(April 1, 2:35 p.m.) A newly formed strategic alliance between two San Joaquin Valley, Calif., fresh produce companies, Perez Packing Inc., Firebaugh, and Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC, Fresno, returns marketing of the Firebaugh company’s melons to its valley roots.

“Crown Jewels will handle the marketing for all of our cantaloupes and honeydews,” said Mark Perez, vice president of Perez Packing. “We’ll do the packing and cold storage at our Firebaugh packinghouse.”

The company, which marked its 70th anniversary last year, grows on about 9,000 acres, 2,500 acres of which are planted in melons in the Firebaugh area, he said.

That acreage produces about 2.2 million cartons of cantaloupes and about 300,000 cartons of honeydews, said Atomic Torosian, managing partner of Crown Jewels. Harvesting of both melons is expected to begin about July 1, continuing through September.

The partnership resurrects Perez Packing’s King Crow label, a one-time fixture in California.

“All of the principals at Crown Jewels, Rob Mathias, Steve Poindexter and I, are very proud to be working with the Perez family,” Torosian said.

California’s lack of irrigation water will not be a problem for Perez Packing. The company’s melon fields are located within water districts that have longstanding contracts and are expected to provide adequate supplies, Perez said.

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc., Miami, Fla., marketed the Perez melons for the past ten years. The switch to Crown Jewels puts the marketing arm of the melon deal within an hour’s drive of the packinghouse, Perez said.

“We’re on the same page with these guys,” he said. “There are a lot of synergies.”

The Perez melons fill a summer gap for Crown Jewels. Mexican melons will be available from the Fresno marketer until mid-April, Torosian said, with the Arizona-California desert deal to follow.

Crown Jewels to market Perez Packing melons
A partnership between Perez Packing Inc., Firebaugh, Calif., and Crown Jewels Marketing & Distributing LLC, Fresno, Calif., brings the return of the King Crow label for melons. Perez Packing developed the King Crow label several decades ago.

Don Schrack