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Primavera Marketing’s apple program: a big fish in a small pond

Richard Sambado, director of domestic sales for Primavera Marketing Inc. in Linden, CA, told The Produce News that the company packs and ships approximately 1.4 million of the 2.2 million boxes of apples produced in California annually.

“We’re sort of the big fish in a small pond,” he explained. “California growers have been producing apples for less than 30 years, and production peaked in the late 1990s with about 10 million boxes. The world’s apple production has increased considerably in the past 10 years. Competitive pressures from Washington, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and other apple-producing states — as well as other countries — caused growers here to cut back on production. We stuck with it through the years, and today we have a small niche deal that has worked well for us. We are the leader in the state because of our volumes, quality and service.”

Primavera Marketing specializes in the Gala apple variety, and it handles several strains, such as the “Buckeye,” “Pacific,” “Galaxy” and “Imperial.” It also handles Fuji, Granny Smith and Pink Lady varieties.

Mr. Sambado said the Modesto, CA, region produces primarily Granny Smith apples, while growers in the northern San Joaquin Valley of California produce primarily bi-colored varieties, which are highly popular today and therefore give Primavera Marketing an advantage. Apple orchards in San Joaquin enjoy warm sunny days and cool nights, which is precisely what gives apples a flush color.

“We are the first area out of the gate with fresh Gala apples on August 1,” said Mr. Sambado. “California will produce 900,000 boxes of Galas this year, and we’ll have 650,000 of them. Washington State is sold out of their old crop of Galas, and the new crop of about 25 million boxes won’t start until a month after we do. We will also have about 250,000 boxes of Fuji, 450,000 boxes of Granny Smith and 75,000 boxes of Pink Lady apples this year. It is a nice niche for us, despite the competition, which is also coming from imports from Chile and New Zealand today.”

Mr. Sambado said that California produces outstanding-quality Pink Lady apples that have a perfect combination of sweet and tart flavors. He also noted that by mid-October every apple-producing region in the country will be shipping apples.

“Consumers have so many variety choices today,” he said. “Timing is everything, and that we get a month jump on the industry with powerful varieties and volumes that are backed by outstanding service keeps us in a leader position.”

Primavera Marketing ships apples to retail chain stores across the United States and into Canada, with only a small portion going to offshore countries.

“We don’t focus on foreign countries,” said Mr. Sambado. “The demand for Gala apples is very strong in North America. New Zealand dumps a lot of Fuji apples into Asia, so that’s not a market of interest to us. The shipping time to foreign countries is also a detriment, so we just don’t go that route. Washington producers grow several grades of apples, so they’re able to sell them cheaper, which enables them to stay competitive on foreign markets. We sell higher and bank on outstanding quality and service.”

The company also packs and ships walnuts and cherries.

“Cherries are our number one crop,” said Mr. Sambado. “We crack walnuts and ship them all over the world. In fact, about 90 percent of our walnuts go to offshore countries. The demand for walnuts in China is very strong — they really love nuts.”

Primavera Marketing was founded in 1990. The company partners with growers for the products that it markets, packs and ships. Mr. Sambado said that the company continually reinvests in updated equipment and facility improvements.