(Jan. 20) IRVINE, Calif. — Orange County Produce and Beach Street Farms are expanding a strawberry packing partnership begun last year.

Under the agreement, Orange County Produce is packing early-season strawberries for Watsonville-based Beach Street, which traditionally has focused on the later-season fruit produced in the northern part of California’s strawberry growing region.

Matt Kawamura, marketing director for Orange County Produce, didn’t specify how many boxes Orange County planned to pack for Beach Street this year. But he said this year was a good year to expand packing under the agreement because Orange County Produce’s acreage was up 70 acres and he expected volumes to be higher, as well.

“Last year we didn’t start packing for them until February, but we’ve already done quite a bit this year in January,” Kawamura said Jan. 15. “I can see us doing more and more for them each year.”


Fritz Koontz, marketing director for Beach Street, approached Orange County Produce last year about packing private label for Beach Street during the early season, Kawamura said. Beach Street was interested in providing strawberries to its customers for a longer window of time. Beach Street, in turn, packed some later-season berries for Orange County Produce, as well.

“Their customers are looking for the best-quality product early in the season, and the fruit in Orange County is the best early-season berries. And they would like to maintain the Beach Street label that they’ve had success with,” Kawamura said. “So in addition to what we do for ourselves, we pack in their label. We’re willing to pack anything they need.”

Koontz could not be reached for comment.

“We’re working really well together,” Kawamura said. “They’re great people. They’re owned by their growers, and so are we. With the consolidation on both the retail and the supplier side, it was nice when Beach Street approached us.”


In other news, Stephanie Hilton, who left the California Strawberry Commission late last year to start the Charlotte, N.C.-based Hilton Marketing, has picked up Beach Street as her first client.

Hilton said she was delighted to work with Beach Street and, through it, Orange County Produce.

“Beach Street contacted me about growing their marketing program,” Hilton said. “I’m so excited. They’re a great company, and they have a great product.”