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California Giant Berry Farms projects strong strawberry season

Cindy Jewell, vice president of marketing for California Giant Berry Farms, a grower-shipper of strawberries based in Watsonville, CA, noted that the company is the third-largest in the industry and has a reputation with its customers as providing high quality, flavor and exceptional service. 

“We have been in the industry for over 45 years and our long-term commitment and passion is demonstrated in the product we harvest and sell every day,” she said. “In addition to strawberries, we grow and sell blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.”

IMG 4595Although strawberry acreage has decreased in Southern California, Cal Giant is sourcing from other regions such as Florida and Mexico to bolster its supplies.To be successful as a strawberry farmer, she said, requires skill, work ethic, partnerships and optimum ground, which is why the California Giant Berry Farms leadership is very thankful for its grower partnerships, access to premium farmland and long-term employees.

“At this time of year, the conversation is about how the season will unfold as compared to last year, which had a very wet start in Southern California that affected our farmers’ ability to turn a profit and our customers’ ability to promote during the typical early spring holidays,” Jewell said. “Currently, there is talk about volume for Valentine’s Day and whether or not we will be able to cover customer orders for stem berries. We are working now with our Oxnard team to forecast availability so we can confirm volume with our key customers.”

Talking about Southern California specifically, Jewell noted there is a decrease in overall acreage in the area as it becomes harder to generate a profit in this part of the state. 

“Land prices continue to increase, water is an issue and, most importantly, labor is limited. And with the season significantly shorter in this region, it provides a challenge to generate a profit if there are weather issues,” she said. “We have moved most of our early crop to other regions and now have very limited acreage in Oxnard as a result. We are relying more on Mexico and Florida to fill the gap.”

Projections for 2018 look strong though, as Jewell said the fruit looks great, tastes excellent and the size currently is very large coming from the Oxnard region. 

“We are harvesting the Fronteras and San Andreas varieties, which both are performing very well,” she said.

California Giant Berry Farms is working with other members of the industry and its customers to reduce the number of packaging types in the system. 

“The more different types and sizes of packaging offered, the more waste we see in the marketplace with excess inventory and lack of sustainability as a result,” Jewell said.

Looking ahead to 2018, Cal Giant is excited about expanding its fresh raspberry program. 

“Due to new varieties we have access to with our breeding program partnership, we are growing raspberries in Mexico that are beautiful and taste great,” Jewell said. “This is a new program for us and we are very excited about expanding each year with more acreage and fulfilling the demand from our customers for raspberries.”

Over the next few weeks, the company will unveil some new, fun promotions, such as a consumer Berry Winter Olympics promotion featuring its brand and building brand loyalty along the way.