The Nogales watermelon deal began for The Sykes Co. on April 1.
Bill Sykes, owner of the Nogales firm, said Mexico is shipping “a large, high-quality crop for the industry.”
The Mexican watermelon deal will be fast, furious and will end by late May.
Sykes’ volume is up this year. “We’re going to have quite a bit of stuff through mid-May,” he said.
PHOENIX, AZ — The Mexican watermelon deal for Epic Produce Sales LLC will be finished by Memorial Day. But neither the firm nor consumers need to worry about a shortage of watermelons before or after that point, according to Epic’s watermelon specialists Art Miller, Pato Rodriguez and Jimmy Neal.
The three sat in the firm’s comfortable new office in the south side of Phoenix to discuss Epic’s involvement in the watermelon industry.
Miller, who owns the firm, said in late March that, based on demand, the market plummeted from about 40 cents a pound going into the Easter holiday and, four days later, fell to the mid-20s.
Mexico is in full gear and Florida watermelons were expected to be in the market in mid-April. “We’ll have domestic acreage on the West Coast — from Brawley, CA — in the first week of May. Arizona production will begin in the end of May,” Neal noted.
Thus, the closing of good North American market opportunities for Mexico before June.
Rodriguez noted that watermelon quality has been good. In Mexican watermelon fields, “this year since early January, the weather has been better than normal.” He expected a fast increase in Mexican volume in April. “We had an early Easter and have a late Memorial Day. So from April 15 to May 15 I see a lot of production and no holiday to clean things up in April.”
Epic Produce primarily sources its Mexican watermelons from Nogales distributors. Epic adds value to that fruit through its diverse customer base throughout North America. The firm has the customer diversity to move a quality or size that the distributors might otherwise have difficulty in moving.
“Whether it’s a 25- or an 80-count, we have an outlet somewhere,” Neal noted. “We work both with advance pricing and day-to-day sales. We have outlets of any description.”
Epic’s service helps moderate the structure of retail ads being planned weeks in advance and the volatility of the watermelon market, Miller said.
Epic exports watermelons and other produce to Canada and sometimes even to Mexico. The firm has a fast-growing export program for a variety of fresh items.
Miller has sold watermelons for 15 years, Neal has been in the business for 20 and Rodriguez for almost as long as his colleagues’ combined experience. “With all of our experience when a market is in the toilet, you go searching,” Miller said. “You figure out who is a good guy and who is not. You work with the good guys. The people who take care of their customers and the shippers will continue to be around.”
As Mexican volume coming through Nogales started in late March, Midwest Best Produce Inc., based in St. Louis, was going to be switching from watermelon cartons to bins. “The Mexican volume will pick up until Georgia comes in,” said owner Dan Pupillo Jr. “From here on out, we will roll into spring, until Missouri gets started at the end of June.”
Then, in the second week of July will come Midwest Best’s “main push, which is the Indiana watermelon deal,” he said.
Mexican watermelon volume began flowing into Nogales around March 23.
Prices began dropping about as soon as the trucks started arriving, according to George Quintero Jr., the managing partner of Grower Alliance LLC. The f.o.b. plunge “was faster than we expected,” he said March 30.
“Now we’re into the fields that are coming on. We hope it will stabilize in the next week,” he said.
Grower Alliance was offering watermelons “with good size and good color.” Once the market begins to stabilize from its free-fall, good quality will be a sales advantage for Grower Alliance, Quintero said.
Grower Alliance will be shipping volume of Mexican watermelons until mid-July. The firm may have a late-July volume lag, but it will be going strong again in early August.
Avocados from Mexico celebrated its year-round love of music with its first-ever appearance at South By Southwest, and in the process, dominated SXSW-related social buzz. According to data from the social media monitoring company Keyhole, AFM’s #GuacNRoll activities generated over 32,000 social media posts, making it the most popular hashtags used during SXSW.
Over 9,700 fans used #GuacNRoll during this year’s music festival, resulting in over 200 million impressions for the “Always Fresh” brand, and nearly 60 percent of AFM’s 56,000 total tweets carried the hashtag #SXSW, making AFM a contributing factor in driving overall SXSW online conversation.
SXSW was an ideal time for AFM to engage new audiences, and its participation continues the brand’s commitment to connecting with consumers in unexpected ways. AFM’s attendance was focused on showcasing the always-in-season fruit, just like music is always in season.
AFM launched, GuacNMusic, a custom AFM radio station, in partnership with Slacker Radio, featuring a compilation of music and artists representing the essence and “Mexicanity” synonymous with the brand. Listeners are able to customize the brand's AVO-tastic music according to their tastes, and throughout SXSW, users were invited to tweet audio files with their voice to become DJs of the station. Slacker then created individual channels within the station for each DJ, and gave them the opportunity to share those individual segments throughout their social networks.
As a pop culture trailblazer in the produce category, Avocados from Mexico also adopted several cutting-edge platforms to reach attendees in meaningful ways. AFM was one of the first brands to leverage Snapchat’s new geofilters, and the brand created different filters each day to engage the SXSW crowd. AFM also implemented 100 strategically placed beacons throughout Austin, TX, to reach attendees throughout the week using their iAvocado app.
"Our goal is always to share AVO-love in fresh, unexpected ways," Alvaro Luque, president of Avocados from Mexico, said in a press release. “Our brand is all about bringing people together and celebrating the good times, and music is often a big part of that celebration, so it was natural for us to showcase the intersection of great food and music during SXSW.”
AFM treated attendees to fresh guacamole throughout the week through other music-inspired activities. The brand sponsored SouthBites, an annual event featuring the best food trucks from Texas and across the United States, and partnered with 30 musicians to offer unique guacamole options for attendees. The partnerships paid off as guests had the opportunity to engage with emerging musical talent while enjoying various guacamoles, and the musicians were able to introduce their existing fanbases to AFM. The brand also had their own roving guac-truck throughout Austin, and the brand was a fixture at The Container Bar, Austin’s first green establishment made of four-ton metal shipping containers.