( Courtesy California Giant Berry Farms )

California strawberry harvest in the Salinas-Watsonville area kicked off at the end of March, in time to meet increased demand for berries spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volumes of California strawberries will be plentiful this season, according to a news release from California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville.

Nick Chappell, director of retail sales for the berry company, said in the release that Oxnard harvest will peak by mid-April and Santa Maria strawberry volumes are “continuing to increase with volumes unlike we have seen in years.”

“Not only are we about to have momentous supply for our partners during a time of increased retail demand, but all regions are producing exceptional quality to kick-start the spring season.”
Sales data from IRI show that berry category sales for the week ending March 15 saw an increase of almost 32% from the same period in 2019.

 California Giant started an e-mail marketing campaign in late March targeting its most engaged consumers — a.k.a the “Berry Squad” — in the company’s database.

“With the uncertainties and difficulties families are currently facing, we wanted to offer an incentive and support to shoppers that are looking to stock up on fresh, nutritious berries on their grocery runs,” Chappell said in the release.

Digital connectivity and communities are becoming more important as consumers limit contact with others because of the virus. Marketing Manager Morgan Maitoza said a recent customer response statement to consumers and trade customers received a high “open rate” of 43%.

“While routines and realities look very different for families across the nation at this time, our goal is to continue to connect with our shoppers, provide helpful, relatable and comforting content and attainable recipes with ingredients and pantry staples shoppers may already have in their own homes, while adding in the sweetness, diversity and nutritional benefits of berries,” Maitoza said in the release.

In April, California Giant will have a new promotion focusing on heavy volume periods with a “Back to the Basics” theme, as consumers spend more time at home and find comfort in food, according to the release.

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