Retail demand drives Florida strawberry movement

01/04/2013 12:57:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

PLANT CITY, Fla. — Supermarkets remain the most popular destination for Florida strawberries.

Grower-shippers say they ship an estimated 80% to 90% of their berries to that buying segment.

Shawn Pollard, salesman for Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, said retailers do well merchandising Florida berries.

He said he sees large front table displays during his customer visits.

“One thing that helps is there are limited items for retailers to promote during the winter months,” Pollard said. “There are imported items but it benefits us as Florida strawberry producers as they don’t have too many options for promotable items. If we can get that front table display, we get a lot more exposure as it’s the first thing a shopper sees walking into the produce department.”

Chris Smith, sales manager for BBI Produce Inc., Dover, said retailers remain strong on Florida strawberries.

“They are very enthusiastic about berries. It’s their largest category,” he said.

“Even if strawberries aren’t No. 1 in the produce department ... it’s an item people have to pay attention to. It draws people in. When you talk about strawberries, it gets people excited and it’s great to be able to sell something that people really enjoy.”

While retailers remain enthusiastic about promoting Florida strawberries, Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wish Farms, said retail ordering is tightening.

“Lead times seem to be getting longer and longer on the time they need advanced commitments,” he said.

“It does make it a little difficult, especially when you have a well-defined bloom count model where you can provide retailers timely information in three-week windows.”

Wishnatzki said he employs three staffers who count blooms and a market analyst who compiles data to supply retail buyers with volume information.

Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Dover, said retailers usually don’t experience difficulty merchandising strawberries.

“The truth is, strawberries are very easy to merchandise,” he said.

“You just set them out and people buy them. Keeping the display full may be the hardest problem.”

Campbell said he had photographed beautiful store displays featuring large signage with cakes and whipped cream without a berry on the table.

He said if retailers place enough berries on display, shoppers will buy them.

“They’re hungry for them, particularly in Florida,” Campbell said. “As soon as they get into the stores, Florida berries see local popularity as well. That extends up the East Coast.”

Campbell said auxiliary displays and displaying all the berries, including blueberries, blackberries and raspberries together, also works well in merchandising strawberries.



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