The Bard Valley, located in a 150-square-mile radius of the intersection of Arizona, California, and Mexico, grows about 60 percent of all dates grown in the United States. The fruit is typically harvested in September through part of October and fruit from the Bard Valley Date Growers Association is marketed under their Natural Delights brand. “Despite the short window of harvest, our fruit is marketed year-round,” says Neil Merritt, Director of North American Sales for Natural Delights. “This past growing season was excellent. Both fruit quality and quantity were as good as one could expect, if not better,” added Merritt. “The volume was enough to support our year-round global sales as well as our growth goals. In terms of quality, we offered the softest, juiciest dates that our customers have come to rely on us for.”
New snacking date launched
A few years ago, the Association went through a reposition of the date category and their brand. “From baking, we repositioned dates towards snacking, which has led to continued double-digit growth for our business,” said Merritt. “We continue to be the leader in the category and are building a community of date enthusiasts by providing delicious recipes and information on how dates can be a unique value-added part of a regular diet.” Dates are very versatile as they can be eaten by themselves as a healthy snack or added to things like smoothies, baked goods, and energy bars. Natural Delights continues to expand its product offering. “We are excited about the new Dark Chocolate covered Medjool date with sea salt that will be released this holiday season,” says David Baxter, Brand Manager for Natural Delights. “It eats like a chocolate covered caramel, but a lot healthier. There will be minimal added sugar as the date provides the sweetness.” The estimated shipping date is September.
Export sales ahead of last year
Dates are not only popular in the US. Canada is a key export market for Natural Delights, but globally, the fruit is exported to Australia, different countries in Europe as well as Japan and Indonesia. Despite the pandemic, export sales are ahead of last year and Natural Delights has been able to fill its export orders 100 percent this year. “The biggest effect of the pandemic on our export business has been logistical,” commented Merritt. “International deliveries to many destinations have been delayed by a couple of weeks because of reduced carrier capacity. However, ultimately all shipments were delivered.”