Naturipe’s California organic blueberry program has begun with light volumes—and the company anticipates a strong crop this year.
“We are expecting a great crop of organic blueberries out of California this season,” said Brian Vertrees, Naturipe’s director of business development. “Last year, there were pollination issues that held the crop back from its full potential, so this season we are expecting a nice rebound assuming mother nature continues to cooperate with us. We will hit promotable volumes out of California this season the first week of May and will continue into the first week of June.”
Brian Vertrees, Director of Business Development, Naturipe
Vertrees said Naturipe’s California organic blueberry farms are located “throughout the Central Valley—from down south in Arvin and Maricopa, then in Delano to as far north as Stockton. The combination of locations we have allows us to maximize the potential of the California growing season for organic blueberries.”
In addition to its California program, Naturipe also offers domestic organic blueberries from Florida, Georgia, Oregon, Washington, and Michigan.
“Last year, there were pollination issues that held the crop back from its full potential, so this season we are expecting a nice rebound assuming mother nature continues to cooperate with us.” - Brian Vertrees
“Similar to California, pollination had a negative impact on harvest volumes last season in both Georgia and Florida, so we did not have the crop we hoped for,” said Vertrees. “This year, all signs point to a great season that will start up in early April."
Vertrees said peak volumes of organic blueberries out of Florida and Georgia will begin the last week of April and go through the end of May. “Combined, both the California and Florida/Georgia growing regions give Naturipe extensive reach to cover retail demands on both coasts,” he said.
And with Oregon, Washington, and Michigan added to the mix, Naturipe is able to offer domestic organic blueberries through September.
“In all of our farms, we continue to plant our proprietary varieties that are some of the best out there,” Vertrees said. “Consumers continue to expect better quality on all produce items, and organic blueberries are no different. We have our own breeding program that has continued to be at the forefront of developing the next generation of market-leading organic blueberries.”
Naturipe’s imported organic blueberry program is still going strong after peaking in February, and promotable volumes from Mexico and South America will be available through the end of this month.
“We have our own breeding program that has continued to be at the forefront of developing the next generation of market-leading organic blueberries.” - Brian Vertrees
“Our import program offers Northern and Southern Highbush varieties, with a heavy emphasis on proprietary varieties,” said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management. “Naturipe imports organic blueberries from South America from July to May each year, when weather conditions in the growing regions are ideal for harvesting.”
Brian Bocock, Vice President of Product Management, Naturipe
Earlier this year, Naturipe premiered the “Blueberry Express,” a new boat freight method for shipping its organic and conventional blueberries from South America.
“Naturipe’s Blueberry Express differs from a normal boat in that it is a dedicated vessel sailing to one port of destination—and because of that, it arrives in a much faster time frame,” said Bocock. “Given the high demand for organic blueberries and the large volumes Naturipe works with in Chile and Peru during peak South American season, Naturipe developed the Blueberry Express to ensure that supply could meet demand, and customers would have the freshest possible ripe blueberries.”
Between its domestic and international programs, Naturipe is able to offer organic blueberries to its customers year-round.
“We’re seeing consistent demand for organic blueberries as the health-conscious consumer continues to seek out products with that USDA organic seal,” said Bocock. “We’ve also seen that consumers are increasingly reaching for larger pack sizes, whether they are trying to cut down on trips to the grocery store, or they simply can’t get enough of the delicious berries!”
When asked about regional consumption patterns, Vertrees said, “Sales of organic blueberries are up double digits over the last year in both the Southeast and Western regions of the US. These regions tend to be where organic purchases are typically the highest, so it’s not so much a trend as it is a reflection of how the consumers in those markets have shopped for many years. This is a combination of lifestyle and retailers’ breadth and depth of assortment.”
“We’re seeing consistent demand for organic blueberries as the health-conscious consumer continues to seek out products with that USDA organic seal.” - Brian Bocock
Naturipe encourages retailers to emphasize the health benefits of blueberries in their marketing materials, specifically that they’re high in fiber, manganese, and antioxidants. The company also suggests cross-merchandising as a strategy. “When consumers see different berry types merchandised together, they are very likely to pick up a variety of types,” said Bocock. “Highlighting how these berries go well together—with an image of a berry salad or a parfait—can also encourage consumers to purchase multiple packs.”