Radishes and Red Celery

January 20, 2011

Duda Fresh launches products that were years in the making

Today’s consumers are looking for the same colors and flavors they find at restaurants, and fresh-cut processors are at the leading edge of developing new flavor profiles and products for retail customers to try at home.

Duda Farm Fresh Foods is one of those companies, and at last year’s Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit, the company launched two new products – Radish Mini-Sticks and red celery.

Duda History

Duda Farm Fresh Foods was established in 2006 as a subsidiary of DUDA, the corporate entity of the family-owned A. Duda and Sons. The company has its roots in central Florida, where founder Andrew Duda settled in 1909 and started farming. The family, now including three sons John, Andrew Jr. and Ferdinand, grew its first celery crop in 1926 and worked to make the 40-acre farm successful. They continued to expand through the 30s, 40s and 50, and in 1960 they started growing citrus in southwest Florida. By the late 1970s, Duda had expanded to the West Coast and outside the United States, and its Dandy brand was recognizable for celery and citrus, as well as other fresh produce.

In 2006, when the Duda Farm Fresh Foods subsidiary was established, the company was growing on 39,000 acres in the United States and 1,500 acres abroad. Two years later, the company opened its Oxnard, Calif., celery processing facility. The state-of-the-art plant has 40,000 square feet of processing space and an additional 25,000 square feet of cooling space.

MiniSticks

Radishes, an edible root vegetable often used in salads and European dishes, has a crispy texture and a peppery flavor. They are usually eaten raw as a flavor ingredient, but the red exterior and white flesh also provide dramatic color when presented on a dish.

The radish isn’t well-utilized by U.S. consumers, with less than half of 1 percent indicating that they eat radishes, according to USDA’s Vegetable and Melon Yearbook. That figure has been fairly consistent over the previous two decades USDA reported.

But Duda Farm Fresh Foods is launching a fresh-cut radish product called MiniSticks, which will be sold at retail under the Dandy label in 8 ounce modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) bags. The julienned radishes will give a burst of flavor and color to meals, according to the company.

“We hope to re-introduce people to radishes,” said Sam Duda, vice president of western vegetable operations for Duda Farm Fresh Foods.

The MiniSticks are processed at Duda’s California plant, and are grown in the California region for a year-round supply. The company has a strict food safety program that starts in the field and goes through the plant. There’s an in-house food safety expert and a third-party audit system, as well as a HACCP program and a traceability program. The company has scored at the top of all its audits, Duda said.

The MiniSticks serving size of 1 ounce has only 4 calories and no fat, cholestrol, sodium or carbohydrates. One serving does have 1 percent of a daily value of iron, 7 percent of daily vitamin C and 1 percent daily value of calcium.

The product will have a seven-day shelf life when shipped and stored at 30-32 F.

The company’s website offers customers suggestions on how to use the radish sticks, including on chicken or tuna salad, on tacos or nachos, as a marinade or in yogurt as a quick dip.

Red Celery

A second innovation from Duda Farm Fresh Foods has been in development for nearly 20 years. The company is the largest grower and processor of celery in the United States, but it’s not resting on its laurels.

Larry Pierce, a celery breed for Duda Farm Fresh Foods, has been working for nearly 20 years to develop a new variety of red celery. The company introduced his work at Fresh Summit, and the product will be available by June. It is currently in production in Oxnard and Salinas, Calif., so the product will be available year-round and will have full distribution when it rolls out nationwide.

The red celery was developed using natural breeding techniques, and Pierce said he looked at old root celery varieties and cross-bred them with green celery. With natural breeding, there’s no concern from consumers over genetically-modified organisms.

The red celery is part of a new proprietary distinction in the Duda Farm Fresh Food product line up. The product will be packed under the Celery Sensations name, said Rick Alcocer, director of fresh vegetable sales for Duda. He said the goal of the program is to increase sales in the celery category.

“We know that this particular product will get a lot of visibility for celery,” Alcocer said.

When the Celery Sensations red celery hits store shelves, it will come with a smart packaging tag that Duda Farm Fresh Foods has been working with Microsoft to implement. Consumers can scan a high-capacity color barcode (HCCB) with their web-enabled cell phones to find recipes and information on the product. The red celery page that the smart tag directs consumers to is already live on the Duda website at www.celerysensations.com.

“We aim to continually explore and utilize packaging that maintains strict sustainability guidelines, and reduces transportation and handling costs throughout the supply chain in addition to protecting the freshness, safety and integrity of our natural products,” Duda said.