The supermarket berry patch — a display of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries — rapidly is becoming a way to boost sales of all berry varieties, according to the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.
“This applies more than ever as consumers are increasingly aware of the nutritional impact of all berries,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director.
The berry patch theme is the “go-to-market strategy” at Watsonville-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., said Michael Hollister, vice president of sales and marketing.
That’s because the berry category as a whole has been growing at double digits for the past 10 years, he said, and he expects that trend to continue.
Historically, strawberries have accounted for 75% of total berry sales, Hollister said, but that’s changing.
Current best practices for merchandising, displaying, promoting and advertising berries recommend featuring 50% strawberries and 50% other varieties, he said.
“Now, variety berries are contributing up to 50%, which means there’s a lot more awareness about the whole category,” Hollister said.
Red Blossom Farms, Santa Ynez, Calif., is adding blueberries and blackberries to its product line for the first time this year in order to meet demand and add convenience for customers, said Michelle Deleissegues, director of marketing.
The company will ship blueberries from Argentina, Chile, California, Florida, Oregon and British Columbia.
Red Blossom will source blackberries from Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington.
Well-Pict Inc., Watsonville, added a proprietary raspberry — No. 2933 — to its product line in 2009 and has ramped up acreage in 2010, said Dan Crowley, sales manager.
The new raspberry has the same flavor profile and appearance that the company likes to see in its cultivars, but it’s bigger than most.
“This one has so much better sizing that it’s really going to have a positive impact in the marketplace,” Crowley said.
Well-Pict gradually is switching its older raspberry acreage to the new variety. This season, 70% of the company’s raspberries will be the No. 2933.
“By this time next year, we’ll be 100%,” he said.
Well-Pict also grows blackberries in Watsonville.
Blueberries are a particularly challenging berry to market because they’re grown in many regions, each having a relatively short season, said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing at Watsonville-based California Giant Inc.
They’re available year-round from California, Florida, Argentina, Uruguay, Oregon and New Jersey, she said.
The company also has a year-round blackberry deal, sourcing from California and Mexico, and ships raspberries year-round from Oxnard and the Salinas-Watsonville area, though not always in promotable volume.
The goal of Salinas-based Colorful Harvest LLC is to “build a successful year-round berry program in all berry categories,” said Doug Ranno, chief operating officer and managing partner.
But with weather and availability gaps, “sometimes that doesn’t happen,” he said. “All the rains in Mexico have made the blackberry market challenging this year.” Each year, the company tries to add a couple of new ranches to fill out its year-round strategy, he said.
Hollister agreed blueberries are “probably the most geographically diverse and complicated in planning and execution in the berry patch strategy.”
The peak promotional season for Driscoll’s blueberries is in January with berries from South America, and in June, July and early August from North America, Hollister said.
Driscoll’s is aiming for year-round availability for raspberries, shipping from Mexico, Southern California and the central coast of California with peaks in May, June and July and in September and October.
The company sources blackberries from Central Mexico and Central California with peaks in November and early December and April-May from Mexico and in June, July and August from California.