Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Berries has year-round supplies of conventional and organic strawberries. ( Well-Pict Berries )

California Giant plans big for holidays

For Valentine’s Day, California Giant centered strawberry promotions around the Galentine’s Day theme, which is one of the trending marketing campaigns in the U.S., said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Inc., Watsonville.

“We want to keep (consumers) engaged and keep the coming back to Cal Giant as a brand,” she said.

Cal Giant will also expand its marketing program with Ibotta, which is a consumer app that provides shoppers instant rebates on consumer brands when they scan their receipts.

Cal Giant Galentines promo
California Giant centered Valentine's Day strawberry promotions around the Galentine’s Day theme, which is one of the trending marketing campaigns in the U.S.

She said Cal Giant has participated in the app for a couple of years and received great analytics from it, allowing the company to see where specific consumers are buying the berries and using the rebate.

That allows Cal Giant to share the information with our retailer partners, she said.

“This year we are spending a little more money with (Ibotta) and making it a national campaign,” she said.

Weather conditions are bringing fruit on early this year as compared to the wet winter last year.

In late January, Cal Giant shipped strawberries out of the Oxnard district, in addition to volume from Florida and Mexico.

The firm has decreased its acreage in Oxnard a bit this year, she said, because of the district’s shorter production window.

The firm’s Santa Maria district output will begin in early February and could continue all the way to November. About 40% of the firm’s volume comes from Santa Maria and 40% from Watsonville, she said.

Cal Giant has organic strawberry volume, mostly in Watsonville and Santa Maria.

This year, one of the steps California Giant has taken is to convert any strawberry fields near schools or daycare to organic production.


Strawberry commission revamps website

The California Strawberry Commission has revamped its industry-focused website to make it more interactive and useful, said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the Watsonville-based commission.

The website provides weekly strawberry shipment data and acreage information and also features helpful resources relating to workforce development, training, production research, water management and other topics.

“We have also added a tab on automation, as automation is one of the industry’s top priorities. The commission hosted an automation summit on Jan. 11 at Cal Poly University.

She said the commission continues to invest in research and promote the health benefits of strawberries to consumers and dietitians.

The commission offers a resource kit to dietitians about research linking strawberries to health benefits and the commission dedicates part of its website to display the latest research on the health benefits of strawberries.

The commission is promoting the theme of strawberries as a “super snack” this year.


Naturipe Farms running early

Naturipe Farms has enjoyed its best ever start to the season, said Vinnie Lopes, vice president of Western sales for Naturipe Farms LLC, Salinas, Calif.

“Our southern California fields are a month ahead of last year due to a drier, warmer winter,” Lopes said Feb. 5, and he said the trend is likely to continue through February and possibly into the spring.

Santa Maria began a month early and Watsonville was expected to begin ahead of normal timing.

Naturipe Farms will offer marketing programs designed to help retailers sell more strawberries through social media support and signage, Lopes said.

Naturipe expects organic strawberry volumes to be similar to last year with a potential increase because of California’s ideal winter weather conditions, Lopes said.


Red Blossom looks for strong volume

Craig Casca, vice president and head of markets for Los Olivos, Calif.-based Red Blossom, said Santa Maria is the only district in which the company has strawberries in California.

Harvest was beginning for the company in Santa Maria in early February with light volume. The firm’s acreage in Santa Maria totals about 850 acres.

The company’s fresh season will run from early February through July 4, after which berries harvested will be sent to the freezer.

The company expects to market about 4 to 4.5 million flats of conventional strawberries out of Santa Maria.


Well-Pict fills year-round demand

Dan Crowley, vice president of sales for Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Berries, said the company has year-round supplies, marketing its berries from California, Florida and Baja California, Mexico.

The firm has year-round supply of organic strawberries, representing about 10% of the firm’s total strawberry volume.

The company grows all proprietary varieties for its strawberry and raspberry offerings in California and Baja California and expects to offer its proprietary varieties in Florida by next season after seven years of researching varieties there, he said.

In California, Well-Pict first has production from Oxnard and then transitions to Santa Maria and Watsonville. As Watsonville starts tapering off in the fall, Well-Pict transitions back to Oxnard for the fall crop.