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A celebration is in order for the millions of Americans who say that strawberries are their favorite fruit, and for health-conscious consumers interested in loading up on nutrient-rich superfoods, ’tis the season to enjoy an abundance of strawberries, thanks to ideal growing conditions and more strawberry farmland in California than ever before.
With Father’s Day just around the corner, the California Strawberry Commission (CSC) has lined up “Guytitian” Dave Grotto to provide strawberry nutrition advice and creative ways to enjoy strawberries as well as keep dads healthy.
“Strawberries are considered a superfood because they deliver the highest levels of vitamins and antioxidants in very small servings,” said Grotto, noting, “The great thing about strawberries is that they’re sweet and delicious to eat, while also providing healthful nutrients like vitamin C, folate and potassium.”
The past five years have seen California’s strawberry acreage steadily increasing, thanks to Golden State family farmers who are growing strawberries on over 37,000 acres spanning the Pacific coast that produce 88 percent of the nation’s strawberries. The increased acreage, combined with ideal weather conditions -- not too hot, not too cold – have resulted in nearly 700 million pounds of strawberries produced to date.
So while it’s safe to say that strawberries are on a roll, Cindy A. Jewell, director of marketing for Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Berry Farms, said the most interesting and exciting trend she sees in the berry category today “is the continued increases in overall bush berry availability.” Citing ample positive press in recent years about the healthful attributes of blueberries and blackberries -- including berries ranking high on the “superfoods” list -- Jewell said the collective good news has produced ripe benefits for growers, retailers and consumers alike. “Our job is to continue to promote aggressively with our retail partners and help to build consumption capitalizing on these tasty and healthful berries now available year-round.”
In the realm of what California Giant is doing to respond to those trends, and how they benefit retail grocers, Jewell said: “We are making a strong effort at California Giant to promote all of our berries together to our customers, positioning ourselves [as] a full berry supplier. We are backing up the supply with in-store POS support and consumer resources in the form of exclusive recipes and consumer-based promotions for blueberries planned later in the summer [and in] early fall.”
Yet, while most retailers now routinely merchandise berries on a year-round basis, Jewell’s view that “consumers still think of berries as being synonymous with summertime” is nearly a universal truth. “Berries lend themselves so well to family picnics, barbecues and special occasions that typically occur during the summer months,” she notes. “Berries are a very strong contributor within the produce department and really create excitement during that time period as well,” Jewell continued, noting “the color and aroma that [are] natural consumer draw that ultimately translate into rings at the register.”
“Our job is to work closely with our retail partners to make sure there is quality on the shelf every day,” added Jewell. “Berries are still highly perishable, and the hot weather that accompanies summer months works against shelf life and customer satisfaction. Our challenge throughout the distribution system during the summer is to stress the importance of maintaining the cold chain. Research shows that one hour out of refrigeration can result in the loss of one day of shelf life. When handling items like berries that typically have a 10-day life in total, that can really affect the consumer’s experience. The opportunity is to provide key partners with customized training tools that help their staff at DC and store level.”
To build demand and interest in its berry brand this summer, California Giant recently launched a new sweepstakes promotion with the Tennis Channel that runs through July 31. “This is the second year in a row for our two companies to team up appearing together on California Giant clamshells, point-of-sale, national advertising support and a publicity campaign,” said Jewell, noting the grand prize trip giveaway to Wimbledon in 2011. “Wilson has also stepped in to provide 25 additional secondary prizes that include high-end tennis racquets for entrants,” she continued, citing a new promotional aspect this year involving “a New York City element.”
In addition to teaming up with the Tennis Channel for the sweepstakes event, California Giant will be taking it to the streets of Manhattan during Wimbledon to join forces with HSBC Bank, which is also sponsor the legendary two-week tennis competition in London. Jewell explained: “During the week of June 22, 2009, New Yorkers will be treated to free samples of fresh California Giant strawberries and cream in front of key HSBC branch locations in Manhattan and in Rockefeller Center. Additionally, a full-size grass tennis court will adorn Rockefeller Center, providing ongoing exhibition matches with retired professional players, as well as tennis clinics for kids and other exciting events each day during the entire week.”
Appropriately, retail grocery outlets in the New York metro area will have the opportunity to tie in with the downtown promotion and sponsors. The effort will be reinforced with public relations outreach that will include major morning shows as well as local print and broadcast media “This should be a lot of fun for all of us as sponsors,” noted Jewel, adding that Cal Giant is also planning to host a second promotional event in Manhattan with the same partners for the U.S. Tennis Open in early September that will focus on blueberries. “Details are still pending on that event, but it is expected to have similar visibility as the events in the city during Wimbledon,” she said.