Keep the cold chain top of mind to maximize your berry profits.

Summer is just around the corner, and shoppers are already scooping up those fresh ripe strawberries for picnics, seasonal desserts and eating out of hand. While summertime is the period of peak popularity for this traditional favorite, it’s also the time when strawberries can be most vulnerable. The same hot weather that produces such great fruit also poses a challenge to distributors and retailers. This is why produce managers need to keep the “cold chain” top of mind as the weather gets warmer – to maintain berries at peak quality, and thereby make the most of your berry profits.

Why is the cold chain so important for strawberries?  Since strawberries are picked when ripe, the race is on to get them cooled, shipped and delivered to retail stores. For the best quality and longest shelf life, berries need to be chilled to the optimum temperature of 33°F. Then the cold chain must be held uninterrupted along the various stages of delivery, from harvest to retail display. Fortunately, modern methods and technology have been developed to protect this delicate fruit throughout its journey.

What are the basic steps of the cold chain? Typically, strawberries are packed directly into plastic clamshells right in the field, then held in flats. At Well•Pict, the pallets of flats are trucked within minutes to state-of-the-art cooling facilities built near the fields, where they are chilled to that magic number, 33°F.  This is where the cold chain “officially” starts, with the goal of keeping the berries at the optimum temperature all the way to store shelves. Within hours, the strawberries go into refrigerated trucks headed for grocer destinations everywhere, field-fresh and ready to eat.

To make extra-sure there are no gaps in the chain, Well•Pict regularly runs temperature tests and monitors shipments at various checkpoints along the way. But to protect the cold chain up to the very last minute, retailers need to do their part, starting with unloading shipments immediately and placing them in refrigerated storage with no delay. Of course you’ll need to maintain the cold chain by keeping berries at that same temperature, 33 degrees, as long as possible – all the way to the display shelves.

Top quality strawberries deserve the very best handling, which is why Well•Pict followed up its cold chain innovations with its ongoing retailer education initiative, the Well•Pict Berry Academy. To make sure you are putting the freshest, best-tasting berries into the hands of your customers, be sure to watch the Well-Pict Cold Chain Video. Visit today to learn more about our proprietary varieties, and all the ways you can make this year your most profitable ever.