Berry People Details Shifting Strawberry Demand
HOLLISTER, CA - Summers in my childhood home were largely spent laying in the front yard and plucking strawberries from our garden. As retailers know, consumers are enchanted by the fruit’s natural sweetness and always anxiously wait for the plants to ripen. It’s with that same anticipation that our industry ramps up for the lucrative strawberry season. With demand rising as supply begins to fill out, I tapped strawberry aficionados Michael Osumi, Vice President of Supply Operations, and Damon Barkdull, Senior Commodity-Sales Manager at Berry People.
“We are harvesting some of the main varieties along the coast of Frontera and Monterey with some San Andreas and Sweet Ann crops still being grown,” Michael began. “We are currently in the main part of the season in Baja, Mexico, which complements and transitions well with our Santa Maria and Watsonville season. During the winter, strawberries will be coming from our Central Mexico programs.”
The grower is currently receiving fruit from ranches in Baja, Mexico—both organic and conventional—and starting production on California fruit. All of the incoming strawberry supplies are on par in terms of quality to last season. Although Baja is a very stable growing region for strawberries, the category is still subject to some of the winter storms that hit high production districts in Oxnard, Santa Maria, and Watsonville, California.
“The current weather has made for very nice and healthy plants with beautiful fruit for the main part of spring and going into summer. I don’t like to call weather a problem. We have learned to expect we are going to have weather events that make us better at anticipating potential challenges,” explained Michael.
According to Damon, Berry People is currently coming off of Easter holiday demand and expects steady pricing and demand through Mother’s Day. After a brief dip in ad business when shelter-in-place orders went into effect, the grower is now seeing a balance return to the market.
“With strawberries once again being promoted at retail, the demand is high,” said Damon. “Watsonville and Santa Maria should rebound with normal production by next week and promotional volume will once again be available. Our Baja ranches should go into peak production in the next several weeks on organic and conventional varieties.”
Through the perseverance of all in the industry, we are beginning to adapt to a new way of operating. From efforts in the fields to retail shelves, a common sense of relief has been restored to the supply chain.
“I would like to applaud everyone in the food and agricultural industry being an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Michael and Damon said in a joint statement. “We again have shown adaptation in the fields to keep the food supply moving while also keeping everyone safe at work.”
The weather in Sacramento, California, is continuously warming up, and I’ve officially got strawberry fever! As the industry cultivates yet another successful strawberry season, ANUK will continue bringing you the latest news in fresh produce.