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Seasoned produce professional Lloyd Rosen joined M&M Tropicals in Homestead, FL, March 1. Previously with William Manis Produce Marketing in Plant City, FL, Mr. Rosen has nearly 40 years of experience in the produce industry.

"I had been watching M&M for a while and enjoying its growth and its involvement in taking its Latin product line into the Anglo-American marketplace," said Mr. Rosen. "The company is strong in marketing, merchandising and in broadening its customer list to accommodate the growing influence that the Latin community is exerting."

Mr. Rosen added that Manuel (Manny) Hevia Jr., co-owner of the firm, is the second generation to operate the company. He has a thought process that is strongly geared toward how influential the Latin line of produce is becoming. "It made sense for us to come together to share our perspective and awareness of how produce departments can evolve and take advantage of the growing Latin trend," said Mr. Rosen.

Mr. Rosen's responsibilities in his new position include accommodating packaging to satisfy the Anglo market with Latin produce. He will also help the company continue in its food-safety and traceability initiatives. "A lot of our products come from other countries, so we are always thinking about safety and how to continue making it a priority," said Mr. Rosen. "We're building our program aggressively so we can tell our customers that we are fully subscribed and committed to food safety and traceability."

With Mr. Hevia's Latin background and expertise at the field level and Mr. Rosen's marketing know-how, a powerful team has been established to create a comfort zone at the customer level through understanding what they want and how to satisfy their desires for an Anglo flair.

"The reason some stores handle only a small amount of Latin produce is because they don't know how to create a full line," said Mr. Rosen. "M&M's goal is to help these produce professionals build their lines in ways that will prove successful."

M&M is broadening its sales force dramatically to help it reach its goals. It also plans to become involved in value-added packaging, which Mr. Rosen said will help at the retail level. He noted how some Latin items are quickly becoming mainstream at retail.

"There was a time when a bagel was considered an ethnic Jewish item and pizza was Italian," he pointed out. "Today, you can find bagels in just about every coffee shop, and pizza is as American as apple pie. Latin produce is now going through the same metamorphosis. Produce buyers make the decision on how large their lines of Latin, Chinese, premium or conventional will [be]. As the economics of running a supermarket change, there are fewer buyers with experience about what to buy. They are wise to turn to their suppliers to help guide them in how to increase their profits in these categories."

M&M is working with customers to help them build their Latin lines. Going forward, the company plans to conduct product demos at the retail level. Mr. Rosen said that consumers cannot be expected to buy Latin items with which they are not familiar unless they taste them.

"With Latin root vegetables, there are several products, such as yucca, malanga and boniato," he said. "When consumers taste them, they realize the unique flavor each has to offer. Besides demos and offering more value- added items like wrapped microwave-ready roots, we also plan on getting involved in recipes and consumer information."

Mr. Rosen explained that different ethnic groups eat the same items, but they know them by different names. By identifying the customer, retailers can better market these products in ways that make them familiar.

In the few weeks he has been with M&M Tropicals, Mr. Rosen has observed how strongly the company is focused on quality and on doing everything right.

"The people at M&M conduct themselves in a highly professional manner at all times and in all aspects of the business," he said. "The esprit de corps is exemplary. Everyone is pulling in the same direction -- and doing it willingly and happily. It's an outstanding environment."

M&M Tropicals handles a full line of Latin and tropical root vegetables and fruits. Its customers include wholesalers, retailers and foodservice operators. It distributes nationwide under the "M&M Tropicals" brand.