Californian Medjool dates set for production boom, says Atlas Produce

Californian Medjool dates set for production boom, says Atlas Produce

California-based Atlas Produce and Distribution expects a strong Medjool date season in 2012, while more trees going into production will drive the category further in the coming years.

Company president Robert Dobrzanski told the 90s real estate boom led to good prices for date trees as ornamentals for properties or golf courses, triggering increased plantings for that purpose alone.

"It’s a beautiful tree – you can see it in drier places like California, Texas, Arizona and Florida where it’s popular," he says.

"In southern California you see boulevards lined with them, but doing business based on that alone is a dead business, so people who were drawn into that have realized they can’t survive solely on that.

"That’s why we’ve seen the growth of Medjool date supply has increased, and in fact we’re going to see a large increase in the next four to five years, unless the tree market picks up again."

The company's retailer volume was up 35% last year and Dobrzanski expects a phenomenal crop, which was scheduled to start in late August. Atlas sells the Medjool and smaller pitted Deglet Noor date varieties under the Caramel Naturel brand.

"Last year was fantastic for our Caramel Naturel brand of dates, the number 1 premium consumer brand of California grown dates in the U.S.," he said in a release.

He told marketing efforts have helped demand keep pace with the rising volumes.

"Dates have become a more common fruit, we’re seeing it more in recipes, you go to fancy restaurants and you might have some stuffed dates, and there’s the health benefits too.

"It's chock full of potassium so people looking for potassium will google it and see dates come up, with more potassium ounce for ounce in a date than a banana."

He said the company ships around half its volume to the U.S., 30% to Canada and the remainder to Australia and Asia, especially Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and increasingly China.

Photo: Atlas Produce

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