Berry supply is still consistent in the marketplace from both Salinas and Santa Maria, California with the transition period to Mexico approaching at the beginning of November. “Supply is pretty good. At this point we still have promotable volume that we’re shipping out of Santa Maria and Salinas,” said Cindy Jewell of California Giant Berry Farms. Jewel says because volume is decreasing in general with all shippers it’s helping to firm up the price of strawberries. “Prices are good and it’s helping keep the market steady.” According to the California Strawberry Commission, 2016 California fresh volume of 4,407,433 trays is above the projected total of 2,639,085 trays for the week ending October 8.
Mexico has just begun starting shipment, followed soon by Florida, looking like a smooth transition out of California. “Customers should be able to keep berries on display whether they’re from California, Florida or Mexico. That’s ideal,” said Jewell. There is also a good amount of blackberries coming out of Santa Maria and Mexico for the company, which focuses on unique promotion of all of its berry varieties. “We’re doing a lot to keep berries in the shopping cart and on the menus, especially as the holidays approach.”
Coming up with new ideas on how consumers can incorporate berries into savory menus is currently highlighted in their social media, like pumpkin and butternut squash recipes that also use blackberries. The Halloween Scary Berry promo offers consumers ideas on how to use berries in desserts and other dishes. “We’re trying to make sure we’ve got plenty of opportunity for consumers to keep us on the plate. One of the things we like to do year-round is work with other produce companies and promote our berries along with other fresh items. Our goal is to keep the consumer in the produce department as long as possible.”
Supply is also very good on blueberries from Argentina; Chile will start in a couple of weeks. “We have a strong season ahead on those. Volume is good; we’re getting shipments in on a daily basis now so it really helps to round things out when we’re loading trucks.” Being able to put strawberries, blackberries and blueberries all on the same truck is key and it also helps to keep display space large and allocated to berries.
There have been challenges in labor; something Jewell hopes gets ironed out in Washington, DC soon. “It was a definite issue in Salinas this year,” she said. “If immigration reform doesn’t happen soon it could definitely affect how farmers consider planting in the future. If they can’t get their crop harvested they’re not going to be able to plant the acreage they desire.”
One of the continued growth areas is the expansion of organic. What they are doing right now is going towards more organic fruit. They increase their organic acreage every year. “We try to make a concerted effort to transition any ground that we have that’s near schools to organic. We have a lot of ground right now that’s in transition.” Another key component that considers schools is the company’s California Giant Foundation, which hosts the annual Tour de Fresh. The program promotes salad bars in schools and so far it has raised $500,000 and placed 130 salad bars in schools across the USA.
For more information:
Cindy Jewell, Vice President of Marketing
California Giant Berry Farms
Ph: (831) 728-1773