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HLB Specialties moves from one growing season to the next for year-round supplies

Homero Levy De Barros, president and chief executive officer of HLB Specialties LLC in Pompano Beach, FL, told The Produce News that the company is currently importing large and small papayas, mangos and limes.

“The rambutan season just wrapped up and will start again in March or April,” Mr. De Barros said. “We’re also moving avocados from Mexico and Peru.

“Brazilian mangos just finished,” he continued. “From there we move to Ecuador, then comes Peru, followed by Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti and then back to Brazil. We move from one growing region to another to keep supplies coming in on a year-round basis for our customers.”

The company also imports papayas from several countries, not only to provide non-stop supplies but to mitigate any unforeseen weather conditions that could affect a crop.

HLB Specialties’ large papayas are the Formosa variety, which Mr. De Barros said translates to “beautiful” in Portuguese. The seed, however, originates in Taiwan. The large papayas are grown in Guatemala and Mexico.

“Our small papayas, which are the Golden variety, come from Brazil and Jamaica,” he added. “We have three grower-partners in Brazil, and they are all in different regions — also to mitigate for potential weather-related problems.”

The company sources limes from Guatemala, where, Mr. De Barros said it rains throughout the year, hence they are called Rain Forest limes.

It ships its products across the United States and into Canada through its distribution centers in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, McAllen, TX, Pompano Beach, FL, and Pittsgrove Township, NJ.

About 60 percent of its business is done with retailers and the remainder is with wholesalers and foodservice operators.

Mr. De Barros said that HLB Specialties is very proud of its relationship with Southern Specialties, also headquartered in Pompano Beach.

IMG 6311HLB Specialties debuted a new booth at the recent Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in Anaheim, which was a big success, according to the company.“Before pooling our resources, we were competitors,” he said. “A couple of years ago we decided to partner so that we could both benefit from the other’s abilities and capabilities. Southern Specialties has over 200 products, and they are very strong in areas where we were not. We carry only five items, but we’re very strong in them. So now we help each other by filling a pallet with numerous items for customers who can’t use an entire pallet of just one item.”

Something else that differentiates the two businesses is how they mutually look for growers who have pride in the quality they produce.

“The avocado business is a ‘big dog’ in the produce industry, but HLB Specialties is a ‘little Chihuahua,’“ said Mr. De Barros. “And so we have to use brain power and creativity to compete.

“We have a grower-partner in Michoacan, Mexico, who has over 200,000 acres of avocado groves,” he continued. “This grower cuts only what we have already sold. Our office, in Uruapan, Michoacan, is only 17 hours by truck away from the border. We take the order, cut in one day, pack the next and the truck is on its way.”

The avocados, obviously, arrive in extremely fresh condition with exceptional shelf life. This is the kind of grower that, like Southern Specialties, HLB Speciaties seeks out.

Mr. De Barros said that HLB Specialties had a new booth at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit this year.

“We are extremely pleased with how it was received and the many compliments we got,” he said.