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Duda unveils new proprietary red celery variety

by Chip Carter | October 20, 2010
ORLANDO, FL — In 1909, Andrew Duda left his native Slovakia for America with $100 and a pocket full of celery seeds. Fifteen years later, he and his three sons founded A. Duda & Sons in Oviedo, FL, and grew primarily celery.

A century later, Andrew Duda's descendants have done their forefather one better: They have invented a new kind of celery — a blushing red variety — that is the first in a coming line of proprietary "Celery Sensations" from Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc.

“It’s something new and different and exciting, and you can only get it from Duda,” company President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Duda told The Produce News following a news conference announcing the new product Oct. 16 at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit convention at the Orange County Convention Center, here.

While the celery is tinged red anywhere from halfway to three-quarters of the way from the base up the stalk, the flavor and texture are the same as Duda’s premium green celery.

The company is positioning the product as a potential holiday favorite, though it will be grown year round. Duda’s red celery will become available in most of the country Dec. 1 and will be available everywhere in the United States by June 2011.

Mr. Duda also said that the company believes the coloring will entice more children to try a vegetable not usually listed as a top kid favorite.

Duda horticulturist Larry Pierce, who developed the variety, was quick to note that the red celery is 100 percent natural and was not genetically modified in any way. “It had to be natural,” Dr. Pierce said. “There is no genetic modification.”

The variety was 19 years in the making. Dr. Pierce found traces of natural red in some older celery varieties and spent most of the next two decades cross- breeding those with Duda’s proprietary green celeries.

“Nineteen years. If you had a child 19 years ago, they would be graduating high school now,” Dr. Pierce said. “I can still remember when this was just a sparkle in my eye.”

Rick Alcocer, Duda sales manager, said, “It’s a dream come true for our sales department.”

Americans consumed just over six pounds of fresh celery per person last year compared with about eight pounds of fresh carrots, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 2009 celery crop totaled 1.97 billion pounds, with a total value of $364.8 million.

Duda is one of the world’s leading celery producers, and Dan Duda said that he believes the new variety will lead to a spike in U.S. celery sales. The Fresh Summit unveiling of the first entry in the “Celery Sensations” line “turned heads and captured everyone’s attention, and we are confident its superior quality, great taste and vibrant color will build incremental category sales.”

“Celery Sensations” packaging will include a Microsoft “smart tag,” a high- capacity color barcode containing encoded information consumers can easily access by scanning with a mobile device — primarily smart phones. Data presented include product and nutritional information, storage and usage tips, recipes and meal suggestions.

“We aim to continually explore and utilize packaging that maintains strict sustainability guidelines and reduces transportation and handling costs throughout the supply chain in addition to protecting the freshness, safety and integrity of our natural products,” said Sammy Duda, vice president of Western vegetable operations.

The company also introduced a new pre-packaged item, julienned radish mini-sticks, at Fresh Summit.

Duda Farm Fresh Foods grows on 39,000 acres of produce in Florida, Georgia, California, Arizona and Michigan.