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Even as California gets some of that long anticipated winter rain, spring is emerging in berry fields at California Giant, which is expecting a record North American blueberry crop that it set to begin by the end of this month.
“Our California coast should ramp-up the last week of March with a peak in mid-April followed by the Central Valley through June. Georgia should start in late April and carry on through late June as well,” explained Evan Pence, North America operations manager for the Watsonville, Calif.-based grower/marketer. With the Chilean blueberry season winding down for the company, Pence adds, "The blueberry crop from North America should fill the pipeline at an opportune time."
California Giant Berry Farms has been building its blueberry program every year for the past several years and is looking forward to another increase this season. “Overall, we are forecasting a 40 percent increase over last year in total volume, mostly due to maturing acreage in California, Oregon and British Columbia, as well as the addition of our new grower in Georgia,” said Pence.
Following up on that volume and continued increased consumer demand for blueberries, California Giant has developed marketing efforts to capture more consumer interest in their brand. Recently released research from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council shows that consumers in 2013 were more likely to buy blueberries in the coming year than they were in 2004 or 2008, and likely to buy them more often. That, along with other positive purchasing behavior data, is encouraging, and California Giant is poised to seize the opportunties with the launch of its complete new fresh blueberry recipe e-booklet, which was developed by consumers that entered the recent Cal Giant/Concord Foods blueberry recipe contest.
As fresh blueberry season unfolds in California, Georgia and the Pacific Northwest in the next few weeks, California Giant berry consumers will be armed with new recipes and new nutrition news to bring that taste of spring right into their kitchens.
Additionally, California Giant’s fresh strawberry season has kicked off in California much sooner than expected due to mild weather and spring-like conditions along with the lack of winter rain. Notes Anthony Gallino, VP of sales for California Giant: “Even with this recent storm, the lack of rainfall is very unusual so we are not sure what to expect with plant vigor at this point. We are still looking forward to a strong California season, but as usual it is all up to Mother nature.”
There is optimism that a late Easter closer to Mother’s Day will also benefit all fresh berries coming into production as winter weather will hopefully subside in receiving markets. “We look forward to working with our retail partners to promote throughout the spring and summer as California weather gets into a normal pattern," adds Gallino.