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South Carolina peach program a cornerstone for Sunny Valley

By
Keith Loria

Sunny Valley International is a shipper and full-service marketing company specializing in imported and domestic fruit sales. As of early May, the company is wrapping up its winter import season, which features imported berries, grapes and pears, among other things, and planning for the transition to its summer fruit season.

“This year, in addition to our long-standing South Carolina and New Jersey stone fruit and East Coast blueberry programs, we’re also expanding our summer imported citrus business, adding additional lemon volume and introducing a Peruvian mandarin program,” said Tom Beaver director of sales and marketing at the Glassboro, NJ-based company.

While 2023 has started well for Sunny Valley, the company has had some concerns about whether the impact of inflation and corresponding drawdown in consumer spending would result in weakened demand for fresh fruit, but thankfully, that hasn’t been the case at all.

“We’ve worked closely with our retail partners to identify opportunities for promotion and volume movement to keep our fruit products at the forefront of their perishables marketing efforts, and have been pleasantly surprised that consumer demand has held mostly steady for the items we market,” Beaver said.

Sunny Valley’s South Carolina peach program is a cornerstone of the business and the company primarily sells its peaches directly to retail, supporting customers up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest.

“We’ve had the privilege of being aligned with Dixie Belle peaches for more than five years,” Beaver said. “Dixie Belle is one of the largest growers on the East Coast, and is owned and operated by the Forrest family. The fourth-generation farm is run by father and son Jimmy and Matt Forrest. They’re world-class growers with an incredible team behind them in the orchards and packinghouse, which makes marketing their outstanding peaches something that we take tremendous pride in.”

Unfortunately, Sunny Valley’s biggest challenge this year came in March as South Carolina’s primary peach production region experienced two separate freeze events that had a significant impact on this year’s peach crop.

“While there will be peaches available, volume could vary somewhat from variety-to-variety and we certainly won’t have a full crop,” Beaver said. “Nevertheless, we’re working tirelessly to ensure that we do the best we can for our customers, and we will navigate this summer’s crop from week-to-week to ensure that South Carolina peaches are still at the forefront whenever they are available.”

Beaver believes strongly that there’s nothing like an eastern peach and being the only shipper on the East Coast with New Jersey and South Carolina peaches, the company is able to extend the season with outstanding fruit from May through mid-September.

“Our customers also work with us because we treat every relationship like a partnership,” he said. “They know that no other supplier works harder for them to ensure that they have product when they need it and can put promotions into place at peak production weeks throughout the season. Obviously, this will be an unusual year given the projections for a comparatively small southeastern peach crop, but we intend to do everything we can to support on a targeted basis, and have been thrilled by the support they’ve given us given the circumstances.”

South Carolina’s peach growers and suppliers are competitors, but are nevertheless very supportive of one another and the industry as a whole.

“This starts with the South Carolina Peach Council, which does an excellent job promoting South Carolina peaches and funding peach variety and tree health research at Clemson University,” Beaver said. “The growers are progressive and forward-thinking, making the investments necessary now to ensure that they have the right varieties to maintain South Carolina’s reputation for outstanding for years to come.”

Sunny Valley truly is a grower-first company.

“Everything we do is centered around highlighting the incredible quality of the products grown by our growers,” Beaver said. “They take so much pride in what they do and we take equal pride in bringing their products to consumers.”

Keith Loria

Keith Loria

About Keith Loria  |  email

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is a D.C.-based award-winning journalist who has been writing for major publications for close to 20 years on topics as diverse as real estate, food and sports. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at magazines aimed at healthcare, sports and technology. When not busy writing, he can be found enjoying time with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Jordan and Cassidy.

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