As of late July, California Giant Berry Farms in Watsonville, CA, a leading producer and marketer of strawberries and other berries, was in heavy production of strawberries and blackberries out of California and blueberries out of the Pacific Northwest.
“We will have plenty of strawberries all the way through October and into November,” said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing at California Giant Berry Farms. “Typically, that is when it starts to slow down because of the weather shift here in California.” As days get shorter and as the fall rains begin, “which we are hoping” will happen, she said, “it definitely slows down.” But “we will still have plenty of volume well into October” with good quality and good flavor and plenty of promotional opportunities. That fruit “will be coming in from here in the Watsonville-Salinas area and from Santa Maria.”
As the season winds down in California, California Giant will have some volume of strawberries out of Florida and also out of Mexico. “Those really help us to get through the shoulders of the season,” Jewell said. Then, around Christmastime, the winter strawberry harvest out of Oxnard, CA, “starts to kick in.”
In blueberries, “right now we are still in peak blueberry season up in the Pacific Northwest,” Jewell said. “That is expected to continue at least into September,” with August looking to be “a pretty good volume month.” Then California Giant’s blueberry production shifts down to South America, with production out of Argentina and Chile that goes “all the way through the winter.”
In blackberries, “right now we are harvesting out of California, but up here and out of Santa Maria.” That production will continue “well into the fall,” she said. “Then we shift down into Mexico. Mexico really has good blackberry volume all winter long until we start back up here in the spring again.”
The company’s raspberry program is more seasonal. “We have raspberries here in California,” and those were expected to continue until about mid-September, Jewell said. But “We don’t have raspberries on the shoulder of the season, so that volume will taper off right about September.”
Although California is in dire need of rain, and berries need water just as do any other plant, rainfall directly on the berries, and particularly strawberries, is not desirable. The lack of rainfall, therefore, has produced the short-term benefit of contributing to “a really good season,” Jewell explained. “This has been an amazing quality year” and a great year for flavor. There has also been “really good volume.” Additionally, “it has been a really good year in the market” with good returns to the growers.
California Giant has been engaged in many different promotional activities, Jewell said. For example, “we have a promotion that will last till about the middle of August,” which is a smoothie campaign in partnership with a blender company and a peanut butter company.
“After that, we shift into back-to-school mode” from mid-August through mid-September “with a lot of back-to-school social media activity promotions,” including online offers, lots of recipes and back-to-school tips for moms.
In early August, California Giant will be launching a junior chef section on its website. “We just completed filming six short videos with kids and chefs working together in a kitchen, incorporating our berries into all different kinds of segments, showing how fun and easy it is to include kids in food preparation,” Jewell said.