Ouhlala Gourmet Corp. recently introduced two new products to its popular line of 100 percent fruit products marketed under the “Buddy Fruits” brand.
“We now have three products at market,” Fabian Milon, vice president and founder of the Coral Gables, FL-based company, told The Produce News. “We’ve added Pure Fruit Bites and Blended Fruit & Milk Smoothie to our original launch product, Pure Blended Fruit.“
Mr. Milon and his partner, Jerome Lesur, chief executive officer of the firm, launched Ouhlala in the United States in 2009 with what could accurately be called hitting-the-ground-running momentum.
“Buddy Fruits” was instantly accepted by retail customers and consumers alike. And since that initial launch, the company has enjoyed strong print media and television coverage everywhere the product is placed.
The inspiration behind “Buddy Fruits” occurred in 2006 when Mr. Milon, his wife and young child, who were visiting the United States from France, were on a road trip along Route 66. The couple was unable to find the child’s favored fruit pouches that are popular in France and other European countries. After returning to France, they decided to plan a return trip to the United States, bringing with them samples of the fruit pouches with the goal of introducing the concept to their American friends.
“We wanted to know if launching a product such as this was worth giving up our jobs in France and coming to America,” said Mr. Milon. “We held a small event to introduce the product, and the response was wonderful.
“Jerome and I were friends for 20 years, and he was more familiar than I with the food business in the United States,” he continued. “He is certainly credited with the success we have enjoyed in such a short period of time.”
Getting kids to consume more fruit was also a shared goal for the partners. They wanted the product they would bring into the U.S. market to be both healthy and delicious. The company backs up its claim to promote good nutrition through its work with Harlem Grown, an elementary school with 400 children ages 5 to 10 who live in an area where 90 percent of the population live below or at the poverty level.
“‘Buddy Fruits’ also partners with Produce for Kids in supporting the Healthy Schools, Healthy Minds campaign to raise money to provide salad bars to school in their local communities,” said Mr. Milon. “And we were contacted by the Hemophilia Association of Greater Florida informing us that they love our products. Because ‘Buddy Fruits’ cares about health, we decided to donate the product for its 5K walk.”
“Buddy Fruits” also is involved in sponsoring kite surfing and kids triathlon to promote physical exercise. This past summer, it sponsored its first “Buddy Fruits” Summer Contest to help promote the product.
The company also is enjoying a promotional boost from media venues. The products have been featured on “Good Morning America” and on Fox Broadcasting Co. segments, drawing, Mr. Milon said, “really great reviews.”
All three of the “Buddy Fruit” products are made with pure fruit and have no added sugar, coloring or preservatives. Pure Fruit Bites have the texture of “Gummy Bears.” Pure Blended Fruit is a squeeze-pouch of blended fruit, and Blended Fruit & Milk Smoothie is a blend of fruit with a touch of skim milk.
Mr. Milon is a chef, who previously owned successful restaurants in France. He personally took to the kitchen to develop the products.
The items were originally being produced in Belgium and France, but the company has moved the majority of its production to its new facility in Mount Jackson, VA.
“The recipes are exactly the same as what we were producing in Europe,” said Mr. Milon. “But now we are sourcing the fresh fruit from U.S. producers and suppliers. One reason we chose Virginia for our facility is its proximity to Eastern apple production. Apples are the number one ingredient in our products, and because we don’t use sugar or other enhancements, we have to have the right varieties with good Brix levels. We did a lot of research on U.S. varieties and ultimately chose Gala, Jonagold, Pink Lady and about seven others that work well. We’re able to source most of these from Virginia growers.”
“Buddy Fruits” products also contain mangos, bananas, strawberries and oranges.
The products retail for between $1 and $1.40 and are perfect for lunch boxes, snacks and, as was Mr. Milon’s initial inspiration, road trips.
“Each product is a full serving of fruit,” he added. “They’re so delicious that parents don’t have to worry about if their child will chomp into an apple or peel an orange to get the daily serving that they need.”
The “Buddy Fruits” product line is still in its infancy. The company plans to add two or three new products to the line in 2012, but Mr. Milon is not disclosing what they might be — other than to say that they will be healthy and that kids will love them.
“‘Buddy Fruits’ are now available in many major chain retailers in the U.S.,” said Mr. Milon. “And we’re getting feedback like, ‘The products are selling like crazy.’ Also exciting for us is that in late October and early November, Burger King is testing our Pure Blended Fruit product in its restaurants in five countries around the world. If the product is successful — and we feel sure it will be — they plan to bring it to their U.S. locations in 2012.”