Bee Sweet Citrus President Jim Marderosian first opened the doors of the company in 1987 as an independent packer and shipper of California oranges. As time progressed and consumer needs shifted, the citrus line expanded to include approximately 10 different varieties.
Now a successful year-round operation, Bee Sweet ships throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and several Pacific Rim countries, including Japan. “We offer customers a 12-month citrus program and still offer personal customer service and a heartfelt commitment to each of our growers and buyers,” said Monique Bienvenue, Director of Communications & Compliance.
Bee Sweet Citrus has experienced steady growth during its 35 years in operation and is particularly proud of a handful of accomplishments realized over the last half-dozen years or so. A few recent highlights include:
2015: Bee Sweet Citrus donates $1 million to Valley Children’s Pediatric Center in Fowler, Calif.
2015: Bee Sweet Citrus installs solar panels on its packing facility to offset its use of electricity
2017: Bee Sweet Citrus begins to utilize an innovative automatic palletization system
2019: Bee Sweet Citrus donates a state-of-the-art pack line to the students of California State University, Fresno
2020: Bee Sweet Citrus builds a new wash line in Nipomo, Calif.
2021: Bee Sweet Citrus revamps its label to reflect a new, modernized brand
2022: Bee Sweet Citrus begins construction on a new, state-of-the-art mandarin facility.
“When Bee Sweet Citrus first opened its doors, we only worked with oranges. As citrus became more of a household staple for many families, however, we expanded our citrus line to include lemons, mandarins and specialty citrus varieties during California’s citrus domestic season,” said Bienvenue. “Now, we offer our customers a 12-month citrus program to meet the needs of families year-round, and supplement our citrus line with Chilean product during the summer months when domestic fruit is unavailable or scarce.”
As a family owned and operated company, Bee Sweet sees its value proposition as understanding how important it is to provide families with fresh citrus year-round. “Our employees work hard to make sure that every piece of fruit that leaves our facility not only meets, but exceeds, our expectations in taste and quality, and customer service remains top priority for our team,” she said.
Bee Sweet also touts its one-stop shop as a major selling point. “All our customers can also conveniently pick up our varieties at one central location off California Highway 99 and can rely on our sales team for timely information regarding field and shipping updates,” Bienvenue reported.
She noted that one of the company’s newest initiatives is the recent revamping of its label to give it a more modernized feel. With decorative citrus slices displayed on the packaging of each variety and a dashed lined that draws the eye to the company logo, the label was strategically designed to educate shoppers about the varieties in each package, and to remind customers about Bee Sweet’s ability to grow, pack and ship numerous varieties year-round.
Another initiative is the expansion of the packing facility in Fowler, to include a state-of-the-art mandarin line. At more than 200,000 square feet, this new facility will include best-in-class pre-sort and pack lines, cold storage and a shipping dock.
As Bee Sweet looks down the road, the company expects the California citrus crop to maintain its current role in the industry with mandarins continuing to gain sales. “While we don’t anticipate too much changing, we do believe that the mandarin variety will continue to grow as a class, domestically,” Bienvenue said. “Over the last few years, the popularity of mandarins has skyrocketed, and we anticipate that trend to continue as parents continue to invest in the health of their families.”
Of course, like other California farmers, Bee Sweet must contend with several challenges, but the citrus producer does so with a sense that the glass is half full. “Finding skilled, experienced labor remains a challenge, as well as adhering to constant changes to laws and regulations,” she said. “Nonetheless, we always adapt and remain optimistic for the future.”
As a member of Western Growers for much of those three-plus decades, Bee Sweet appreciates the organization’s commitment to agriculture. “Western Growers is a premier industry organization, and we are proud to be a member,” Bienvenue said. “The amount of professional resources that are available for members is outstanding, and we utilize many of them regularly.”