Ogranic blueberries led the way for Gourmet Trading Co.’s Chile deal, with shipments beginning in early November.
“Gourmet Trading Company handles conventional and organic blueberries out of Chile,” said Luciano Fiszman, procurement manager for the Los Angeles-based firm, a leading supplier of year round high-quality fruits and vegetables. “We will also have some Chilean asparagus this season.”
Fiszman added that the company started the Chilean season with organic blueberries in early November, and by the middle of the month it was shipping conventional product as Argentina production decreases.
“We expect to have fruit from Chile until early April,” he said. “In the case of the asparagus, this will only be for a few weeks in November.”
Gourmet Trading’s blueberry pack sizes are 4.4-ounce, 12 to a pack; six-ounce, 12 to a pack; pints, 12 to a pack, 18-ounce, eight to a pack, 18-ounce, 12 to a pack; and 24-ounce, 12 to a pack.
“We are the exclusive supplier of Gourmet Trading Company and Green Giant Fresh blueberries,” Fiszman noted.
Chloe Varennes is the marketing manager for Gourmet Trading.
“This season we are expanding our Green Giant Fresh blueberry pack sizes to six ounces and 11 ounces,” she said. “Our 11-ounce packages will feature The ‘Smurfs’ characters for the release of ‘The Smurfs 2’ movie on DVD on December 3. Gourmet Trading Company partnered with Sony for this promotion, which includes social media, an email blast to consumers and a coupon inside ‘The Smurfs 2’ DVD.”
Fiszman said the Chilean blueberry season is just starting while Argentina and Uruguay are finishing.
“It has been a difficult season for most of the growers as weather was not optimal,” he said. “Production was less than expected. However, Gourmet Trading was able to be the largest importer of Argentinean blueberries into the United States this season. We are proud to have such a large market share in Argentina and we look forward to serving our customer bases with Chilean product this season.”
He added that this Chilean blueberry season the company is focusing on the quality of the product and on its grower base while improving logistics.
“We want to be competitive in moving the best possible product,” he said. “The Gourmet Trading Company procurement team is very focused on this path.
“Weather out of Argentina has been rainy and that, of course, is a problem during harvest,” he continued. “However, we haven’t seen as many quality problems as we hear that others have had. Chile experienced a freeze in the spring that decreased the expectations of early product. We have the product we need, but we know others suffered a lot this season.”
Most of Gourmet Trading’s business, he pointed out, is with retail stores. The company works with major chain retailers nationwide. It also sells to smaller retail and foodservice chains, but in smaller proportion compared to its major chain business.
“Gourmet Trading Company distributes Chilean blueberries throughout North America from its Los Angeles and Miami facilities,” Varennes added.
Fiszman said that he agrees that Chilean growers and exporters are highly experienced professionals that do an outstanding job of exporting. However, last season the country’s blueberry industry “left a bad taste in the market as lot of problem product was received and logistics failed,” he said. “The industry has a big challenge this year as the market will have big expectations to receive the good product that the Chilean operators have us used to seeing.”
He also noted that the overall demand for fresh blueberries in the United States has increased, and for companies like Gourmet Trading, it is very important to deliver a quality product to sustain and create demand.
“People need a good experience with the product to return to the store to purchase again,” said Fiszman.
Varennes agreed that the demand for Chilean blueberries increases as consumption of blueberries in the U.S. increases.
“Consumption of fresh blueberries today is five times greater than what it was in 2000,” she said. “This is due to the fact that consumers are eating healthy fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants.”
On Oct. 31, Gourmet Trading Co. hired Caylan Gingerich as its East Coast procurement representative.
“Caylan grew up in Oregon on a blueberry and hazelnut farm,” said Varennes. “After studying international business at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, she returned to the family farm to partake in hazelnut harvest. She then worked at Giumarra in sales for a year. We’re excited with the addition of Caylan to the Gourmet family.
“Gourmet Trading Company headquarters will be moving to a new 53,000-square-foot facility in Redondo Beach [CA] for the beginning of the new year,” she continued. “The facility has more loading docks than the current location, and it features a brand new hydrocooler and pre-coolers.”