companies, or external partners, we have some of the best farms in all of Mexico,” DuPuis said, noting some grower partners have been around for 30 or 40 years. “They are special at their craft of helping us grow better food for a better world.”
Among its marketing efforts, Divine Flavor emphasizes health and nutrition, flavor, and quality, backed by a philosophy of growing in a manner that “gives back more to the land than what is taken away,” DuPuis said.
“This year, we launched our latest campaign — The Product Heroes,” he said. “Focusing first on our bell peppers/mini peppers, we are trying to educate both consumers and buyers about the health benefits of these items. One serving of bell peppers contains almost double the amount of vitamin C than oranges do [with green]. With colored bells, the amount of vitamin C is more than double, triple, or with yellow, quadruple the amount. Vitamin C supports a strong immune system and other significant health contributions. This campaign is also a nod to the buyers that they are the real heroes to supplying healthy products to consumers.”
Looking at the outlook for West Mexico produce supply, DuPuis said Divine Flavor works to avoid gaps or transition delays.
“We strategically work to avoid these humps in production by having farms who produce through those transition windows so we can continue delivering produce consistently on a year-round basis,” he said. “For example, we have farms/greenhouses in central Mexico who produce late into December/early January until the west Mexico production fully kicks in. Again, when you do bigger customer programs, we need to be reliable with production and contracts, but also responsibly produce where there’s no overproduction.”
MEETING THE LABOR CHALLENGE
Labor for growers has been a challenge for several years.
“This is why it’s important to have great social programs to prevent turnover amongst the workforce, but also to get better results,” DuPuis said. “Happier/more competent workers [equals] better results, better quality, better flavor with each produce item.” For distributors, success means following up on promises and offering great customer service and fulfilling your commitment to programs, he said.
By TOM KARST