Curry & Co., headquartered in Brooks, OR, is set to market an increased blueberry volume in 2011. “Our blueberry program continues to grow, and we expect to have an increase by as much as 25 percent due to more acreage and higher yields than 2010,” President Matt Curry told The Produce News June 8. “We’ve added to our California tonnage, and we expect Oregon to continue to increase.”
The bulk of blues marketed by Curry & Co. are conventional. Mr. Curry was asked how the production season has been progressing. “The weather throughout the United States has seemed to delay crops everywhere,” he replied. “This is true of the West Coast also. From California up through Washington, we’ve experienced cooler-than-usual weather and heavier-than-usual rains.”
Despite the conditions, he said, “The crops we’ve harvested thus far have been outstanding, and we’ve received numerous positive comments on our blueberries.”
The California harvest began in early May, and the Oregon harvest will ramp up the third week of June. “We’ll have Oregon [and] Northwest blueberries available through the majority of September. We then transition to imported blueberries to make sure our program is seamless and year-round with our primary customer base.”
Mr. Curry went on to say that quality has been exceptional. “The berries we’re seeing in the field are looking good and are showing good size,” he said. “We’ve delivered a lot of large, beautiful blueberries so far in 2011 and want to see that trend continue.”
Rain created some issues for the California and Oregon crops, but Mr. Curry said the problems haven’t been insurmountable. “For the most part, you just don’t pick during the rain and wait for the berries to get past the precipitation,” he commented. “In a few cases, you might see some splitting on certain varieties. But we’ve been able to avoid that currently. We have our field teams constantly monitoring the blueberries in the field and rely on them for their expertise on when to pick.”
Curry & Co. markets blues throughout the United States, but predominantly west of the Mississippi. “There are numerous blueberry growing regions throughout the U.S. Although we feel confident shipping across the U.S., we find most of our customers are closer to home,” Mr. Curry noted.
The company’s blueberry sales team is Mike Klackle, Todd Mauritz and Patrick Garrison. Curry & Co. primarily markets to retailers and wholesalers that have a strong retail base. “Our packing capacity and flexibility in consumer pack types allows us to pack for small chains, regional chains, national chains and club stores,” Mr. Curry said. “While we have growing foodservice relationships, it is a small but growing portion of our business.”
This past winter, the Brooks blueberry packing facility was expanded and improved. “We consolidated the entire process into one large cool room, increasing our packing efficiencies and our cold chain,” Mr. Curry said, adding that blueberry shelf life can be improved with proper post-harvest handling. “We feel our improvements will make our program even stronger in 2011,” he said.
This season, Curry & Co. is stressing business-to-business marketing. “We continue to grow and are making a concentrated effort to reach every retailer, wholesaler and foodservice customer with our year-round blueberry message,” Mr. Curry said. In addition to a new web site, the company has launched “Matt’s Blog,” which contains regular crop updates.