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Stellar Distributing has a Tiger by the tail with new fig variety

If last year's inaugural marketing season is any indication, retailers will continue to pounce on opportunities to move Tiger figs to customers.StellarDistributing

The exclusive variety was added to the production manifest of Stellar Distributing Inc. several years ago, and Sales Manager Kurt Cappelluti said marketplace excitement would not diminish in 2014.

"We have a beautiful crop," he told The Produce News in mid-April. "It's our second good season."

The trees have been maturing for the past five years, and Cappelluti said product quality is exceptional. Tiger Figs are eye-catching with their striped green and yellow skin and bright red flesh. Cappelluti said they also have a unique flavor, which distinguishes them from other figs.

The company is headquartered in Madera, CA, and boasts an extensive fig program. Varieties marketed include Sierra, Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Calimyrna and Kadota.

Brian Lapin, a salesman for Stellar, said production alternates several times each season between acreage in California's southern desert and Madera, giving Stellar the opportunity to market figs eight months out of the year.

"Nature staggers [our growing seasons and locations] for us," Lapin said. "We're trying to get our fig program to be year-round."

In addition to figs, Stellar also markets chestnuts, limes, apricots, pomegranates, persimmons and kiwi to its customers. As a company, Stellar is vertically integrated, working with an extensive network of growers and suppliers in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Speaking of its overall fig program, Cappelluti said Stellar markets 3 million two-pound equivalents of figs annually. The 2014 fig season will kick off April 28 -- two weeks earlier than it did last year. Sierra, Black Mission and Brown Turkey will be the first varieties out of the gate.

Because Stellar uses underground wells to irrigate figs, Cappelluti said there has been no impact to the crop associated with California's ongoing drought.

"The way the crop is looking right now, we will have good amounts of figs," Lapin added.

Lapin said last year's Tiger fig volume was sold to retailers, and pricing was good. Looking forward, Lapin predicts that consumer interest in Tiger figs will continue to increase, and production will step up in the coming years in response.

He described consumer demand for figs this way: "Figs are crazy. They're always in demand regardless of time of year."

Stellar offers traditional packaging for figs and continues to innovate with a variety of clamshells. This season, Stellar will introduce 16 six-ounce and 32 six-ounce clams. Shaped to gently cradle individual figs, new nine-count 12-ounce and 12-count 22-ounce clams will also be available.