In the mid-1990s, Fowler Packing was one of the first South Valley growers to plant groves of mandarins. Within a few years, it partnered with two other growers, Sun Pacific and Wonderful Brands’ Paramount Citrus, putting out bags of mandarins that hit grocery produce shelves under the brand name “Cuties” in 2001.
Fowler Packing has been a big part of both successes, having grown, packed and shipped bags of tangerine-sized mandarins originally under the Cuties label and later with Wonderful under the Halos brand name. But that changed earlier this year when Fowler Packing broke ties with Wonderful, for undisclosed reasons.
But Fowler Packing, south of Fresno, is the third largest producer of mandarins in the country and had no plans to abandon that lucrative market, said Justin Parnagian, CEO of Fowler Packing and grandson of founder Sam Parnagian.
So over part of the summer, the company developed a new brand name for its mandarins — Peelz — along with new packaging. They also contacted the retailers that had been buying their Halos fruit, contracting with them to instead buy Peelz, the first of which began shipping on Oct. 29.
Parnagian estimates they will ship 33 million five-pound boxes of Peelz this season, which usually runs through May of the following year. That’s about three million more boxes than in the prior year, when his company produced fruit under the Halo brand.