California strawberry business updates

03/27/2013 02:30:00 PM
Tom Burfield

California Giant adds traceback code

California Giant Inc., Watsonville, has launched item-level traceability that allows consumers to learn more about where their strawberries come from, said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing.

Starting this spring, consumers will see a second code in the form of a quick-response code and numerical sequence on the bottom of clamshell containers along with the Universal Product Code, Jewell said. By scanning the QR code or entering the number on the company’s website, consumers can learn where their berries were harvested and other information.

However, the consumer aspect is a secondary goal of the program, Jewell said.

“Our focus on item-level traceability is really about accuracy,” she said. “It gives us a lot more information” and helps pinpoint the source of a problem in the event of a food safety incident or simply a customer complaint about the quality of the berries.

CBS Farms increases organic acreage 30%

CBS Farms, Watsonville, Calif., has increased its organic strawberry acreage by 30%, said Charlie Staka, director of sales. The increase in acreage was the result of customer requests, he said.

The company, which also will have a slight increase in conventional berries, will continue to ship out of Oxnard until mid-May and begin its Watsonville program in April.

Colorful Harvest expands berry crops

Strawberries will remain the No. 1 berry crop at Colorful Harvest LLC, Salinas, Calif., but the company’s blueberry and blackberry crops are continuing to grow, said Doug Ranno, chief operating officer and managing partner.

In fact, blueberries and blackberries account for up to half of the company’s berry program.

The company also is taking steps to improve its land base with higher-quality ranches and by growing on “better, more coveted land,” he said.

Ranno expects steady volume this season from higher caliber farms. He said he considers the heart of the firm’s business to be its berry program and the soul to be its colored vegetables.

Corona Marketing signs new cooler plant

Corona Marketing Co., Santa Maria, Calif., is partnering with a new cooling facility, PSC Cooling LLC, Santa Maria, said Jose Corona, president. The change should enable the company to improve its customer service.

“We have a lot more control over loading times for all of our customers,” Corona said. “We’re able to load our customers as early as they want or as late as they want. We can get people here whenever they’re needed.”

The firm also is expanding its strawberry deal to offer 300 acres of berries year-round. Corona Marketing also is developing a 100-acre organic program that should be ready by next season.

Dole Berry Co. increases acreage

Dole Berry Co. LLC, Salinas, Calif., has increased its Southern California acreage this season and now is shipping organic strawberries out of Santa Maria, said Vince Ferrante, director of farming and harvesting operations. Quality out of all of the California regions so far has been excellent, he said.

“Production has been slow due to the cooler weather,” he said in early March, “but we anticipate the volume to significantly increase post-Easter.”

Los Kitos Produce develops software

Orange, Calif.-based Los Kitos Produce LLC & Farms has developed a software tool to help buyers deal with the volatile strawberry market, said Martha Montoya, founder and chief executive officer. The company was testing the program in early March.

The software analyzes 17 variables that affect the market. Those variables include weather, state of the economy, port activity and consumer behavior. They help growers determine the price they should set or even whether they should harvest their crop.

The purpose of the program is to keep strawberry prices strong and avoid dumping berries on the market, she said. The company expects to make a decision about how and where to distribute the software this spring.

Naturipe uses in-field cooling system

This is the second year

of commercial operation for the in-field cooling system of

Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, said Robert Verloop, executive vice president of marketing.

With this system, he said, “the berries are harvested and cooled in the field and then loaded directly onto the truck for delivery to the client’s warehouse. 

“Numerous studies have shown that the faster you can precool your fruit, you will gain shelf life.”

The in-field cooler will be moved up and down the coast as the season progresses. The first half of the year, it will be based in Oxnard. It will be moved to Salinas for the second half — the late spring and summer season.

Also at Naturipe, in response to market demands, the company continues to increase organic strawberry acreage in the Oxnard and Salinas/Watsonville districts.

Pacific AgPak goes to RPET material

Pacific Agricultural Packaging, Watsonville, Calif., is making its clamshell containers for strawberries with RPET — recycled polyethelene terephthalate — material, said Dave Baum, vice president of sales.

The clamshells are available in 8-ounce and 1-, 2- and 4-pound sizes and feature a water bottle image reflecting the material the containers are made from.

The company also is promoting its high-cube Freight-Buster clamshells, which enable shippers to pack more containers per pallet and maximize truck capacity bringing down freight rates.

Pacific AgPak also has 1- and 2-pound clamshells stacked eight-down that have stacking tabs allowing containers to nest in each other and improve stacking capability, he said.

Red Blossom Sales jumps into Facebook

Salinas, Calif.-based Red Blossom Sales Inc. planned to go live on Facebook in March, said Michelle Deleissegues, director of marketing.

“We’ve had some consumers inquiring about finding us on Facebook, and so we decided to move forward to build dynamic connections with consumers,” she said. “Our initial intention is to create a forum where we can instantly connect with consumers and also give them greater access to Red Blossom.”

Santa Cruz tries pair of organic cultivars

Santa Cruz Berry Farming, Watsonville, Calif., is experimenting with two private cultivars for organic strawberries, said owner Fritz Koontz. The as yet unnamed varieties from Kanaka Peak Research LLC, Watsonville, are characterized by their vibrant color and sweet taste, he said. Eventually the varieties also may be used on the conventional side, he said.

The company also is working on organic raspberries and blackberries with good flavor and good shelf life, Koontz said.

Santa Cruz Berry Farming has about 200 acres of strawberries in Santa Maria, Calif., this season, and will ship out of that area until midsummer. The company’s Watsonville deal will start in April or May.

Well-Pict offers organic strawberries

Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Berries is responding to consumer demand for organic strawberries, said sales manager Dan Crowley.

“As our customers are more readily asking for organic product, we are proud to offer our premium, proprietary strawberries that are grown adhering to the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) guidelines for organic growing,” he said.

Certified organic foods

are grown under strict standards that don’t allow the use of pesticides, he said, and

USDA-certified growers are regularly inspected to ensure they’re operating under the strict standards enforced by the USDA.



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