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J.C. Watson nearing century mark as Spanish Sweet shipper

As it nears its 100th anniversary as a grower-shipper of Treasure Valley Spanish Sweets, J.C. Watson Co. of Parma, ID, continues its forward momentum with corporate expansion as well as new packaging, new labels and ongoing food-safety protocol.

The company was started in 1912 and, with its trading member status established in 1929, also holds the distinction of being the only over-75-year-old trading member in the Blue Book’s onion-shipper category.

Although J.C. Watson also offered other produce items, its primary focus has been onions for more than 90 of its nearly 100 years.

According to Brad Watson, vice president of operations and the fourth generation of a produce family, one commemorative step is being taken with “a new line of packaging to celebrate our 100-year anniversary.”

Currently, Watson packs for a number of private labels as well as in its own “Watson Brand,” “Soo Brand,” “SooRing,” “Jim’s Best,” “Trail Blazer” and “Treasure Valley” labels.

Watson is a year-round onion provider, sourcing from other regions. This season’s Treasure Valley onions began shipping about a week later than normal, according to company President Jon Watson.

A cool spring delayed the crop for most of the Treasure Valley, and some shippers cited start dates of Sept. 6, two to three weeks later than usual.

However, Mr. Watson told The Produce News, “[As the result of] favorable weather the second half of our growing season combined with healthy plants provided by our drip irrigation system, we were only about a week later than normal.”

Last year, the Parma packing facility saw several upgrades, including a color sorter with a high-resolution camera, increased accuracy on the Aweta line and a semi-automatic bagger that provides 25- and 50-pound sacks, as well as three-, five- and 10-pound consumer bags.

Brad Watson said, “With the continued success of our 50-pound ‘Watson Label,’ we are looking forward to continuing that enthusiasm by introducing a 25-pound ‘Watson Label.’“

He went on to say that for the 2011-12 shipping season, the shed has added new carton filler, which will “increase our carton capacity as well as increase our curing process to allow us to dry onions quicker and deliver earlier in our season.”

Sales Manager Kent Sutherland said that Watson continues to make inroads with foreign markets in addition to its solid domestic market share: “We have seen an increase in our consumer-pack orders as well [domestically] as strong growth in our export category,” he said in mid-September.

There is also growth within the ranks, according to Jamie Anderson, sales office manager. “With the addition of Sharon Miyakawa to the sales and marketing staff, we are excited for the upcoming season,” Ms. Anderson said.

She added, “Chelsea Peden’s duties have been expanded to a sales coordination position, and we are exciting for the possibilities that will provide our customers.”