Pero Family Farms Is The 2015 Grower Achievement Award Recipient
From the production of green beans to sweet peppers to everything in between, Pero Family Farms works as a team, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when noting the accomplishments of American Vegetable Grower’s® 2015 Grower Achievement Award recipient.
This Delray Beach, FL-based operation is vertically integrated, from developing some of its own equipment and production tools, to being hands-on with varietal development, packaging innovation, and marketing. In fact, the farm owners are known for their value-added products and they are constantly thinking about the “next big thing.” While juggling these tasks, the Peros remain steadfast in their commitment to promote nutrition.
Reaching Goals Through Teamwork
This fourth-generation farm is operated by the children of Peter Pero III (who goes by Peter Jr.), and it is his namesake son, Peter Pero IV, who carries the title of CEO. (See “Pero Family Farms At A Glance.”) In spite of his rank in the company, Peter IV is the first one to say the farm’s success is the result of teamwork. He is quick to praise his family and the farm’s employees for their dedication and hard work.
In fact, when asked how he feels about being the recipient of the 2015 Grower Achievement Award, Peter says: “We are very honored as a family to receive this award. You can’t do it without family and great employees. The bottom line is everyone contributes to the organization to make it great.”
By all accounts, Peter is right. You can’t succeed without hard-working people and his family farm is a perfect example of that. The farm has come a long way from its beginnings in the early 1900s. The business actually started in New York, led by Peter’s great-grandfather, producing fruits and vegetables on about 1,500 acres. Today, with its headquarters in Delray Beach, the vegetable acreage figure tops 19,000, and the farm supplies year-round markets.
In the early 1980s, the Peros decided to move the operation from New York to Florida and entrench themselves in fresh-market production. In the mid-1980s, Peter and his siblings took ownership of the farm.
What prompted the decision to move to Florida and go after the fresh market? According to Peter, it was his vision to have a branded vegetable company and convert it to fresh vegetables.
“We have the tools to do that,” he explains. “Technology leads our business as we are vertically integrated, focusing on our machinery and proprietary farming practices. Plus, we develop our own [varieties] and do a lot of research ourselves.”
Part of that research included determining if getting into fresh-cut vegetables would be a wise decision. For the Peros, it was.
“That was my goal for many years: to have the consumer eat fresh-cut vegetables,” Peter explains. “The challenge lies in how you package [the vegetable] so it is convenient for [the consumer] and in an attractive package so the consumer grabs the product from the store shelf.”
A Packaging Pioneer
The farm is a noted leader in the fresh-cut category and often is first to market with new products. Peter says the miniature sweet peppers are a good example of how the Peros are pioneers in the industry, committed to bringing new and healthy products to market.
Peter recalls how the mini-sweet pepper product got off the ground.
“My brother and I just happened to spot some mini-peppers in the middle of a pepper field, and we wanted to see if we could grow [minis] consistently,” he says. “The mini pepper product had been in the works for 15 years before we [brought it to] market.”
Today, the farm’s mini-sweet pep-pers are available in 2-pound bags, 8-ounce bags, and 1-pint clamshells.
“It took a while for consumers to realize the value of [the mini-peppers], but today our brand is well recognized. We own 38% of the market share of mini-sweet peppers. We see a lot of opportunities with the peppers and we are now launching a pepper-snack product for schools,” he explains.
Peter attributes the farm’s increase in sales of value-added vegetable products to the trust they have earned from customers.
“It is all about producing a quality product and that includes food safety, which is a top priority in our organization,” he says.
In fact, the farm’s marketing arm, Pero Vegetable Company, changed its name to Pero Family Farms Food Company a few years ago “to really have the consumer know who we are, which also helps with marketing,” Peter explains.
The Importance Of Nutrition
The Peros have done a good job earning the trust of several school districts in Florida, too. In fact, the operation has worked with the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, on the state’s Farm to School program.
Childhood nutrition is something close to Peter’s heart.
“I want to teach children how to eat healthy by offering nutritious foods that will combat obesity. We are looking to package fun and healthy vegetable snacks. If you teach kids how to eat healthy when they are young, they will develop a healthy lifestyle. That is something I am driving with our company and with our product development.”
A couple of the farm’s healthy snacks made their debut this summer at the Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Expo in Monterey, CA. The Peros unveiled snack and lunch packs of ready-to-eat Mini-Sweet Pepper Snack Rings and Green Bean Snack Snips that will be available at retail outlets across the country in the near future.
Peter hopes the snack packs will resonate with kids. “We wanted to offer something that was convenient for kids to grab and eat,” he adds.
The Freshness Factor
While driving the convenience and health messages home, the farm’s “Pero Healthy Box,” which is chock full of fresh vegetables that can be shipped to your door, also is resonating with consumers.
Created in 2008, the Pero Healthy Box is now taking off, thanks to the recent surge in online shopping, Peter says. The Peros work with retailers such as Sam’s Club to have the produce shipped to customers’ homes within one or two days. The Healthy Box mainly features packages of fresh-cut beans, peppers, and squash. Consumers can choose conventional or organic produce, and the packages are microwavable.
“We see the younger generation doing most of their shopping online, so we had to work with the retailers to make sure they are connected with Healthy Box,” he adds.
A Diverse Future
Continuing to offer the highest quality produce and have it available in many package sizes is a key goal propelling Pero Family Farms forward. Being diverse with crop offerings and selling in various markets also has helped the farm’s bottom line over the years.
In fact, Peter says diversity will be the key to the farm’s success in the future. He wants the Pero Family Farms brand to be the leading brand for health and nutrition in the nation.
With the fifth generation now becoming entrenched in the business, the Peros are well on their way to further developing brands and spreading the nutrition message.
“The plan is to stay here, farm, and help protect agriculture,” he says.
Now that sounds like a well thought-out plan.