Jac Vandenberg adds Chilean blueberry grower

Michael Schiro, berry and clementine category manager for Jac Vandenberg Inc., Yonkers, N.Y., said the company expects volumes in its Chilean blueberry deal to rise up to 25% this season, thanks to a combination of increased production from existing growers and the addition of a new one.

The new grower is David Del Curto, though “new” can be a misleading word in this context. Vandenberg has been sourcing Chilean grapes, stone fruit, apples and pears from Del Curto for more than half a century, Schiro said.

“It took us 54 years to get blueberries from them,” he joked.

With Del Curto, Schiro said there won’t be any concerns about getting high-quality product on time.

“We expect the quality to be top-notch, just like it is in the other programs we have with them.”

In addition to the new Del Curto blueberry deal, Vandenberg expects more blueberries this season from Vital Berry Marketing SA, now in its 18th year of shipping blueberries to Vandenberg.

“After years of steady volumes, it looks like our numbers are going to go up with them this year,” Schiro said.

Vandenberg also expects larger volumes from growers Santa Cruz and Zur Group, with the latter boosting Vandenberg’s supplies of organic Chilean blueberries this season, Schiro said.

Vandenberg expects to sell organic Chilean blueberries in both six-ounce containers and pints this season.

The addition of sources and the expansion of others, Schiro said, is mirrored by Vandenberg’s plan for marketing the 2012-13 crop of Chilean blueberries.

“We’re looking to do more with our current base of customers, and we hope to open some new doors as well,” he said.


Nathel International bullish on Chilean season

Heading into the 2012-13 winter season, a reorganized Nathel International, Pittsgrove, N.J., is confident it can leverage its connection to its wholesaler “big brother,” New York-based Nathel & Nathel Inc., into strong sales of staples like grapes and apples, but also newer products for the company, including avocados, said Paul Newstead, director and vice president of sales and marketing.

“We have a great advantage because of our wholesaler operation,” Newstead said. “It’s a low risk entry for us to bring it in and try it out.”

Newstead and Dirk Winkelmann, Nathel International’s director of global procurement, both joined as part of the company reorganization earlier this year.

This is Nathel International’s third year in business.

The company, Newstead, can afford to be choosy as it considers new Chilean import markets to get into.

“We don’t want to get involved in something if all we can do is just as good as the next company,” he said. “We look at our ceiling as really high.”


Western Fresh lobbies for new fig regulations

Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing is lobbying the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove the methyl bromide requirement for fresh figs imported from Chile.

Western Fresh has helped to fund tests and made other efforts to convince the government that Chilean figs do not need methyl bromide to be safe, said Chris Kragie, the company’s deciduous fruit manager.

“We’ve worked diligently to get methyl bromide to go away,” he said.

The methyl bromide requirement has been lifted for Chilean pomegranates, and Kragie hopes figs will soon follow suit.

Western Fresh is encouraging the USDA to take a systems approach to fresh Chilean figs: if produce is pest-free, it should be allowed into the U.S. without fumigation.

The problem with methyl bromide is that figs don’t hold up well to it, Kragie said.

“When customers receive it, fruit breaks down after a day or two.”

Kragie is confident that if the methyl bromide requirement is lifted, Western Fresh will be able to supply its customers with fresh figs year-round. Currently, there’s a three- or four-week window between the Chilean and California deals when Western Fresh typically does not have product.