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Sunny Valley gearing up for busy blueberry season

Sunny Valley International, based in Glassboro, NJ, serves as the exclusive sales and marketing agent for the “Jersey Fruit” label, which is a Co-Op of the state’s blueberry and peach growers during the summer months. The company also represents blueberry growers from Argentina, Chile and the BC.

Robert Von Rohr, director of customer relations for the company, said the secret to success with selling blueberries is to establish good relationships with ongoing open communication with both customers and growers.

87-org-duke-r1 “Blueberries are a hot item due to their health benefits,” he said. “Our New Jersey blueberries are hand-picked to ensure only the best quality is being harvested. The Duke is the early season variety, and the Bluecrop variety runs in mid-season to the end of the harvest. The same varieties are used for both conventional and organic production.”

All indications for 2018 are that the blueberry season will be a strong one, with lots of demand, even though the timing on the crop is a little later than expected.

“We have had favorable weather, which will give us a very good crop of fresh blueberries,” Von Rohr said. “Timing of movements out of New Jersey appears to be heading toward a later start then last season, but all indications are that growers will have a good supply of labor for harvesting.”

Everything will be in full force by the busy Fourth of July holiday, as New Jersey’s blueberries are always a big part of “Red, White & Blue” berry marketing initiatives.

“The peak harvest period for our New Jersey blues should line up as perfect timing for summertime promotional opportunities,” Von Rohr said. “New Jersey blueberries have always been a Fourth of July tradition with consumers and we’ll have a nice solid crop of high-quality Jersey blues to satisfy their needs. But great opportunities are also available for later promotions thru July.”

Sunny Valley’s one-pint, 12-pack box “Jersey Fruit” label will remain its standard pack, but lately, customers have been demanding more 18-ounce clamshells, 24-ounce and two-pound packs to help drive additional sales at the register, so the company has obliged with more diverse offerings.

Von Rohr believes that the different pack sizes will help retailers in their marketing and merchandising efforts, and suggests they display them front and center within the produce department to increase sales.

New Jersey blueberry growers are focused on sustainability and this is something that Von Rohr feels also makes them standout. The growers are working with the Rutgers Department of Agriculture on an integrated pest management program and are utilizing drip irrigation to minimize water usage. One of the state’s growers has even gone solar to power his packing house operation.

Von Rohr said that Sunny Valley is looking to grow its fruit offering with blues out of additional growing areas, and is looking to expand in citrus, kiwi and pears out of South America.

When it comes to organics, Sunny Valley works with Hammonton-based Big Buck Farms, the largest organic blueberry producer in the state, carrying the Little Buck Organics label in both half-pint and full-pint packages. Organics experienced a record year for the company in 2017, and Von Rohr expects another record in 2018. Organic blueberries will be available from mid-June to the end of July.