The spring rollout of Berry Almond Chicken Salad and the summer launch of a Wild Berry Frosty Parfait by Atlanta-based The Wendy’s Co. show the progress the berry category is making in the foodservice industry, grower-shippers say.
The salad features a cup of blueberries and strawberries, and the frosty is “layered with real berry puree” and topped with whole blueberries and fresh, hand-sliced strawberries, the company said.
Strawberries are sourced from California, and blueberries come from several growing areas, depending on availability. The strawberries are sliced fresh in each of the company’s 6,300 restaurants.
The deal is so significant that even companies that don’t do business with Wendy’s should be pleased, said Dan Crowley, sales manager for Well-Pict Inc., Watsonville, Calif.
“That’s got to be very good news for the industry,” he said, since Wendy’s is a major foodservice player.
Foodservice business remains strong for Colorful Harvest LLC, Salinas, Calif., said Doug Ranno, chief operating officer and managing partner.
“We have had consistent growth with foodservice customers and lots of good feedback on our red-all-the-way-through strawberry varieties,” he said.
Foodservice growth slowed for a couple of years but is coming back in a big way, said Robert Verloop, executive vice president of marketing for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.
“The expansion was slower than we would have liked, but it has come back with a vengeance,” he said.
Sales are up significantly over last year, he said, largely because consumers are asking for more fresh fruits and vegetables on their plates.
When it comes to strawberries, foodservice operators have their preferences, said Michelle Deleissegues, marketing director for Oxnard, Calif.-based Red Blossom Farms.
“The one consistent request we receive from foodservice accounts is the preference of the albion variety due to its sweet flavor,” she said.
Berry preferences go beyond strawberries, though.
“I think there’s more interest in blueberries from foodservice today than yesterday,” said Mike Klackle, vice president of berry sales for Curry & Co. LLC, Brooks, Ore.
“It’s just not strawberries anymore.”
Chefs are getting more innovative with all kinds of berries, he said. They use them in salads, sauces and meal parts other than desserts.
Brian Ostlund, executive director of the Oregon Blueberry Commission, Salem, said demand for blueberries has picked up because of the healthy eating/anti-obesity trend, the increase in the number of baby boomers who crave them and the versatility of the berries.
Fortunately, growers have been able to keep with that demand, he said, adding that the category growth won’t be slowing anytime soon.
“Berries are trendy right now,” said Doug Perkins, managing director for HBF International LLC, Sheridan, Ore.
The company even has been selling a lot of currants and gooseberries to foodservice accounts.
“They’re healthy, good tasting, and people want something different,” he said.