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United With Earth ethnic products going mainstream

When Daryoush Davidi started United With Earth a decade ago he made it a mission to cater to Middle Eastern consumers. He did so with produce such as Medjool dates and Persian cucumbers, two categories the Berkeley, CA-based company saw as being underserved in the industry.Daryoush-and-Penny1Daryoush Davidi and chef Penny

“The niche is trying to introduce produce from the country I am from,” said Davidi, who is Persian-born (Iran). “We are really focusing on ethnic products that are going mainstream.”

Today, United With Earth represents one of the largest groups of growers from both segments year round. It first entered into the market with dates and figs, and later became aggressive with cucumbers when Davidi discovered that Persian cucumbers are much sweeter and crunchier than the average cucumber.

“We’ve managed to grow Persian cucumbers in a state-of-the-art facility in Mexico (Baja California) with a third-party food safety program using water drip irrigation and reverse osmosis irrigation, which removes the salt,” Davidi said. “Because of our co-op of growers, we never plateau and can meet the demand of what we need.” Therefore, they have product available year round.

The cucumbers are grown in hothouses, which allows the company to use less water than out in the open field and helps to create a clean environment for them to grow, as food safety and quality are big priorities for them.

The Persian cucumbers are also now available with private label, which is something new for United With Earth. The private label cucumbers have been projected to boost sales significantly in the next quarter.

“Our industry is evolving fast with Amazon coming into the business and a lot of grocery stores consolidating; a lot of people are trying to narrow down to one brand and one label,” Davidi said. “The Trader’s Joe model or Costco model, a lot of people are trying to put the focus on one brand and go with them. Our private label helps retailers grow their own brand, given that it’s more of a newer item, people will develop more of a trust with it.”

The company has started packing for some big players in the industry, finding early success with the private label Persian cucumbers. Their success in introducing recipes has been highly effective by sponsoring celebrity Chef Penny from the Food Network.

Consumers are drawn to the product, Davidi noted, because cucumbers are non-GMO, have a high water content and are very refreshing. Their skin is thin and they are burpless due to the fact they are seedless.

“You can cut them, put them in a salad or you can just grab them like a carrot,” he said. “We’re growing them four to five inches, so they become snacking cucumbers. They are very popular because they can fit into a lunchbox or container.”

Additionally, Davidi said athletes could use them when running, adding that millennials are especially are interested. “It’s not just the ethnic market where these cucumbers are selling, it’s become more mainstream,” he said. “More retailers are jumping on board with the Persian cucumbers, which are called mini cucumbers when you go more east.”

The Persian cucumbers, Davidi said, have numerous benefits. They contain vitamin K and potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure, are anti-inflammatory and recently it’s been suggested that it helps with brain health and neurological issues. Plus, as anyone who has ever been to a high-end spa knows, cucumbers are well regarded for helping smooth out the skin.

 “Our pricing is very aggressive because we know it’s a new item, and we want to bring in players who are willing to merchandise our cucumber,” he said.

The program launched on the first day of spring, which was also the Persian New Year.