(Sept. 3) WATSONVILLE, Calif. — Sweet Darling Sales Inc. boosted its strawberry deal after partnering with PurePak Inc., Oxnard, to market and sell the company’s Red Gem brand strawberries.

Sweet Darling is expected to increase in overall volume by about 35% and offer strawberries 11 months of the year, said John Larse, president.

Larse declined to give volume figures.

The agreement was announced Aug. 31 and extends Sweet Darling’s availability by two months.

“This gives us a better market presence and allows us to better serve our customers,” Larse said. “We’re happy about it.”

EARLIER START

Sweet Darling’s season has run from April to November. It now will start in January, Larse said.

PurePak has been looking to partner with a northern California shipper to provide a nearly year-round supply of strawberries, said Kelly Wilmer, spokeswoman for PurePak.

PurePak had received several requests from customers to extend its supply line.

“The synergies between the two owners (made) Sweet Darling a good match,” Wilmer said.

Sweet Darling and Red Gem brands are California-grown berries. Sweet Darling also ships raspberries and blackberries.

GROWING ORGANIC PRESENCE

PurePak is a major strawberry grower that is increasing its presence in the organic market.

In 2002 PurePak was stated as one of the largest organic strawberry growers. PurePak shipped more than 200,000 cases of organic strawberries and 800,000 cases of conventional strawberries in that same year.

Strawberries are the only item that PurePak offers conventionally and Sweet Darling only markets Purepak’s conventional berries.

Sweet Darling only markets PurePak’s conventional berries.

Larse Farms Inc. grows Sweet Darling strawberries out of Watsonville, while PurePak grows its strawberries in the Southern California district.

Standard packaging options are offered for the Sweet Darling and Red Gem brands.

“We have 1- and 2-pound packs, long stems, bulk pack in pints, 4-pound clamshells and half trays,” Larse said.

Sweet Darling, PurePak cut deal to market berries
Overall volume for Sweet Darling Sales Inc., Watsonville, Calif., is expected to increase by more than a third by teaming up with PurePak Inc., Oxnard, Calif. The deal also lengthens Sweet Darling’s strawberry availability by two months.