Wish Farms Signals Start of Domestic Blueberry Season; Brian Deese and Amber Maloney Share
PLANT CITY, FL - It’s hard to imagine a season without fresh berries in my fridge, and I’m sure consumers have the same thought. As we head into spring, Wish Farms is signaling the start of its domestic season with its blueberry harvest, and I couldn’t wait to hear more straight from the grower.
“Our harvest started back in week seven, and we are seeing great quality on the berries,” Brian Deese, Director of Blueberry Grower Relations, explains to me. “We’re about two weeks ahead of last season due to warmer weather. We had some warm events followed by some minor freezes, causing the bloom-to-ripe stage to come on a lot faster than we were expecting. However, we pulled through with little to no damage.”
Unseasonably warmer temperatures have produced berries earlier this season for the grower. But that hasn’t impacted volume and flavor, as Brian states both are excellent.
“Currently, we’re expecting peak harvest to be the last week of March going into the first week of April, where we will have some promotional volume,” Brian explains. “Our team is out picking Avanti, Kestrel, Arcadia, Chickadee, and Sentinel varieties to load up our portfolio.”
Amber Maloney, Director of Marketing, chimes in to explain that the grower’s “sales team is aligning right now on different ads that retailers can promote for Florida blueberries. Every season, retailers and consumers are excited for that first domestic crop, and Florida is where we get started.”
As Brian and Amber tell me, the grower is hopeful to see pricing return to levels Wish Farms saw last year and is excited about another offering to hit retail shelves.
Shoppers will be delighted and intrigued to see another sprightly label this season as Wish Farm’s jumbo blueberry hits the scene, and retailers should be equally intrigued as the offering warrants a premium similar to organic pricing.
“This season, we’ve been packing jumbos with a special label. The variety is great for retailers to highlight, mark up, or have as a specialty item,” explains Amber. “We have the equipment and the capacity in Florida as well as our other growing regions to size out for the jumbos. The varieties our team is currently harvesting are also being grown specifically for these specialty packs.”
And, let me tell you, these blues are one to keep on your radar.
“On average, they are about 21 mm in diameter,” Brian informs me. “We’ve retrofitted our lines with different sizers now that we can size jumbos. With demand continuing to go up, we’re doing our best to keep pace.”
Much like the industry, the grower faces challenges regarding labor and transportation. Due to its quick arrival, the crop’s progress will be even faster for the grower.
“Demand for all berries has been on the rise, and we’ve seen this especially with blueberries due to their health benefits,” Amber details. “We’re also factoring in the added labor costs, packaging costs, and transportation; we’re seeing this go up across the board, and that’s not coming down anytime soon.”
While the grower meets these challenges, many consumers are continuing to seek out fresh produce on a regular basis. Home cooking trends see blueberries as an easy-to-use and easy-to-eat produce, making it a no-brainer for shoppers to put into their baskets.
“Throughout the pandemic, we see buying behavior trend in fresh produce’s favor as consumers have gotten used to buying more blueberries,” Amber elaborates. “We have a lot of promotions and fun campaigns in store to reach more consumers with this wonderful berry.”
One partner Wish Farms is teaming up with is Fresh From Florida. Together, the duo will highlight growers in the field talking about their crops in videos for social media distribution, in addition to producing an upcoming T.V. commercial. The grower will also be teaming up with U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to work on an upcoming campaign, Grab a Boost of Blue.
Don’t wait to get these in-demand berries on your stand. AndNowUKnow will keep a pulse on the industry.