California Giant revamps its Web marketing

Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant has launched several new Internet-based marketing initiatives.

The shippers of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries has updated its Web site,, said Cindy Jewell, marketing director.

The Web site has multiple destinations for views, depending upon the audience. There are links for the trade, the consumer and the cycling fans.

The company sponsors three cycling teams.

The site also features new videos by independent chef Julia Myall, who has authored cookbooks for children.

“(The videos) focus on selection, care and handling and some recipes for each type of berry we grow and ship,” Jewell said. “There are more visual and interactive ways for consumers to know best practices and handling for berries.”

The company also has launched a new Facebook page and has a Twitter account, Jewell said.


Commission reaches out via social media

The Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission is dabbling in social media, said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director.

The commission has launched a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account and now has an iPhone application, O’Donnell said.

“On Facebook, we post a lot of different things generally related to strawberries or healthy living. We’ll generally post a recipe once a week. We have contests and giveaways.”

The Twitter account is another effective outlet, O’Donnell said.

The commission says it has 1,400 followers on Twitter.

The iPhone app was launched at the end of December, and the commission started to promote it in January, O’Donnell said.

“We have about 25,000 downloads, which is pretty good,” she said. “We had no idea what to expect, because this is actually the first one of its kind that we knew of. We hadn’t seen any commodity-focused iPhone app.”


Cranberry Marketing Committee hires marketer

Ashley Chard has joined the Wareham, Mass.-based Cranberry Marketing Committee as marketing assistant.

“Because we’re putting such an emphasis on the domestic market, we brought her here,” marketing director Toby Stapleton said. “We have effectively doubled our marketing staff, and it has allowed me to manage the international program.”

Chard, who took up her new position last fall, is in the produce industry for the first time, having come to the committee from office supply company W.B. Mason. Before that, she had completed a degree at the University of Massachusetts, Stapleton said.


Hurst’s Berry Farm to again do its own packing

Sheridan, Ore.-based Hurst’s Berry Farm Inc. has begun its second season with its own packinghouse in Bakersfield, Calif., said Doug Perkins, sales director. 

“We geared up for the California season,” he said. “We’re providing the machinery and bringing it down from our facility in Oregon. We’ve worked a deal to use Anthony Vineyards’ facility. We actually man the people. We’re leasing one of their giant storage rooms.”


Jersey Fruit Co-op switches to Primus Labs

Glassboro, N.J.-based Jersey Fruit Cooperative Association has shifted as much as 75% of its production from U.S. Department of Agriculture auditing programs to Primus Labs, said Philip Neary, general manager.

“It’s a recognition that the growers are taking on the challenge to do something that will be more acceptable in the trade, but it requires more work,” Neary said.

The company also has redesigned the label for its pint blueberry containers, Neary said.

“It has a nice, bold color,” he said, adding that the Jersey Fruit label also has an item-level traceability code.

The co-op represents 11 growers and can ship about 800,000 12-pint equivalent packs between mid-June and early August, he said.


Magnolia Fruit merges with Dallas’ Hardie’s

Houston-based blueberry and blackberry shipper Magnolia Fruit & Produce LLC now is part of Dallas-based Hardie’s Fruit & Vegetable Co., said Bart Ramage, Magnolia’s operations and marketing director.

“It will allow us to make our product available to a lot more of the retail and restaurants,” Ramage said.

The deal was finalized April 8, Ramage said, although he noted he wasn’t sure about all the details, including any possible name change for Magnolia.

Magnolia was launched three years ago and it has grown from only a handful of employees then to about 50 now, Ramage said.

“I think the fact that we’ve merged with the Hardie’s organization will give us access to the premium restaurants in the three metropolitan areas but also improved distribution to give us more presence in the major markets,” Ramage said.

Magnolia also added two large growers for the upcoming Texas season, Ramage said: Nachogdoches, Texas-based Sam B. Hayter Trust Farms, which has 70 acres of blueberries; and B&M Farms of Silsbee, Texas, which has 25 acres of blueberries.

“We picked up the largest blueberry growers in the state and represent them exclusively,” he said


Michigan Summer Blueberries adds partner

Richard Dutkowski is a new partner in Michigan Summer Blueberries Inc., Bangor, said George Fritz, sales manager.

Dutkowski is a longtime Michigan-based grower, Fritz added.


MBG Marketing expands Pacific Northwest acres

Grand Junction, Mich.-based MBG Marketing is expanding its production in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and in British Columbia, said Frank Bragg, chief executive officer.

“We’re in the West, where we have not historically had a strong base,” Bragg said. “With new acres coming in, the acres east of the Mississippi, which historically have had greater production, have fallen behind the West, which now has more acreage than eastern part of North America. We’re trying to shift our business so we have the right balance of production versus consumption.”


Naturipe Farms names chief category manager

Don Harris has moved from sales to director of category management at Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.

“He has a retail background, and we looked at that expertise and, with increased demand for category management programs, we thought that would be a good fit,” said Robert Verloop, executive vice president of marketing.

Harris took up his new assignment in January.


Oregon berry commission plans festival

The Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission, Corvallis, is hoping to organize an Oregon Berry Festival, said Cat McKenzie, commission spokeswoman.

“Up to now, there’s never been an Oregon Berry Festival,” she said. “There’s a strawberry festival in Lebanon Ore., but it’s before harvest. So we’d like to get one that covers all berries and have it really focused on our industry and overseas development, agritourism and go to farms and learn how their food is grown.”

The commission also plans to participate in the fourth Berry Health Benefits Symposium on June 27-29 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, Calif.

The symposium will focus on the health benefits of berries, McKenzie noted.

Details are at


Purepak Inc. becomes Pacific Ridge Farms

Oxnard, Calif.-based Purepak Inc. has changed ownership and name, said Peter Oill, sales manager.

The organic shipper now is known as Pacific Ridge Farms LLC.

“It’s business as usual,” Oill said.

The company was purchased by an investment group that had been involved in organic food companies outside the produce business, Oill said, but he said the group did not want to be identified for publication.

The company’s berry label, Natural Choice, and vegetable banner, PurVeg, remain the same, Oill said.

The change was completed in February, he added.

Oill said the deal involved no personnel changes at the company.


Sun Belle works on cultivar development

Washington, D.C.-based Sun Belle Inc. is developing new berry strains, said Janice Honigberg, president.

“We are doing a great deal of work in plant breeding,” she said. “We have a team of plant geneticists at Sun Belle and are trialing raspberries, blackberries and blueberries for several universities and important breeding programs. Our goal is to service our customers with the very best raspberries, blackberries and blueberries available year-round.”

Sun Belle has begun shipping from a new farm in Zapotiltic, Mexico. All production is covered by high tunnel and is served by an up-to-date shipping facility, Honigsberg said.


Blueberry council gives bushes to schools

The Folsom, Calif.-based U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council has launched a pilot program with a handful of school districts, said Mark Villata, executive director.

“We’re donating blueberry bushes to schools across the U.S. for their garden programs,” he said. “Schools seem to be interested. It’s a fun program. It teaches kids how to handle blueberries and where they come from. We’ll see how it goes and maybe do it more areas.”

About 10 schools in California, Oregon, Florida and New Jersey are involved at this point, Villata said.


Rainier revamps packs, debuts organic label

Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co. has redesigned its label and clamshells and will be rolling it out first on its organic berries, said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director.

“We’ll have a new organic label on the clamshells we’re packaging,” she said. “We’re still looking at which package to put the blueberries in. It just seems that finding out what retailers want in packaging seems to something that’s done at the last minute.”

The labels will retain the Rainier brand, Wolter said.

Conventional product will bear new labels after inventories of the old labels are gone, Wolter said.