CBS Farms plans to open an office in Mexico this summer, after previously working through a subcontractor to source strawberries from Mexico. ( Courtesy CBS Farms )

California Giant starts promotion

Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms has launched a major national promotion and has named a chief operating officer.

The company is inviting foodservice companies to participate in a Top Chef Invitational event in Monterey, Calif., this summer, according to a news release.

Finalists in the promotion, which will run throughout the spring, will be invited July 8-10 to the Tehama Golf Club in Monterey, where they will recreate their winning recipes to be presented to a panel of judges for the title of Top Chef.

Also at California Giant, Joe Barsi has been hired to fill the newly created position of chief operating officer.

Barsi will work with president and CEO Bill Moncovich and business partner Frank Saverina as they consider growth opportunities in the berry category, according to a news release.

Barsi previously served as vice president of business development with California Giant and most recently was president of T&G Global’s North American operations in Wenatchee, Wash.


CBS Farms opens office in Mexico

CBS Farms, Watsonville, Calif., which markets the Beach Street Farms and Colleen strawberry brands, plans to open an office in Mexico this summer, said Charlie Staka, operations manager.

The company previously had a Mexico deal through a subcontractor.

“We are getting more involved in Mexico,” he said. “We decided to do everything on our own.”

CBS Farms will ship out of Mexico from October until early April but will continue to grow in California year-round.

“We have Mexico for supplemental volume for customers,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of volume out of California during the winter months.”


Growth continues at Gem Pack LLC

Irvine, Calif.-based Gem Pack LLC is one of the few companies that is increasing its strawberry acreage in California, said Paul Kawamura, director of sales.

Formed in 2016 by three family growers, the company is going very well, he said.

“We’ve been consistently growing every year,” Kawamura said. “We’re trying to grow at a pace that’s comfortable and not take on too much at one time.”

While each of the companies involved — Orange County Produce LLC, Fujishige Farms Inc. and Mike Etchandy Farms Inc. — ships the Gem Pack label, each has retained its own identity.

Kawamura sees a bright future despite challenges with water, labor and rising costs in California.

“We feel there’s a great opportunity, especially in the next three to five years, to really position ourselves to be a long-term player in the industry,” he said.


Oppy continues Ocean Spray deal

This will be the first full California season that The Oppenheimer Group will have its Ocean Spray strawberry program in place, said Jason Fung, category development director for the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company.

“It’s something we launched late last year with great success,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable label with a lot of brand recognition.”

Oppy had marketed California strawberries for about five years and was looking for ways to “bring a new branding initiative” to its berry category,” Fung said.

The company has represented Ocean Spray fresh cranberries for nearly 20 years.


Success Valley cuts freight cost

Success Valley Produce LLC, Oxnard, Calif., has a clamshell container it calls the “freight buster” that can save thousands of dollars on freight costs, said Backus Nahas, director of marketing.

The 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-pound packages fit in trays designed for standard 1- and 2-pound clamshells, but they’re packed in an eight-down footprint, 144 or 160 packages per pallet versus 108 packages for traditional clamshells, he said.

“We’re putting 40,000 pounds of strawberries on every single truck,” he said — 30% more than with the traditional format.

That can equal a freight savings of about 75 cents to $1 per tray, Nahas said.

The company packs about 60% of its 1- and 2-pound clamshells in the new containers, he said.