Suntreat Expands Sumo Citrus® Program; Darren Filkins, Daniel Kass, and Brett Burdsal Discuss
- by Jordan Okumura
DINUBA, CA - Cultivated in the fertile soils of California's Central Valley, Suntreat’s family of citrus varieties are as unique and as deeply cared for, as they are “enormously” good to eat. And no Suntreat item speaks more truthfully to these distinctive attributes, than the exclusive new citrus varietal Sumo Citrus®. Naturally seedless, exceptionally juicy, super sweet, and easy-to-peel, paired with the fruit’s rare shape, bumpy rind, and knob on the top that Suntreat likes to call the Sumo Citrus top-knot, this variety promises to bring differentiation and diversity to the winter spread from now through March.
“There is no better way to kick off 2018 than with this season’s launch of our Sumo Citrus program. This large mandarin with a trace of navel orange parentage, has been a hit in recent years as consumers are drawn to its aesthetic as well as its flavor,” Brett Burdsal, Director of Marketing, shares with me. “Consumers eat with their eyes first and the bright and bold Sumo Citrus with its fun shape are hard to miss in the produce department.”
With added acreage this year, the Suntreat team is looking forward to meeting the demands of its retail partners and its dynamic fan following. Sizing and quality are looking great across the program with fruit size peaking in the 6’s and 7’s, as well as a full gamut of fruit ranging from 5’s to 9’s.
“Sumo Citrus is a premium citrus product that offers that unique eating experience retailers are looking to bring to their programs, and the variety is really different from anything else out there in the marketplace, and in the industry today,” Daniel Kass, Vice President of Sales and Business Development, shares with me. “The window for Sumo Citrus’s availability is limited and we believe that getting on-board with us early, can help retailers truly take advantage of this specialty citrus item. There is no better time than now!”
One of the added benefits of this program is the care the team takes in managing the Sumo Citrus program. From hand harvesting and placing Sumo Citrus in very small totes to avoid inducing bruising, to maintaining the most ideal temperatures with good air circulation – each piece of fruit feels the love of the Suntreat team and its family of growers.
In terms of merchandising, Suntreat offers retailers a consumer box that features five to seven pieces and a display box that features 16-17 pieces, as well as additional stand-alone displays, signage, and merchandising support available upon request. Built with the busy produce buyer or department manager in mind, Suntreat offers its stackable open-top, flip-boxes that most retailers use as display units.
“The longer range build up of the Sumo Citrus plan will be a big focus in 2018, so our efforts are really tailored to getting ahead and building a strong sales and marketing plan that will bring more value to our company and allow us to extend that value to our retailer partners,” President Darren Filkins shares with me. “Markets have been strong for specialty citrus and we only foresee the demand growing. It is a two-prong strategy: this year we want to highlight the uniqueness of Sumo Citrus and getting it out into the market the best and most effective way, and then the second part is to strategically build the program for future growth.”
In 2018, Suntreat will also bring Gold Nugget mandarins to market with increased volumes of the company’s Blood Oranges, Cara Caras, and Minneolas this season as well.
New packaging and pack styles will also help retailers build big bright citrus destinations in their produce departments.
In addition, the Suntreat team flipped the switch on its new AC Foods Legacy citrus line automation project in 2017. This project further aligns with the company’s goals to bring an excellent piece of fruit to market that has gone through rigorous quality and food safety processes and standards.
This new state-of-the-art sorting and packaging technology makes AC Foods Legacy a premier packing and shipping facility in the fresh produce industry. Between the stainless steel construction, automated DIR line, fumigation chambers, degreening rooms, and optical sizers that take 80 pictures of each piece of fruit as they pass under the equipment–the facility is a picture of precision and synchronization.
“We are really trying to help lead the charge from a food safety and traceability standpoint, and our AC Foods Legacy citrus line automation project is helping us deliver on those goals,” Dan says. “It is our vision of excellence that drives our Suntreat program, and AC Foods family, forward.”
Add in three control rooms with HMI screens to provide a complete line of sight into each aspect of the operation, 100% traceability for every bin received, and a vision to have every piece of citrus assigned a home by the time in reaches packaging, and the AC Foods line automation project could not have come at a more ideal time for the company’s growth initiatives.
AC Foods, a regenerative food family of farms, nurseries, packing houses, and marketing and sales companies that includes Suntreat, is looking to continue to build its family of growers, buying new and developed ground, with the goal of doubling the business in the next five years.
“There are many pieces to this process in its infancy that we will continue to build around from a growing, branding, and sales and marketing perspective. It is going to be an amazing year,” Darren tells me. “As a vertically integrated company, we are primed to evolve our programs, and raise the bar across all of our growing categories.”
With a passionate vision to execute incredible growth in 2018 and beyond, Suntreat is ramping up its program and taking the new year in stride.
For the latest and greatest on our friends in the industry, stay tuned to AndNowUKnow and, of course, happy New Year!