WATSONVILLE, Calif. — Members of California Giant Berry Farm’s bike racing and cyclocross teams aren’t merely people who speed along roadways or trails on bikes.
They’re also ambassadors on wheels who promote the Watsonville, Calif.-based grower-shipper’s brand while showcasing how strawberries and other berries fit into a healthful lifestyle, said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing.
“It’s a great testament to health and fitness and the fact that the guys are dying to eat the berries after the race,” she said. “They really are the billboard for a healthy lifestyle.”
Jewell said cycling fits well into that message because just about everyone owns a bike, which provides low-impact exercise opportunities.
“It’s something that the whole family can do together on the weekend,” she said of cycling.
The cycling teams were the brainchild of Anthony Gallino, vice president of sales, an avid cyclist and former racer.
Road racing involves the lightweight bikes seen in the Tour de France or the Amgen Tour of California.
Along with sponsor Specialized Bicycle Components, Morgan Hill, the Cal Giant road team is designed to develop talented racers under 23 years old, Jewell said. Many participants eventually have turned pro and ridden in international events, such as the Tour de France.
Cyclocross is a hybrid between rugged trails navigated on mountain bikes and the faster paved courses of road racing. The sport, which also typically involves course obstacles, has ballooned in popularity in recent years, especially along the West Coast.
Gallino selects team members from throughout the U.S., works with them and even manages them as they move up the ranks.
Nicknamed the “berries” because of their colorful race attire, members of both teams also attend a Cal Giant-sponsored camp where they learn more about the company and the virtues of strawberries.
“They spend time learning about who we are as a company because one of our expectations is they really are our ambassadors for the brand,” Jewell said.
She said it’s not uncommon to have people in grocery stores or hotels walk up to team members, who are clad in team jackets or other clothing, to ask them questions. Jewell said she also receives frequent e-mails from consumers praising the grower-shipper for supporting cycling.
The latest addition to Cal Giant’s cycling program is the inaugural Tour de Fresh, a three-day ride from Carmel to Anaheim that will finish just before the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit opens Oct. 17. Several other companies have come on board to help sponsor the ride, which will raise money for the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools program.
Without any promotions, the event already has reached a cap of 40 riders, and people are on a waiting list, she said.
“Produce people, retailers and suppliers — they’ve all signed up, and we haven’t gotten our website launched yet,” Jewell said Feb. 27. “We talked about it last year — how fun it would be to get more people into riding. We’re trying to get produce people to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk when it comes to fitness.”