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Southern Specialties deep in asparagus season and adding new products

Southern Specialties Inc. in Pompano Beach, FL, had a terrific showing at PMA Fresh Summit, so much so that the weeks following have been “crazed” according to Vice President of Business Development Charlie Eagle.

“We have had great positive response to the PMA,” Mr. Eagle said. “We have good demand for our microwave specialty lineup. We’ve had really good response on those products from people from companies around the nation.”

Southern Specialties Southern Selects line of consumer-friendly, microwave-ready 6- to 8-ounce packages of the firm’s specialty vegetables have proven so popular the company is making new additions to the program.

“We continue to add products to our microwave lineup. We’re just adding Brussels sprouts and we’ve added English peas,” Mr. Eagle said.

Those items join current favorites like French beans, sno peas, sugar snap peas and baby sunburst squash.

The company is also currently “knee-deep in the middle of the Peruvian asparagus season,” Mr. Eagle said. “Response has been great to our asparagus programs, including our white asparagus.”

Southern Specialties offers bulk, value-added, asparagus tips and white asparagus in a variety of packs and expects volume increases across the board this season. Value-added items include microwavable tips, microwavable whole spears in 12-ounce and 2-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 Mr. Eagle.

Storms in Central America put a crimp in supplies of some Southern Specialty products earlier this year, “but we’ve come back from supply challenges created as a result of those storms,” Mr. Eagle said.

The company is also preparing to launch a new web site; it currently maintains a corporate site (southernspecialties.com) and a dedicated site for the Southern Selects line (southernselects.com).

The company’s Florida heirloom tomato and chili pepper programs are ramping up. And its Sunshine State blueberry and blackberry deals will begin in first quarter 2012.

Southern Specialties is now two years into a partnership with HLB Tropical Food USA Inc., also in Pompano Beach, FL, to market large and small papayas from South America and Central America and Mexico as HLB Specialties.

“HLB has done a great job marketing both large and Brazilian papayas,” Mr. Eagle said. “The partnership provides significant advantages to our customers. HLB is the premiere marketer of papayas in the nation; Southern Specialties has enhanced sourcing and logistics. A combination of the two companies creates an outstanding opportunity for our growers and our customers as well.”

Mr. Eagle said Southern Specialties has established several new retail programs over the past year focusing on its microwavable line and value-added asparagus wraps, including providing recipes and 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.”