“Ramadan is our biggest date season. Before sunrise when the fast begins and as soon as the fast breaks after sundown, Muslims want to eat the best dates,” says David Baxter with Bard Valley Date Growers. During that time of year, dates are also gifted in large quantities and as a result, markets from all over the world ask for the company’s products. A unique micro-climate in California and Arizona provides Bard Valley’s customers with the excellence they are looking for. “High heat, low humidity, and plenty of water from the Colorado river provide the perfect conditions for a very high-quality product,” Baxter shared.
About 75 to 80 percent of harvest is sold within the US and Canada, and the remaining 20 percent is shipped abroad. “Southeast Asia is our key market with countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore buying our dates for Ramadan. As an example, we send dates to the US Embassy in Indonesia for Ramadan every year,” Baxter said. In addition to Southeast Asia, dates also make their way into Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, and the Middle East.
Order well ahead
Although Ramadan doesn’t start until April 2, Baxter recommends ordering ahead of time. “We want enough lead time to fulfill orders due to transportation and logistics issues that are affecting trade,” he commented. All the company’s dates are shipped out of California and vessel availability is very limited. “Ship availability is the largest issue we are facing in our export business.” Although a different way of working by building orders ahead of time is offering some relief, the company is still dealing with delays.
The dates from Bard Valley’s 14 growers are sold under the Natural Delights brand. “We differentiate ourselves by value and focusing on marketing our quality and brand,” Baxter commented. “We do more marketing than any other date company in the world. This includes supporting retailers with merchandising tools, organizing sweepstakes, partnering with influencers and dietitians, and pitching to national media. In the North American market, more and more people are coming to use dates and demand continues to grow. “The awareness for the Natural Delights brand is high and we lead the date category in both the US and Canada with 50% and 55% market share respectively.”
Although the pitted date is still Bard Valley’s core SKU, other date products are gaining popularity. “The Mini Medjools, more of a snacking item, were introduced recently and their numbers are growing.” For the holidays, Dark Chocolate Covered Medjool Dates are offered and they were just included in Fox News’ list of Best Food Gifts For Every Kind of Eater. They are available only a few months out of the year, from November through Easter. “We are always working on innovations. Traditionally, dates had a stigma around them, but with our product innovations, we focus on getting people to try them in new ways.”
Chocolate Covered Medjool Dates.
Visit the Bard Valley Date Growers team at booth 552 of the New York Produce Show this Wednesday, December 15 and try some of their unique date products.