Grower-shippers are adding raspberry volume along with that of other bush berries as they continue to grow in popularity. ( Courtesy Wish Farms )

Not long ago, strawberries were considered the mainstay of the berry category, and bush berries were something consumers might pick up for an occasional treat.

But that scenario gradually has changed.

Today, “All four berry types are becoming more of an everyday fruit for the consumer rather than a special-occasion fruit,” said Cindy Jewell, vice president of marketing for Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms.

Summer is peak season for domestically grown blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, she said. And consumption continues to increase.

“The bush berries are definitely taking some of the display space share away from strawberries in the summertime,” Jewell said, though strawberry consumption continues to trend upward as well.

New Jersey conventional and organic blueberry production was expected to begin in mid-June, said Bob Von Rohr, marketing and customer relations manager for Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J.

The bush berries are definitely taking some of the display space share away from strawberries in the summertime.

“Everything looks promising,” he said in early June.

Duke and blue crop are the major blueberry varieties grown in New Jersey.

“They’re known for their size and flavor,” Von Rohr said.

Most of the state’s blueberries are handpicked, and they should be available until the end of July, he said, with good availability expected for the Fourth of July.

MBG Marketing, Grand Junction, Mich., likely will start sourcing blueberries from Michigan the last week of June with volume peaking from the third week of July until mid-August, said CEO Larry Ensfield.

The company also sources blueberries from several other states and British Columbia.

“The crop looks really good,” Ensfield said.

July is peak season for Oregon blueberries, said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Salem-based Oregon Blueberry Commission.

Everybody in the Northwest should be significantly up.

“We’ll be rocking and rolling” by July Fourth, he said, but ample supplies should be available through the first half of August.

Volume starts to taper off by Labor Day, but there are late varieties that continue into September or early October, until the rains come on.

Ostlund expects strong production this year.

“Everybody in the Northwest should be significantly up,” he said.

If the weather cooperates, Oregon growers could see a record 125 million pounds this season, he said.

Washington growers could produce as much as 130 million pounds, Ostlund said.

Hillsboro-based Oregon Berry Packing Co. should be harvesting blueberries by June 20, said Trevor Abell, international sales director.

“The crop looks very good this year,” he said.

He expects higher volume than last year because of new, higher-yielding varieties and because the company is seeking more volume for exports, which account for about half of the company’s blueberry production.

“Sizing looks really good, and, at this point, quality looks exceptional,” he said.

Raspberries are looking really good right now.

The season’s outlook for raspberries and blackberries also was positive.

“Raspberries are looking really good right now,” Jim Grabowski, director of marketing for Watsonville-based Well-Pict Inc., said in early June.

The company started picking its proprietary raspberries in Watsonville in early May, he said, and should continue to ship them from California until late October or early November.

At California Giant, Jewell said she expected volume of blackberries to continue to increase weekly until late June or early July before leveling off.

As is the case with strawberries, pack sizes for bush berries tend to increase as volume picks up.

New Jersey growers ship blueberries in pint, quart, 2-pound, 2.5-pound packages “and a couple of sizes in between,” said Denny Doyle, chairman of the New Jersey Blueberry Advisory Council, Hammonton, and owner of D.G. Doyle Farms LLC, New Lisbon, N.J.

“It just depends on what the buyer wants,” he said.

California Giant ships raspberries and blackberries in 12-ounce clamshells at times during the season, Jewell said.

 
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