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Flavor King Farms enjoys strong citrus season

Flavor King Farms has moved from Nogales to Rio Rico, with expanded warehouse and office space. The development reflects the growth of the firm’s Mexican Valencia orange business.

Flavor King is a grower, packer, shipper, exporter and distributor of fresh and processed citrus.

Enrique Gracia, the Flavor King president, is part of a family operation operating a citrus packinghouse in Hermosillo, Sonora. That packinghouse was recently “pretty much overhauled” with new Dutch grading equipment.

Enrique-Flavor-KingStanding in front of Flavor King Farms’ new Rio Rico office and warehouse space is Enrique Gracia, president. Photo courtesy of Flavor King“It not only helps us with postharvest handling, but we have the capacity to pack more fruit,” he said.

Gracia said Hermosillo is in a fruit fly-free zone, which gives citrus producers there an advantage by not facing USDA phytosanitary procedures for handling their crop. Dry weather in Sonora is among the deterrents to a fruit fly population.

When Flavor King began exporting to the U.S. three or four years ago, produce buyers had a negative perception of Mexican citrus. But now that they understand the Hermosillo product, “they love it,” he said.

“We’re happy that customers are finding out how nice and good the Sonoran fruit is.”

Gracia said Sonora is Mexico’s largest-volume citrus-exporting state. And Flavor King is the largest citrus exporter in Sonora.

Flavor King exports Valencias for both the fresh and processing markets. But as the fresh business has grown in recent years, so have the firm’s efforts to provide a top-quality product. “Our color every year gets better and better.”

A few years ago, 30 percent of Flavor King’s Valencia volume went to fresh sales, and 70 percent was processed. “Utilization now is 65 percent fresh to 35 to processing.”

As to the fresh-processing side, “there is a much higher demand for non-premium oranges in the U.S.” This is for non-pasteurized, unconcentrated fresh fruit being offered by “more and more restaurants, stores and bars. This has created a demand that normally we wouldn’t have had.”

Given its ongoing growth, Flavor King has hired a new salesman, Jerry Tabarez. Tabarez handles brokerage and sales for Flavor King.

He said Jan. 23 that, for at least that week, “demand exceeds supply.”

Gracia said food safety and social responsibility efforts are among the strengths of his firm.

Gracia’s shipping season will run in volume from February until late June.

Valencia demand this winter is especially strong, given citrus greening and severe weather damage in Florida in 2017. Furthermore, California’s Navel crop was low,” Gracia noted.

The new Rio Rico location for Flavor King is leased from Thomas Produce Co. Inc., which is now under the same roof.