Sourcing from a variety of regions is a balancing act for achieving consistent quality from season to season, according to blueberry marketing agents.
“It’s all about people, making sure you have the right people growing it,” said Cindy Jewell, marketing director for California Giant Inc., Watsonville.
“Also, that far away from us, we have staff down there inspecting product as it comes into the dock, inspecting it before it gets on the boat and once it arrives, inspecting it again. You’ve got to maintain that quality.”
Adding to the challenge is bringing in an array of blueberry varieties, which is ongoing, said Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C.
“They’re working with many of the newer varieties and have put in a great deal of investment,” Honigberg said.
“Remember, most of these fields are quite new. That’s part of the challenge. And they have put quite a lot of investment in the plants, fields and pack houses. So, they’re fully capable of maintaining quality standards and meeting any quality standards out there.”
Sun Belle, which opened Sun Belle Argentina about five years ago, ships misty, emerald, o’neal, millennia, jewel and star blueberry varieties from that country.
Meeting phytosanitary requirements also adds to challenges in achieving consistent quality, said Bruce Turner, head of operations for Giumarra VBM International Berry LLC, Vernon, Calif.
“Anytime you’re dealing with fumigation, you’re always going to have some challenges,” he said.
“But you can overcome that with good QC (quality control). You’ve got to have good QC on the packing line. If you put up good-quality fruit, it’s got to be good-quality fruit when it gets here.”
Quality-control systems catch problems early, so retailers don’t have to deal with them, Turner said.
“The QC programs in place probably rejected a fair amount of fruit and left it down there, which is the right thing to do. Don’t put air freight on there that could lead to problems,” he said.