(Aug. 12) Malena Quality Produce, Nogales, Ariz., hopes to sell its eggplants and other products year-round and to boost sales 20% by next year. And its salespeople are hitting the road to get its growers and customers on board and to recruit new growers in the U.S. and Mexico.

“Our goal is to put together a 52-week program on our key products and to sell directly to retailers,” said Gonzalo Avila, recently appointed vice president and general manager of the company’s Nogales operations. “To do that, we need to partner with other growers. We can’t produce in our region 52 weeks out of the year.”

Malena grows its eggplants, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, bell peppers and other products from October to May, Avila said. Now it wants to find growers in the U.S. and Mexico to close that June to September gap. Avila said Malena was the category leader in eggplant.

The company is in talks with several growers but hasn’t finalized anything, Avila said. Malena hopes to have year-round production in place by summer 2003.

Malena will introduce a new trade advertising and promotion program, Web site and marketing efforts highlighting its goals at this year’s Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2002 in New Orleans.