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Innovation and technology keep Wishnatzki one step ahead

Gary Wishnatzki was literally born into the berry business.

As the third-generation owner of Wishnatzki Farms Inc. in Plant City, FL, he has leveraged technology and cutting-edge marketing to become one of Florida’s primary suppliers of berries and other commodities. But even he never saw the Florida blueberry boom coming.

In the early 1990s, “A couple of [blueberry] growers came to me and asked if I could help sell their crop. I thought it seemed like an easy fit; the same buyers who were buying the strawberries also bought blueberries, so I didn’t see why not,” Mr. Wishnatzki recalled. “At the time there was not very much volume and I didn’t really think it would turn into what it has today. It was just a few years ago we made a company decision to move forward and try to set up marketing deals in other regions so we could have a year-round supply. It fits in with what we’re doing.”

He continued, “We implemented a strategy a couple of years ago to become year-round marketers in all of our categories. We’ve already accomplished that this winter, marketing Chilean blueberries; we have a Michigan grower we’re marketing for, we’re going to be selling for a group of Georgia growers this spring, so we’re year-round marketers of blueberries now.”

Wishantzki’s trademarked “Fresh QC” traceability program will give the company’s blueberries a competitive boost in the marketplace this season. “We are implementing our ‘Fresh QC’ traceability on the label itself, and we’ll be soliciting consumer feedback on our blueberries just like we do on our strawberries,” Mr. Wishnatzki said. “We won’t be able to trace back to the picker, but we will be able to trace back to a specific run and field. It will be exciting to be able to start getting feedback from customers on that. It’s amazing the power of that information, what you can do with it.”

Additionally, Wishnatzki has two growers bringing in a crop without pesticides this season, and it will market the resulting product with a label certifying that the fruit is free of pesticide residue.

Marketing approach

“We don’t view it as marketing a separate item; it will be marketed along with other conventional berries. You only have a few spots on the grocer shelf, organic or conventional; this will go in the conventional slot,” Mr. Wishnatzki said. “I believe consumers will gravitate to it, and it will be interesting to see what kind of response our customers and consumers have to it. It’s a brand differentiator. We’re starting small, but we’re kind of excited and believe we’re onto something that may be a real difference-maker for our customers. We’re building our brand recognition and loyalty.”

Much of that brand-building has come via social media. Wishnatzki and its “Wish Farms” label have been on the cutting edge of that technology.

“It will be interesting to see how consumers react” to the “Fresh QC” label and the pesticide-free product, Mr. Wishnatzki said. “We have a pretty good following on Facebook these days, so I think I already know how they will respond to that.”