VERO BEACH, Fla. — IMG Citrus Inc. has opened a cooling facility, improved its packinghouse line, launched a brand and plans to enter the offseason import deal.
The $2.5 million investments should help the grower-shipper of grapefruit, oranges and tangerines better supply customers through the additional volume it expects to handle, said Matt Reel, director of sales.
IMG dedicated the new refrigerated distribution center at an Oct. 16 ceremony that included guests from the Indian River’s citrus industry as well as Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The 13,000-square-foot refrigeration facility adjoins IMG’s older cooler and increases its cooling capacity from 300 pallets to 1,200 and doubles the operation’s loading docks from three to six, Reel said.
This season, IMG plans to run 20% of its volume through what it calls its smart line packing system.
Installed last season, the Compac line grades, weighs and tests individual fruit brix through an infrared sensor system from New Zealand-based Taste Tech.
The improvements expand IMG’s bagging capabilities and also include blemish grading capacities, Reel said.
During the summer, IMG plans to replace its other four lines with the new type of line, he said.
By grading out low-brix fruit, IMG can promote its new Sweeter Sorts brand, which focuses on taste and offers shoppers guaranteed satisfaction, Reel said.
The larger refrigerated units should also allow IMG to extend its valencia orange season from May into June and July and could keep the facility busy throughout the year by storing, repacking and distributing imported citrus from the Southern Hemisphere, Reel said.
The customer-driven improvements allow IMG to precool all of its fruit before loading and should help extend shelf life, he said.
To promote its new brand, IMG has launched www.sweetersorts.com and a Facebook page, facebook.com/ilovegrapefruit.
IMG has increased its grower partnerships and plans to pack 2 million equivalent cartons of grapefruit, oranges and tangerines from more than 5,000 acres of its own and other growers’ fruit, Reel said.
That carton estimate is 33% higher than last season’s actual packout.