||FELLSMERE, Fla.Although its arugula, cilantro and mint specialty lines are increasingly more popular with todays trend-conscious chefs and consumers, watercress is still king at B&W. After all, its what launched the family-owned and operated company more than 128 years and five generations ago.
Back then, folks didnt know or care about its high nutritional value; they just knew they liked its versatility, texture and flavor.
Over time, B&W has become the worlds largest watercress grower, with seasonal farms in six Eastern states that supply fresh watercress year-round to consumers and the food service industry. In fact, the agribusiness added several more farms to its collection during the summer of 1998.
More companies are packaging arugula and cilantro now because theyre the latest culinary trends, said Andy Brown, B&Ws director of sales and marketing. But these same people dont generally offer watercress, because its extremely hard to grow.
Meanwhile, B&W has built a reputation as the industry leader in watercress growing and packing innovations, including its voluntary introduction of a comprehensive Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) program and on-site, year-round microbiological lab to ensure superior quality control. The companys sophisticated post-harvest systems enhance the cold chain through the products processing and packing stages, thus extending shelf life.
This one-of-a-kind protocol enables B&W to offer retailers the unique choice of purchasing its star product in several forms, including: traditional 12-or 24-count bunches packed in ice; EuroWrap sleevesalso packed in icewhich offer the convenience of bunched produce in a more appealing, contemporary presentation; and loose leaf cello bags.
Grocers like the value-added feature of our newer product lines, said Brown. They enjoy the flexibility of offering either cello bags or the bouquet effect of our unique EuroWrap sleeves. All retail packs are full-portion size, comparable to traditional bunches. Each offers various levels of shelf life enhancement, striking consumer-oriented graphics, UPC coding, care instructions and contemporary recipes.
Furthermore, the food service industry will soon be able to opt for traditional bunches or one-and two-lb. loose-pack watercress in resealable bags. The institutional-grade polyurethane bags were specially designed to offer chefs more convenience and expanded shelf life, according to Brown, and are the first of their kind for Watercress in the industry.
High volume users have always appreciated the quality and value of our traditional, ice-packed bunches, he said. Now were offering them an appealing alternative that offers the same advantages of their conventional choice plus added protection and extended shelf life.
B&W also exports 25-lb., vacuum-cooled boxes of the watercress to England (birthplace of the worlds first watercress beds), where processing plants mix its watercress into pre-made salads for major British grocery chains.
As the produce industry has become more segmented, growers have found benefit in developing special packs tailored to each markets needs, he said. But no one offers the variety of packaging that we do for these ethnic specialties.
B&W Quality Growers, Inc. is the worlds largest watercress grower. The innovative agribusiness also specializes in growing other highly perishable ethnic vegetables, including arugula, mint and cilantro.
With more than 128 years and five generations of experience in the cultivation, harvest and post-harvest of top-quality, year-round specialty items, B&W (based in Fellsmere, Fla.) remains a family-owned farming entity.