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Southern Specialties hires tropical specialist

Since August, industry veteran Martin Maldonado has been in charge of the tropical program for Southern Specialties, which is headquartered in Pompano Beach, FL.

Charlie Eagle, the company’s vice president of business development who operates from its Atlanta office, said Mr. Maldonado has been hired to expand the firm’s tropical category. He said tropicals are an important part of the Southern Specialties mix but the company is known as a diverse player with a wide array of products.

Mr. Maldonado comes to the firm from Spiech Farms LLC in Paw Paw, MI, where he served as director of imports and was involved in importing blueberries, blackberries, avocados and asparagus.

As the South American mango deal unfolds, Mr. Eagle told The Produce News on Sept. 7 that the firm was currently sourcing from Brazil, “and we’ll stay there until about Thanksgiving and then we will move to Ecuador and Peru. Ecuador will be our primary supplier in November and December and Peru will start up sometime in December.”

Mr. Eagle said overall volume from Brazil is expected to be down a bit this year, “but we are expecting to have the same volume.” As the company moves its point of mango supply to the other two South American countries mentioned, he said, “we expect the program to grow but not to increase dramatically.”

While the Ecuadorian deal is expected to start a little later and a little slower than usual because of weather issues, Southern Specialties is still expecting its first fruit from that country in late October.

Mr. Eagle said status quo appears to be the best description of packaging options in the mango category. “We are pretty responsive to requests from our customers with regard to new packs, but we really haven’t had any inquiries regarding mangos,” he said.

He said Southern Specialties will be heavy in the Tommy Atkins variety of mangos in this upcoming quarter “as the red blush fruit seems to be what the consumers want.”

He said Southern Specialties does work individually with its customers on promotions but the firm is a second-tier player in the mango importing business and does not attempt to generate big volumes through promotions. “We do work with our own retail and foodservice customers but we don’t get into large promotions,” he said.

He indicated that space is left to some of the very large mango shippers that specialize in that one commodity.