The California strawberry harvest continues on track for another record volume.
Grower-shippers harvested 15 million more trays during the first half of the year than they did during the same period last year, said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing for the California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville.
The second half of the year appears as if it will be equally productive, grower-shippers said.
The record volume is generating record sales, and grower-shippers give much of the credit to their customers.
“We’re getting great support from retailers this year for the whole category,” said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Inc., Watsonville.
One concept that has met with retail success is an end-table display — known as berry patch — that features several berry varieties, said Dan Crowley, sales manager for Well-Pict Inc., Watsonville.
Innovative merchandising on the part of grower-shippers also has helped to boost movement. Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC is wrapping up its third on-pack coupon program, said Robert Verloop, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
The national retailer-specific campaign began in May. Naturipe offered a discount on its blueberries when a shopper purchased a box of Ziploc storage bags, he said. The second phase of the program offered a discount on Naturipe strawberries with a Ziploc purchase.
The final phase began in late July, Verloop said, and weds two Naturipe products. Consumers get a discount on blueberries with the purchase of Naturipe strawberries.
“The program has been so successful that we already have commitments for next year,” Verloop said. “We plan to expand the on-pack coupon program.”
Variety bridges supply gap
It was Well-Pict’s plant breeders who were able to come up with new proprietary varieties of raspberries that have given the variety a nice boost.
“Traditionally our raspberry fields produced very well in May-June and again in August-September, but there was a large gap in July,” Crowley said.
After field trials, the company planted the new varieties in microclimates that transformed the July raspberry gap into a slight dip, he said, and the August-September peak now continues into October.
What may be surprising about the record volume and sales of California strawberries is that other varieties also are doing well. It is not a surprise to Jewell.
“I think people who like berries just eat more of them if there’s greater availability and good quality and flavor,” she said.