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Value-added packs fuel growth for Southern Specialties Inc.

Southern Specialties Inc., which is based in Pompano Beach, FL, is expecting about a 10 percent increase in its Peruvian asparagus volume this year, fueled by new customers and greater demand for value-added packs.

Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for the firm, said that many new retail programs have been put in place over the past year focusing on microwavable packs, as well as asparagus wraps that come with recipes and/or serving suggestions. “We try to spend a significant amount of time with our retail accounts offering aid to category management,” he said. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is providing our customers with real-time information to the extent that when we visit customers, we often do so with both a salesperson and a procurement specialist so that we can better answer specific questions they may have.”

Mr. Eagle said that this added attention and extra information often results in added business.

In marketing asparagus to U.S. consumers, he said that it is good to remember that the typical customers tend to be upscale. “We find the consumer of fresh asparagus shares demographics with consumers that are buying wine and the better cuts of meat. They tend to have a higher income and are better educated,” he said.

He added that these customers enjoy both the convenience of value-added items and the upscale nature of the product, such as microwavable tips. “In general, these items appeal to consumers who want to serve restaurant-quality recipes at home,” he said.

Southern Specialties has a variety of value-added items it offers including microwavable tips, microwavable whole spears in 12-ounce and two-pound bags, and both spears and tips in wrappers. “This year, we have new wrappers for green, white and purple asparagus with preparation instructions,” said the Southern Specialties veteran executive.

The firm sells nationwide, and Mr. Eagle said that the company is expecting increased volume in the asparagus category from its customers throughout the country. “We also market Mexican and California asparagus during the year,” he added.

He said that last year’s Peruvian deal was a bit inconsistent because of adverse weather conditions. But this year’s deal appears to have a more even flow to the volume. “We expect to have a more constant flow of product throughout the year for our customers. I am not dialed in today [Aug. 4] to the Mexican deal, but traditionally supplies from Mexico start to slow down around now and Peru has the deal to itself by the middle of September. I believe we are on that same schedule this year.”