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Two Florida-based produce marketers are joining forces to create a new entity that will specialize in sourcing, growing, packing, shipping and distributing several varieties of papayas as well as other tropical fruits grown in Brazil, Ecuador, Belize, Mexico and other countries in Central America and South America.

Southern Specialties Inc., based in Pompano Beach, FL, and HLB Tropical Food USA Inc., based in Plantation, FL, reached an agreement to create a new joint venture called HLB Specialties LLC.

HLB Specialties will be headquartered in Pompano Beach, FL, and will distribute from its Florida headquarters as well as from facilities in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and McAllen, TX.

"HLB Tropical Foods' main goal has been to be the most reliable, competitive and innovative distributor of papayas in the world," Homero Levy de Barros, president and chief executive officer of HLB Tropical Food USA Inc., said in an Oct. 6 press release. “We are now ready for the next step in our expansion. Robert Colescott [president and CEO of Southern Specialties] and I realized that the combined strengths of both companies would create exponential value for our customers. The joint venture will automatically offer our clients a logistical advantage, since we’ll be able to consolidate more items then previously possible.”

“The time is right to promote the benefits of papayas,” Mr. Colescott added in the press release. “Here is a fruit that has it all — flavor, color and tremendous nutritional value. We expect to see significant growth in the category and the company. I have great respect for the job Homero and his team have done with this product. They have set the bar for marketing papaya in this country and Europe.”

Mr. Levy de Barros told The Produce News that for the last 18 years, HLB Tropical Foods has focused on papayas from Brazil and parts of Central America and Mexico, and “it became clear to me that when you are alone, it is difficult to deal with the extremes of the weather” and the effect it has on supply. With this move, “we can spread out the growing area as much as possible. And by partnering with Southern Specialties, we will have a full line of products, and we will be stronger in sourcing and logistics as a single company.”

Mr. Levy de Barros said that HLB Tropical Foods Inc. would go into a “dormant” stage while he and his staff direct their efforts toward HLB Specialties. He said that he and his staff would all remain with the new combined entity. They left their former headquarters in Plantation, FL, at the end of September and have moved to the Southern Specialties facility in Pompano Beach, where HLB Specialties has rented space.

He added, “I have known Robert [Colescott] for many years, and this move is something that has been under consideration for about a year. This will benefit our retail clients because the combined company will be stronger in sourcing and logistics. I am looking to triple the amount of business we are doing now.”

HLB Specialties will be exhibiting at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in booth No. 4945.