When it comes to greenhouse growing, the state of Georgia nestled into the southeastern U.S. might not be the first region that comes to mind. But for one grower, the region has proved to be a perfect fit.
Pure Flavor®, a vertically integrated vegetable company that grows and markets greenhouse vegetables under its own label, is in fact in its fourth season growing out of its Fort Valley, GA greenhouse. It’s there that Pure Flavor grows Long English cucumbers and Tomatoes on the Vine (TOVs).
Pure Flavor selected Fort Valley, GA from the more than 300+ sites it considered as the home for its greenhouse operations.
For starters, Georgia’s history in agriculture was attractive to the grower and helped Fort Valley, situated in the heart of Peach County, stand out when Pure Flavor was researching the more than 300+ sites across North America for its new operations. “The strategic investment in Peach County is one that will not only expand our acreage but also create opportunities to strengthen and grow our retail and foodservice partnerships across the southeast with Georgia grown vegetables,” said Jamie Moracci, president of Pure Flavor, at the time of opening.
Georgia Grown branding
With this location also came the opportunity to promote both cucumbers and TOVs using the state’s agriculture program “Georgia Grown” on its branded packaging. “The Georgia Grown logo is used by many agriculture and food products grown/produced in Georgia. It has proven to be a very strong sales tool in the state to encourage people to buy items produced in Georgia,” says Tiffany Sabelli, director of sales. “There continues to be strong demand season after season as we are the only vertically integrated greenhouse vegetable grower in the southeastern U.S.”
The grower felt its greenhouse operations were a natural addition to what was already in Georgia. “Known as the Peach capital of Georgia, the region is rich in agriculture from the get-go. The ability to include a high-tech operation, nestled in between peach trees, pecan trees and an extensive variety of row crops, demonstrates how adding an additional layer to the agricultural economy can further strengthen the region,” says Matt Mastronardi, executive vice-president.
But Pure Flavor’s presence in Georgia wasn’t solely about just growing food there. After all, on top of the cucumbers and tomatoes, which are grown from late fall until the summertime in the Georgia greenhouse, Pure Flavor can also ship its full produce line up including a variety of peppers, eggplants and its organic options from its Byron, GA-based 60,000 sq. ft. distribution center located 10 minutes away from the greenhouse. “This way we are able to consolidate our products from one shipping point to be distributed to our partners in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina etc.,” says Mastronardi. The facility, which can reach more than 80 million people in a 24hr radius of the Fort Valley greenhouse, also serves as a consolidation point for product coming from Pure Flavor’s growing regions in Canada and Mexico.
Pure Flavor is growing TOVs (above) and Long English cucumbers out of the Georgia location.
And the company continues investing in its Georgia operations. “Being the first to invest in the southeast was a big step for the company,” says Mastronardi, noting that while the greenhouse’s first phase accounted for 25 acres, the company can increase the acreage on the same site up to 75 acres. Pure Flavor also continues to improve its operational efficiencies which in turn is increasing productivity throughout the facility. “Our growers adjust their growing strategies to ensure that all tomato and cucumber plants thrive with adequate irrigation, appropriate plant nutrition, supplemental light and constant radiant heat,” says Mastronardi. That supplemental lighting, High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lighting, not only increases the light hours in the operation but also creates heat for the greenhouse.
Marketing Georgia product
Georgia is also key to Pure Flavor’s marketing plans--it participates in the state-run Georgia Grown agricultural program and it can also create digital promotional programs highlighting Georgia-grown product. “Consumers are immediately drawn to products that feature the Georgia Grown logo,” says Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer.
Custom-branded packaging is also part of those marketing plans.
As for supplies this season, Pure Flavor has been shipping cucumbers for many weeks now and has just started picking TOVs from the Fort Valley greenhouse in the past two to three weeks. “Both crops are very healthy and yielding fantastic results,” says Sabelli.
Left to right: Jamie Moracci, Tiffany Sabelli, Matt Mastronardi
And as Pure Flavor heads deeper into its fourth growing season in Georgia, it’s clear its products aren’t the new kids on the block anymore. “They’ve evolved to being staple items for families in the southeast looking to purchase locally produced vegetables during the winter months,” says Sabelli.
“As consumers become savvier on who grows their product, how it’s grown and where, they are making important choices at retail to buy from brands that they trust and engage with regularly. When we launched our tomato and cucumber program, we knew we needed to connect with consumers and explain the value proposition of what it meant to have greenhouse grown vegetables year-round, which was never heard of before in Georgia,” says Sabelli. "The company’s efforts to build brand and product awareness in the southeast are delivering results that are increasing demand for Georgia Grown vegetables," she adds.