Most Florida strawberries ship to retail customers - The Packer

Most Florida strawberries ship to retail customers

01/04/2011 05:39:38 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

PLANT CITY, Fla. — Retailers have become more invested in Florida’s strawberry deal.

It only seems natural as grower-shippers send an overwhelming majority of their berries to supermarkets and club stores.

Cammy Hinton, office manager for Hinton Farms Produce Inc., said things have changed in supermarket aisles regarding strawberry merchandising.

“There has been a huge improvement over the last five years with the way the chain stores in our area are using our products,” she said.

Doug Ohlemeier

Chuck Moses (left), quality control manager Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, Plant City, Fla., and Neal Palmatier, salesman, view some early season berries in early December. Handlers and growers are telling buyers to expect a strong season.

“They’re staying with our product later in the season and are promoting it. It varies, but it seems like as long as we can provide them with acceptable quality, they’re staying with us a little longer every year.”

Retailers have become bigger customers of Florida strawberries, said Chris Smith, sales manager for BBI Produce Inc., Dover.

“They’re more enthusiastic now and have really come through,” he said.

“They have really done a lot of promotions with this area. Even last season with the tough times we had with the cold, they bailed us out and stuck with us. But our quality was good.”

Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wishnatzki Farms, said strawberries have taken a leading role on supermarket shelves.

“There are so many promotions and (strawberries) have become such a great promotional tool because of their drawing power for consumers,” he said.

“They are a way retailers can get consumers to come into their stores and keep them coming in by promoting them on a regular basis. Strawberries have become one of those items that’s a lead and featured item. Because of that, demand is strong.”

Douglas Ronan, vice president of marketing for Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, Calif., which has operations in Dover, said Florida remains an important component in how Driscoll’s supplies the increasing consumer demand.

“There are certain progressive retailers that really understand the value of featuring that item,” he said.

“They aren’t treating it as a seasonal category anymore. They feature them as something that’s relevant to consumers year-round.”

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