“Sometimes when we concentrate exports too much to the U.S. — now it’s tomatoes, before it was avocados and others — then it creates a political problem,” Mayorga said through a translator. “We need to diversify our markets, and not only in tomatoes.”
Mayorga, who was already planning a trip to China, got some not especially subtle encouragement from Steta to add berries to his agenda there.
Robert Verloop, executive vice president of marketing for Naturipe Farms LLC, cautioned against a limited view of new markets.
“There are geographic markets, but there are also channels of distribution,” he said. “We’re continuing to see more growth opportunities, especially for blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, in foodservice.”
There’s a premium on quality in foodservice, Verloop said, and the importance of precooling fruit in the field is not widely enough appreciated by suppliers. Naturipe supplies McDonald’s with individual blueberry snack packs for oatmeal.
“As growers we do a great disservice to quality not because of genetics but because of the way we handle our products,” he said. “If we can fix that right from the beginning, it would make a great difference.”
Growers can make volume spikes less painful by focusing on the run-up, Verloop said.
“Six weeks before that peak hits, are we sending consumers great-tasting fruit?” he said, linking flavor to repeat sales. “If we coordinate with the buyers we can anticipate these peaks and make sure the velocity of the marketplace is going long before they hit.”
Speakers at the event included Mark Murai, president of the California Strawberry Commission, and Ed Treacy, vice president of supply chain efficiencies at the Produce Marketing Association.
The theme for the Aneberries congress was responsible production. Sustainability and labor were among the topics.