Andrew & Williamson expands strawberry programs - The Packer

Andrew & Williamson expands strawberry programs

02/10/2012 11:52:00 AM
Tom Burfield

Courtesy Andrew & Williamson Fresh ProduceJose Maria Luna (left), Oxnard, Calif., harvest team leader, and Mario Espinoza, Oxnard general manager for San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, show off some of the firm’s Limited Edition brand strawberries. With growing areas in California, Baja California and central Mexico, San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce has expanded its strawberry program to offer a year-round deal, said Mark Munger, vice president of marketing.

At the same time, the company has doubled its organic strawberry acreage in Baja California and plans to offer a year-round organic program, as well.

The firm already had spring, summer and fall organic programs that are “customer centric,” Munger said, meaning growth is based on demand.

There was some doubt early in the economic downturn whether demand for organic strawberries would continue on its growth path, Munger said. But the company has seen steady growth in the category.

There are some dedicated shoppers who recognize the value of organic produce — especially organic strawberries — when they are available, said John King, vice president of sales.

By providing a consistent offering, the company has helped the category maintain its growth, he said.

The organic program has remained steady and very dependable, he said, and will expand even more with the new Baja acreage.

Some consumers will buy organic strawberries at any price, while others will pick some up when they’re value-priced, he said.

Because it costs more to grow organic strawberries, suppliers must charge a premium for them, Munger said. He added that the price has not affected sales, even during the downturn.

In other news at Andrew & Williamson, the company is adding some new varieties.

Andrew & Williamson is not enamored with proprietary or university varieties, Munger said.

“It’s really about flavor.”

The company has “some terrific proprietary varietal tools,” he said, and uses a combination of sources, including some of its own varietal development programs.

“We’re committed to the best-tasting berries,” King said, adding that proprietary varieties can provide the company with a means of differentiation.

By growing in several areas, the company creates geographic diversity during the volatile spring growing season and provides tools to help minimize weather interruptions, he said.

The company’s Zamora deal in central Mexico from November to March provides a bridge between the Santa Maria, Watsonville and Southern California deals in December and January, King said.

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