Wish Farms' James Peterson Discusses Rising Demand in the Berry Market
PLANT CITY, FL - I’ve heard the term “new normal” recently, and like many others in our industry, it had me wondering what that meant for fresh produce. To get an understanding of what the new normal looks like for the berry category, I reached out to James Peterson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Wish Farms, to see what this season holds.
“I think COVID-19 and the entire pandemic helped berry demand grow. People are more conscious of their health and trying to eat healthier, and berry growers have done a very good job of outlining the category’s health benefits. I think there has only been an increase in demand over the last year and a half,” James tells me.
Buyers, this means that ample shelf space for berries is a must in the produce department. As consumers continue to prioritize the category in their baskets, now is an optimal time to get strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries on display to not only mitigate any supply hurdles but also to meet this rising shopper demand.
Throughout the peak of the pandemic and into 2021 James explains that the market has remained stable, and he believes that it will likely continue.
“As we’re seeing, the market is better than it has historically been in this window, and we're hopeful that this is the new normal,” he says. “Although we've had to recalibrate our approach as demand has changed, it’s been good for us because the same berry volumes are being moved at higher pricing. As more people keep eating at home, many of them are consuming more fruit, and that’s obviously great for our business.”
To meet climbing demand with quality, Wish Farms is growing Monterey and Cabrillo variety strawberries at its Santa Maria, California, summer planted ranches and Salinas, California, operations. As the summer moves along, the grower will transition to just its Santa Maria farms for planting. Wish will be growing raspberries and blackberries out of Santa Maria as well, offering retailers more varieties to stock their displays.
“We certainly have increased our acreage of raspberries in California and have more going in the ground next year,” James explains. “The category is a focus for us and we feel that varietal wise, we're growing raspberries that are top of the class when it comes to eatability. We're super excited about where our raspberry program is going in both California and Mexico. It was the fourth berry needed for us to complete our 52-week supply, and we're excited to keep expanding.”
With continued category growth on the horizon, James says one thing will remain the same: Wish Farms is confident on flavor and will innovate to maintain the quality that it covets.
“We have a saying in our office, ‘food is supposed to taste good.’ It’s a pretty simple mantra to live by, which is why I encourage buyers to seek out flavorful fruit. To be successful with your berry program you have to find the most flavorful varieties and that will unlock sales.”
What will the future of the category hold as more changes await our industry? Keep a tab open for AndNowUKnow as we explore the latest developments.