U.S.: Hispanic fruit & veg variety boom to continue, says distributor
J-C Distributing Inc president and Fresh Produce Association of the Americas chairman Jaime Chamberlain, tells www.freshfruitportal.com the growth of new varieties has been tremendous, with strong input from Mexican and U.S. growers.
"Vine ripes used to be the only thing grown in California, and then in the 80s the roma tomatoes came in when Taco Bell decided to use them as its exclusive variety, and it has only increased since then," he says.
"You're getting all different varieties now right from the vine ripes to the romas to the romanitas to the heirlooms; the tomato sector is really booming right now, and you're getting sweeter tomatoes as the brix level has increased.
"There are something like eight or nine varieties that you can often see on the shelves, and I expect there will be more varieties that will continue to grow."
He says the big trend now is Hispanic products, especially in Chilis.
"I'm not just talking about jalapeños, but a lot of serranos, anaheims, caribes, cubanelles, and Chayotes are going great; they are getting a foothold in the U.S now.
"It used to be that U.S. consumers were very cautious and didn’t like spicy foods, but the palate is changing little by little."
He highlights different colored bell peppers have also shown a good level of growth with consumers looking for variety, while packed mini peppers just "fly of the shelves".
In terms of cucumbers, Chamberlain points out it is no longer just about the standard American slicer variety, but European and Persian cucumbers have managed to gain a decent space in the market.
He says with better relations between Mexico and the U.S., the level of trade and job creation would be very beneficial for the economy, and would also create more opportunities for diverse varieties of fresh produce.
He highlights that U.S. trade with Mexico accounted for US$460 billion in 2011. With a better attitude, combined with the upcoming Mariposa Port of Entry Reconfiguration, he says there is an "unstoppable trade opportunity".
"It's a US$200 million project. The port of entry was originally built in the 70s with for 300-400 trucks a day but it’s been handling 1300-1400 a day for the last 10 years; it's good that the GSA (General Services Administration) got the Federal funding for the reconstruction to add a new level to our port of entry.
"It’s very exciting to be in this position – Mexico has been feeding American families for over 100 years now, and looking forward they will be able to do a more efficient job.
"It’s great to see the way Mexico is going with the level of protected agriculture, the quality and consistency of fresh produce coming into the U.S. market, and I'm proud of the way it has enhanced food safety over the last 10-15 years."