California Giant works on muffin promotion

California Giant Inc., Watsonville, Calif., is collaborating with Concord Foods on a fall blueberry promotion, said Cindy Jewell, the company’s marketing director.

Beginning Nov. 1 and running through mid-December, consumers can get free Concord Foods blueberry muffin mix and muffin tins when they buy fresh imported California Giant blueberries.

The promotion, a first for California Giant, is taking place solely on the company’s social media platforms, Jewell said.

Naturipe Farms tests new berry varieties

Brian Bocock, vice president of product management in the Grand Junction, Mich., office of Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, said the company is gradually increasing production of new varieties of Chilean blueberries.

“We’re constantly working on new varieties, and some are beginning in a light way that we’re pretty excited about,” he said. “In the future, we’ll have more and more of them.”

Liberty, Draper, Aurora and Rocio are some of the new varieties being grown in Chile that Naturipe is particularly excited about, Bocock said.

They’re all about the same size as more common varieties, but the new varieties ship better and taste better, he said.

“There’s a significant difference from other things out there.”

Brokerage gears up for new regulations

Miami-based customs brokerage The Perishable Specialist is helping its customers prepare for new regulations set to go into effect this year, president Frank Ramos said.

The company, which represents many of the big players in the Chilean blueberry deal, specializes in the effects government regulations have on imports, Ramos said.

“There are new regulations that will affect berry imports this season,” Ramos said. “All foreign exporters should be advised that FDA regulations now require that all bioterrorism facility registrations be re-registered beginning Oct. 1 with a deadline of Dec. 31.”

In addition, all such facilities will need to be re-registered in every even-numbered year in the future, Ramos said.

“Any facility that is not re-registered or renewed will be canceled or voided by the FDA,” he said.

In preparation for the new regulations, The Perishable Specialist is sending its industry contacts bulletins that include links to FDA pages and a question-and-answer section covering topics including changes in regulations, the inspection of foreign facilities, how long records must be kept, who will conduct inspections, the scope of the FDA’s authority and many others.

Wish Farms expects organic volume growth

Teddy Koukoulis, director of blueberry operations for Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., said while Chilean blueberry imports to the U.S. will likely grow just slightly this season, Wish Farms expects a 50% jump.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the company has designs on taking over the market, Koukoulis said.

Far from it.

“When I started two years ago, I decided that we would grow at a rate we could handle,” he said.

“We’re trying not to bite off more than we can chew. We have no desire to be the biggest, just the best,” he said.

That 50% volume increase will include a substantial uptick in organic blueberry imports from Chile, Koukoulis said.

“We have a pretty significant organic program,” he said. “It’s grown exponentially.”