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Duda plans to increase its California citrus and new Cara Cara programs

by Rand Green | November 02, 2011
Paul Huckabay

The California citrus program for Duda Farms Fresh Foods this year “will consist of Navel oranges, clementines, Satsumas, Minneolas, lemons and also Meyer lemons” as well as Cara Cara Navels, which are new this year, according to Paul Huckabay, sales manager of the Ovieda, FL-based company’s Visalia, CA, branch office.

“The volume of our total program has grown largely due to our acreage reaching more of a full-maturity level,” Mr. Huckabay said. “We also have a young planting of Cara Cara Navel oranges. We will get our first small crop off of that this year. That will be a new offering.”

Much of the company’s volume increase this year will come in lemons, Meyer lemons and Minneolas, but there also will be some increase in Navels and clementines, he said. With regard to clementines, “we are still growing that program at a slow, steady pace.”

The company expected to begin “some limited harvesting” of Navels, Meyer lemons and clementines “right at the end of October,” Mr. Huckabay said. “We will begin our first packing in a small way the first week of November. Then, as we move into the week of November 7, we should see, weather permitting, a relatively steady flow of packing and shipping from that point forward. It should position us well for the Thanksgiving ad period with all of our items” other than Minneolas, which should start later.

“Minneolas, for us, don’t really begin until right at the end of the year,” he said. “I don’t see us packing Minneolas until probably the first week of January.”

Duda’s California citrus is production comes from District One, which is essentially the San Joaquin Valley, with orchard locations ranging from southern Kern County to northern Fresno County, Mr. Huckabay said. All of the volume is from outside growers.

For packing, “our three primary facilities are Dressick Packing in Huron [CA], Peters Farms in Reedley [CA] and Eastside Packing in Reedley, which is exclusively our clementine and Mandarin packing facility,” he said.

For the future, “we have been looking at particular varieties of citrus and considering them,” Mr. Huckabay said. “There will be some additional Meyer lemon acreage going in” in the Huron area, but he did not elaborate on any future plantings beyond that.

With regard to packaging, “one of the new things that we featured at PMA is our consumer-friendly grab-and-go bags” for clementines, he said. “That is something we will roll out this coming season, and that will complement our regular line of ‘Dandy’ packaging. It is a four-count bag” and “a very convenient snack item.”

“Dandy” is Duda’s brand “on all of our citrus and vegetables,” he said. “We have that brand cross all of our lines, both East Coast and West Coast.”

The company also will continue to offer “our gourmet one-pound Meyer lemon bag as well as our two-pound Meyer lemon clamshell,” he said.”

The company will support the grab-and-go clementine pack as well as its Meyer lemon packs with a high-graphic retail point-of-sales display with programs customized to individual retailers, he said.

Duda is in the citrus business throughout the year. In addition to the company’s California citrus, “we farm in Florida and Texas, and we also import in the summer months from Chile and Peru, and in the winter months from Spain and Morocco,” he said. In addition, “we import lemons from Mexico.”

The company has done “a tremendous amount of work through social media, print media, the Internet and television,” as well as through recipe development “to promote our fresh citrus,” Mr. Huckabay said.

“Nicole Towel, who is our director of marketing, has really embraced the whole social media piece and has done a lot through Facebook and Twitter. She has really reached out to consumers and got them involved in creating excitement about eating more fresh citrus,” he said.