Specialty berries conjure up thoughts of gourmet presentations by the world's greatest chefs and of discriminating home cooks. HBF International, formerly Hurst's Berry Farm, in Sheridan, OR, has an extensive lineup of berries for every desire.
With an ever-expanding product line, HBF is constantly on the lookout for new varieties and types of fresh berries. If it cannot get the quality it needs from the existing varieties, it will often experiment with other varieties. And if it can't get the quality needed from existing suppliers, the company grows the product itself.
HBF provides fresh berries throughout the year, growing several different varieties that ripen at different times on its farms in Oregon, Washington, California and in Mexico. It also sources berries from grower-partners in Canada and South America.
Doug Perkins, managing director of HBF, said that several of the company's items fall into the gourmet category. "Our 'Grande' blueberries are 17 millimeters and larger," said Mr. Perkins. "We also carry gooseberries, red currants, white currants, blackberries, kiwi berries and cranberries."
The company is a leader in new package design. It works closely with packaging vendors to incorporate the latest innovations. Mr. Perkins said that in 1991 it became clear that the plastic clamshell with its improved ventilation and recycled material was essential to maintaining a premium package."Today, all berries we ship are packed in clamshells," he said. "To meet customers' demands we now offer multiple sizes of clamshells, depending on the product. As an example, our blueberries can be packed in five-pound, two-pound, pint and half-pint sized clamshells. And, of course, we can custom pack to meet customers' specific needs."
" 'Grande' blueberries from California run from May through June," said Mr. Perkins. From July through September they are produced in Oregon, and Chile runs from November through February.
"Gooseberries from Oregon run from June through August, and from Chile in December and January," he continued. "Red and white currants are produced in Oregon in July and August, and from December through February they come in from Chile."
HBF International's blackberries come from Oregon in July through September, and from Mexico from October through May. In September and October, kiwi berries are produced in Oregon, and in February and March they are imported from Chile. The cranberry program runs from October through December, with exclusively Oregon supply.
For more than 20 years the Hurst family business has provided customers with premium-quality fresh berries. Mr. Perkins said that today it is a leading fresh berry shipper in the Northwest, delivering fresh, ripe berries throughout the year.
The company is committed to food safety, and is fully cognizant that food safety has been at the center of discussions involving fresh produce. HBF works closely with all of its growers and packers to ensure compliance with food-safety standards. It also reviews its procedures regularly and updates them as necessary.
Husband and wife Mark and Patty Hurst founded Hurst's Berry Farm in 1980. Mr. Hurst has been instrumental in the establishment and development of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, North American Blueberry Council and Oregon Blueberry Commission. He continues to work to promote blueberries and strengthen the industry. He was the chair of the Oregon Blueberry Commission for eight years in the 1990s, then president of the North American Blueberry Council for two years. He was also the first chairman of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council from 2000 to 2007.
Mr. Perkins said that in his opinion, curiosity is driving the demand for gourmet-specialty items today.
"It's something different, and it's a berry," Mr. Perkins said. "Those retailers that offer samples at the store level seem to be capturing the most sales-as well as the most repeat orders."
He said that HBF International's mission statement is "Leadership, loyalty and excellence in berries from farm to market." This is both a long-term vision and a daily practice that guides how the company partners with growers and markets its fresh berries throughout the world.
"Living up to this mission would not be possible without the dedication of our employees, growers, vendors and, of course, our faithful customers," added Mr. Perkins.