Rooting thousands of strawberry plants on elevated tables the first week of October, Oppy, under the Ocean Spray license, will launch its first specialty berry pack in the Happy Berry label this month.
The hydroponic tabletop strawberry concept was developed by New Wave Berry, LLC, a joint venture formed by grower, marketer and distributor Oppy, agricultural investment firm Farmers Gate and family-owned agribusiness Red Dog Management, who is growing the crop in Santa Maria, CA.
The newly-constructed high tunnel facility grows protected strawberries on tables raised to chest height, making labor more ergonomically friendly for those planting, tending and harvesting the berries. Growing hydroponically also requires fewer inputs than field-grown strawberries — because they are elevated, the ground beneath them does not require intense fumigation between planting cycles typically applied in traditional production.
The high tunnel facility grows protected strawberries on tables raised to chest height.
“Berry consumption continues to rise, outpacing the growth of other fruit items,” said Jason Fung, vice-president of categories and strategy. “While we’re very encouraged to see this as macro-level trends facing the industry like land availability, labor, water, sustainability and beyond continue to raise challenges. This new way of growing is really going to change things.”
That future relies heavily on sustainability, Fung noted, sharing that a recent study undertaken by Measure to Improve revealed that the equipment and materials used in the production of a pound of Happy Berry strawberries entail 20 percent less plastic than field-grown strawberries. Tabletop berries are grown in seamless troughs with a precise irrigation system that safeguards water reclamation and optimization.
Jason Fung (above) says tabletop growing is going to change things.
“We know it can be difficult to introduce something new that consumers aren’t typically familiar with,” shared Fung. “Trust goes a long way to motivate a purchase decision, which is why licensing Ocean Spray’s logo helps encourage consumers to pick up a new item.”
Oppy’s marketing team has been holding onto the Happy Berry sub-brand for a number of years — saving it for a berry concept worthy of the name said Fung. Today, the premium gold label appearing on the 12-oz. clamshell features not only the Ocean Spray brand, under trademark license from Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., and popular Happy Berry label, but also key hydroponic call-outs and a QR code to educate consumers on the growing method.
The 12-oz. clamshell features key hydroponic call-outs and a QR code to educate consumers on the growing method.
Bringing berries to the market for several years with Oppy, Red Dog Management owners Greg and Donna France said, “It’s been an exciting project to get off the ground.” They also noted there has been remarkable interest from domestic workers to be a part of this line, considering labor is less arduous.