Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce remains confident the market has room to absorb larger volumes of Mexico-grown blackberries.
One indication of that is the addition of an 8-acre organic deal this winter in Zamora, Mexico. Hardly huge, but Andrew & Williamson had no organic blackberries in Mexico last year. Like its conventionally grown strawberries in the same region, the blackberries are expected to run from November through April.
Several Mexican growers attending the Aneberries AC congress of berries exporters in Guadalajara in October said they worried price drops during peak production periods suggest blackberries may be overplanted.
But John King, vice president of sales at San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson, sees room to grow.
“There’s a tremendous growth in consumption of blackberries thanks to the abundant supplies in the winter,” King said. “All the big retailers are planning promotions because they know the supplies are reliable and quality and flavor are very good. We’re not concerned about an oversupply and an inability to sell them.”
“It’s just a matter of planning to get in front of it and make sure there’s business there,” he said. “With the right amount of planning, we’re excited about blackberry opportunities for winter. You just have to get the right information on what the volume is going to be and promote it. All the retailers had fantastic sales last winter on blackberries.”
Conventional strawberries, also grown in Zamora, are on the rise too for Andrew & Williamson, up 30% over last year. Its organic strawberries come from the grower-shipper’s Baja California berry production.
Geographic diversification to keep adequate supplies in case of weather-caused shortages is Andrew & Williamson’s policy with tomatoes as well as berries.
Winter tomatoes start in early December in Baja and Culiacan, keeping some overlap to assure a smooth transition. They’re grown hydroponically in Baja and a mix of greenhouse and open field on the mainland.
“We’re up about 25% this year on both the organic roma and the organic grape tomatoes,” King said. “Customers are asking for it. We see tremendous growth in the organic category, so it’s a nice complement to our conventional.”
Heirloom tomato production also is on the rise at Andrew & Williamson.
“We’ve been searching for better tasting tomatoes through the years, and although they’re very perishable heirlooms certainly have great flavor,” he said.
Heirloom production in Baja will run through the winter season.