Chula Brand brings passion to its products
McALLEN, TX – Chula Brand was founded 16 years ago primarily as an importer and distributor of Mexican papayas. And while that item remains its specialty, the company now handles additional items from Mexico, working from a new facility in McAllen, TX.
Darwin Dodd, who is a senior member of the sales team at Chula Brand, said that when the company started it employed around 14 people. It now has close to 200 employees, and it has since added pineapples, limes, key limes, and a Mexican vegetable program that includes Bell peppers, Roma tomatoes and cucumbers.
“Everything we handle comes from Mexico, and we bring a passion to what we do to provide only top quality to our customers, which include retailers and distributors,” said Dodd.
The new Chula Brand facility in McAllen is located in an industrial park in the southern part of the city, and is where the company repacks for its customers. The facility also has cold storage and ripening rooms, enabling the Chula Brand team to carefully monitor and control the condition of its products.
“We repack everything here in the U.S. and guarantee the best possible pack with uniform size and color,” he said. “We pack our papayas to our customers’ specifications, including uniform size and color. It is a very labor-intensive process, because the fruit is soft and very perishable, so we need to take extra care. Every papaya is individually wrapped, checked and rewrapped.”
Dodd said the company is encouraged by the rising popularity of its main commodity, papayas.
“Papaya consumption has been on an upswing, and I believe in five to 10 years it will be among the most popular fruits,” he said.
Dodd’s prediction is backed by anecdotal evidence, as he noted Chula Brand was doing three to four loads of papayas per week when the company started, and it now does 40-45 loads per week 16 years later.
“It reminds me of mangos when they were first in vogue,” he said. “They are now extremely popular, especially among the Hispanic, Asian, Indian and Caribbean populations. I see papayas going down the same path.”
But to help keep growth on an upward trend, Dodd said it is important to educate consumers not only about the health benefits of papayas – high in vitamin C and a great digestion aid – but also the fact that fruit can be subject to imperfections.
“Rain and wind are the enemies of the papaya, and could result in some surface damage to the fruit, but it doesn’t mean that it is not good for eating,” he said. “Consumers should understand that not every piece of fruit is perfect.”
Photo: Workers on the packingline at Chula Brand in McAllen, TX, wrap each papaya individually, taking care with the delicate fruit.