Sunripe Certified Brands' CEO Jon Esformes Talks New Strawberry Program
PARRISH, FL - For nearly 100 years, Sunripe™ Certified Brands has been a premier provider of tomatoes. With growing operations on the both the East and West Coasts of the United States and in Mexico, the company has been able to provide high-quality, sustainably-grown tomatoes 365 days a year for many years.
Sunripe Certified Brands’ newest product offering, though, is a significant departure from the company’s other products. The company introduced another sweet red fruit—strawberries—last year, and the new program has been met with remarkable success, with the company implementing the same high standards for sustainability, social responsibility, and exceptional quality that tomato buyers have come to expect from Sunripe.
“Strawberries are a new product for us,” said CEO Jon Esformes. “We’re entering our second year growing both organic and conventional strawberries under the Sunripe Certified Brands and the Suncoast Certified Brands names, as well as a variety of private labels.”
For Sunripe Certified Brands, strawberries are not simply a way to diversify product lines. The new category offering is a way to retain local employees and provide work for its Florida farmworkers during tomatoes’ off season.
“It’s a unique opportunity for us to provide work for our employees who live in that area, and also keep workers close to their homes,” said Jon. “And because our strawberries are all Fair Food Program Certified, we provide retailers with a unique opportunity to stock another product that has the highest level of social accountability possible in North America.”
The strawberry harvest gives Sunripe Certified Brands an opportunity to retain workers in order to help them avoid arduous commutes between growing regions.
“This part of Florida has a long history in the strawberry business during the winter,” said Esformes. “Growing strawberries has worked well with our tomato program because strawberry harvest provides our employees with local work at a time when local harvest is down for tomatoes.”
Harvest Manager Beau McHan notes that Sunripe Certified Brands’ strawberries are the product of a strictly controlled set of standards.
“We ensure quality through Sunripe Certified Brands by using quality control standards that are predetermined by the brand and validated by the Fair Foods Program," said McHan. “Our employees pick the strawberries and place them directly into clamshell cases on flats. Once these flats reach the quality control trailer, we have individuals that check the berries for proper color and size and look for any defects including rain damage, splits, cracking, and wind damage.”
In addition to rigorous quality control standards, Sunripe Certified Brands has an additional assurance of exceptional quality—an on-site pre-cooling facility engineered to ensure exceptional quality fruit.
“One of the great features that we have to offer are our on-site pre-cooling facilities,” added Beau. “It’s very rare within the industry. Our studies show, once a strawberry is harvested, you want to have that piece of fruit cooled within three hours. We can do it within an hour. That’s going to lengthen shelf-life, give us better quality, and better control of our own product because it stays on the farm and doesn’t travel interstate. Ultimately, we’re able to deliver a premium quality strawberry to our retailers.”
Sunripe Certified Brands’ strawberries are harvested from now through March. Don’t miss out! For more on all things produce, check in with us at AndNowUKnow.