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Flavor Tree expands use of new label, adds food-safety program

HANFORD, CA — The Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC, here, introduced last year a new label for its white-flesh peaches and nectarines, targeted to the Latin American market. The label, “La Californiana,” is finding appeal over a broader geographic area than originally expected.

The company is also expanding some of its food-safety certifications that have been in place for cherries into its stone fruit programs, including white-flesh peaches and nectarines this year, according to Maurice Cameron, managing partner.

Flavor Tree was formed in 2009 as a partnership between Mr. Cameron and the Warmerdam family, which owns Warmerdam Packing.

Warmerdam has been “shipping white flesh for years in both peaches and nectarines, “ said Mr. Cameron. That is a commodity for which “export has driven a lot of the demand, but we have had a very nice presence in the United States” as well.

The new “La Californiana” label was “very successful” for white-flesh fruit going into Mexico and other Latin American countries last year — markets that are “not the typical target market” for that kind of fruit, he said.

Interestingly, because the graphics on the carton look so “nice and beautiful” and match the highly colored, beautiful, selected fruit inside the carton, he said, “We got a lot of requests for that in the United States, mostly on the Eastern Seaboard, and even Canada. They really liked our new branding for the white flesh.”

The label design is in an old California style, he said.

“We were surprised that we got requests” for the new carton “from Ontario, Canada, and New Jersey and New York. That wasn’t our target market,” he said. “So that worked out well for us.”

The label did not seem to have much appeal in Asian markets, however, he said.

Warmerdam has “always had a full line” of white-flesh peaches and nectarines, said Mr. Cameron. “Most of the varietals that we have are Glen Bradford’s varietals. He is the same propagator who came up with our proprietary cherries.”

He expects “a decent market overseas, predominantly in Taiwan” this year. The demand for California fruit in Taiwan bay get a boost from some hesitance on the part of people in Taiwan to import high-end peaches from Japan this year, as they have historically done, he said.

The company’s production will be similar to last year. “We grafted over some varieties,” Mr. Cameron said. “We are trying to stay on top of always having a young orchard offering” and also constantly try “to improve the varietal offerings.” This year, “we have kept all of the same varieties, but we have reduced the volume” in some varieties with less desirable characteristics. As an example, one variety “demonstrated it wasn’t a real strong performer on post-harvest shelf life,” which is particularly important for export markets because of the transit time involved. So “we replaced about half of that acreage,” replanting to another variety.

“The white-flesh deal is always exciting,” Mr. Cameron said. Flavor Tree has “a really good following” with “different brands for different markets.” In addition to the new “La Californiana” brand, “the ‘Sun Tree’ brand that we pack is really well received, mostly in the California area, for white-flesh fruit, and also for Asia.”

In the food-safety arena, Warmerdam has been meeting certification requests from major European retailers for years and soon saw a pattern that what European customers were asking for at any given time would be requested by U.S. customers within a four- or five-year period. The company has long been GlobalGAP-certified in the field and has also had an HACCP plan in place for cherries. “This year, we moved our HACCP plan over to stone fruit,” he said.

The company is “going down the road” of Primus GFS certification in the packinghouse.

“We try to combine food safety with being part of a good steward,” Mr. Cameron said. The company uses environmentally friendly peracetic acid, rather than chlorine, to sanitize cherries, for example, so the water used in the packing process can then be used to irrigate the trees.

Also, “we are trying to manage our pest pressures without using harsh chemicals,” using organic methods and materials even on conventional fruit as a first line of defense against pests. While the fruit may not be certified organic, “hopefully there is not enough pest pressures out there to warrant moving into anything stronger,” he said.