As I enter December and begin to set up my Festivus pole and prepare for the Feats of Strength, there’s a part of me that is less than thrilled about the prospect of chilly days ahead. However, you can also look at the new year as a launchpad for another 365 days of innovation and forward momentum. Red Sun Farms is one who will emerge from 2019 into a whole new decade filled with kaleidoscopic produce and initiatives set to elevate the entire industry. While there is no telling what the future will bring, Red Sun Farms continues to carve out a path that will cement its status as a company with an eye toward growth and a seemingly telepathic link to what consumers want.
Red Sun Farms has successfully tapped into what drives shoppers’ purchases with its Sweet Family line of products. Made up of beautiful and unique produce, the Sweet Family line provides a wide range of applications and endless consumer appeal. Sweetpops, poppable tiny tomatoes; Sweetpeps, a colorful collection of sweet mini peppers; and Sweetpeaks, a versatile long pepper, are the products that make up the Sweet Family line, and each one offers something different for shoppers.
“First, we hit the stores with Sweetpops—the ultimate snacking tomato. Its distinctive crunch and texture, combined with the perfect sweet-to-acid ratio and bite-sized proportion, pops in your mouth, releasing a burst of juicy-sweet flavor that you can’t stop snacking on,” Leona Neill, Director of Marketing and Packaging, tells me. “Then we introduced Sweetpeps. They are a 100 percent greenhouse-grown mini pepper packed with flavor, crunch, and vivid colors. This year, we debuted Sweetpeaks, a long, sweet pepper that is perfect for either grilling or stuffing. Sweetpeaks are very versatile and crunchy with a sweet flavor profile that consumers will love.”
Consumers searching for inspiration on their plate can look to the Sweet Family line for veggies to add to their repertoire. With both flavor and appearance on lock, Red Sun Farms has positioned itself well in the category, exploring healthy varieties that are both snackable and cookable, as avenues for growth.
“We all want our children to eat healthy and consume more fruits and vegetables. The Sweet Family appeals to a wide variety of individuals, from kids to young professionals on-the-go who want a tasty, healthy snack, or someone who is hosting a dinner party and is looking for a fun appetizer,” Leona suggests. “These products are very versatile, and that’s one of the characteristics that makes them so great.”
Health and convenience are two of the most important factors for cultivating repeat customers. If a shopper can have faith that a brand is both highly nutritional and on-the-go friendly, they will be less likely to stray to other brands, because why would they need to? That brand awareness is as beneficial to retailers as it is to produce producers. When a shopper finds a brand they like and determines where they can get it, they’re going to keep coming back for more—to both the brand and the retailer. A grocery store that keeps Sweetpeps in stock, for example, will attract the product’s cult following—a collection of consumers all but guaranteed to consistently return to the source of their obsession.
The produce industry is not immune to the benefits and challenges that come with the Information Age. Companies have more avenues to reach consumers than ever before, but the drawback of a well-informed consumer? They tend to be more selective, for one, requiring produce purveyors to be both creative and clear in their marketing to communicate why their product is valuable, special, and why a shopper should buy it.
“Our retail partners demand an increase in snacking and specialty varieties every year,” Leona comments. “Consumers are more educated and more health conscious than ever. Most are looking for healthy snack alternatives as well as a wide diversity of textures and flavors to liven up their menu. Healthy eating can be fun and delicious, and snacking and specialty varieties contribute to that.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a line of unique fruits and veggies that offer color, taste, and versatility. Sporting vibrant packaging and natural beauty, the Sweet Family line tempts consumers with an eye-catching display, not unlike a male peacock flashing its feathers to attract a mate. But what the Sweet Family line flashes is a chance to step outside the norm, to step into a world of fresh flavors and possibilities. For Red Sun Farms and Leona, that tempting outward appearance is supported by a backbone of quality and innovation.
“The Sweet Family is comprised of products designed with the sole purpose of separating us from the everyday veggies,” she explains. “We wanted to create the ultimate flavor varieties and cement ourselves as leading innovators in this category. With these three products, we are showcasing our innovation as high-tech greenhouse growers and setting the bar in regard to flavor, texture, color, packaging, and marketing.”
Remember that well-informed consumer I was talking about before? Well, that glut of information prompts shoppers to reconsider not just the produce itself, but the entire growing and production system. Sustainability initiatives address changing consumer demands and drive forward innovation in the industry—a win-win, really. Red Sun Farms is actively ramping up its sustainability efforts, proving that the company refuses to fall behind the curve.
“We work closely with our packaging suppliers to develop new, sustainable options,” Leona tells me. “We are in the farming business and are industry leaders in sustainable agriculture, with environmental impact and sustainability at the top of our minds in everything we do. In these ways, we are always striving to find the best solutions for sustainability, product performance, and to meet our consumer demands.”
That claim is not just lip service—far from it. Red Sun Farms has already enacted several initiatives that have demonstrated enormous value. As a greenhouse grower, the company is already a step up when it comes to sustainable practices, which is as profitable as it is eco-friendly. In its growing operations, Red Sun Farms uses 95 percent less water than open-field agriculture and recycles all of it. Fertilizers not used by plant root systems are recycled as well. Red Sun Farms has demonstrated incredible initiative in its innovations, as, Leona tells me, the company was the first to launch compostable fiber pints five years ago—a development that made waves in the industry.
“With these three products, we are showcasing our innovation as high-tech greenhouse growers and setting the bar in regard to flavor, texture, color, packaging, and marketing.”
Greenhouse growing also provides the benefit of higher yields—one square yard of Red Sun Farms’ growing space can generate 10 to 15 times more tomatoes than an open-field farm can produce in the same area. These are the sort of results that make people sit up and take notice.
“The response from our retail and supply partners has been excellent. The industry understands the importance of these initiatives and is collectively working to identify options that will address the increase of recycled content, material reductions, and compostable solutions. We are certainly going to see some unique technologies and advancements in the near future. Our next challenge will be commercialization and cost feasibility in the deployment of these new sustainable alternatives.”
Leona even gives me a taste of what’s to come in Red Sun Farms’ sustainability evolution. The grower is doubling down on recyclability, currently in the process of increasing the recycled content of its rigid plastics, and is also working with its package suppliers to seek out sustainable alternatives in plastics, films, and labels. Such endeavors continue to boost the grower’s value in the eyes of the consumer, and the combination of exceptional products and environmental awareness is sure to be a powerful concoction in the produce aisle.
Red Sun Farms has made a name for itself as an industry leader on the cutting edge of innovation and a purveyor of vibrant, attention-grabbing products. Achieving breakthroughs in varieties, packaging, marketing, and sustainability is what Red Sun Farms does best. Like a bouncing toddler, the grower refuses to sit still, and while the industry can find inspiration in Red Sun’s production and practices, consumers enjoy the fruits of its labor. Pops of flavor and technicolor peppers are the reason that shoppers fill their baskets with Red Sun Farms products time and time again—because when they do, the distinctive and wondrous produce is sure to bring a sweet smile to their lips.