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Breeder grows new, red celery

In this photo provided by Duda Farm Fresh Foods, celery breeder Larry Pierce holds red celery in a Salinas, Calif., field in August. Pierce started the project in 1991.  (Associated Press)
In this photo provided by Duda Farm Fresh Foods, celery breeder Larry Pierce holds red celery in a Salinas, Calif., field in August. Pierce started the project in 1991. (Associated Press)
Steve Karnowski Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS – Is America ready for red celery? A Florida produce company thinks so and has bet consumers will bite on the colorful crunch of its new product.

Red celery will hit selected supermarkets Dec. 1 – in time to add some eye-catching color to holiday tables, said Dan Duda, president of Duda Farm Fresh Foods, which was set to unveil the new celery at a trade show this weekend.

“It’s bright, it’s red, it’s different, it’s unique,” said Duda, who added that it has the same flavor and crunch of regular green celery.

It was nearly 20 years in the making, he said. One of the company’s celery breeders, Larry Pierce, started developing it in 1991, working off a European heritage variety using natural breeding methods.

Red celery will be test marketed first on the West Coast and in the Northwest and Southwest, Duda said. It will carry a premium price that will vary by location as they gauge how much extra shoppers are willing to pay. It will be rolled out nationwide sometime later.

Duda declined to go into much detail about the company’s marketing plans for competitive reasons and would not say which retailers would carry it or specify which cities.

U.S. consumers used an average of just over 6 pounds of fresh celery per person last year, compared with about 8 pounds of fresh carrots, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 2009 celery crop totaled 1.97 billion pounds, valued at $364.8 million.

Based in Oviedo, Fla., Duda Farm Fresh Foods cultivates 39,000 acres of produce in Florida, Georgia, California, Arizona and Michigan and ranks as one of the world’s largest celery producers.

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