(Dec. 16) PLANT CITY, Fla. — One of Florida’s largest strawberry grower-shippers will be filling Green Giant Fresh clamshells with strawberries.

Wishnatzki Farms and Monterey, Calif.-based Colorful Harvest LLC have formed a partnership to have Wishnatzki be the exclusive supplier of Florida strawberries and blueberries for the Green Giant label.

The deal will allow Colorful Harvest’s and Green Giant’s customers to seamlessly transition from one growing region to another, said Doug Ranno, Colorful Harvest’s chief operating officer and general manager.

“This marries a good supply with incredibly strong national brand marketing for a year-round supply with access to the largest amount of acreage in the state of Florida,” Ranno said. “We began to learn about the Florida market and realized that aligning with a premium grower such as Wishnatzki would be the best way to deal with the Florida market for our program.”

Colorful Harvest is an independent company that shares some owners with Minneapolis-based Sholl Group II. The Sholl Group owns the licensing rights to the Green Giant Fresh produce label. A prominent advertising industry magazine recently identified the Green Giant label as the No. 3 icon of the 20th century.

In addition to Wishnatzki supplying strawberries during Florida’s December-to-March season, Colorful Harvest plans to use the Wishnatzki precooling facility as a year-round forward distribution point for Colorful Harvest- and Green Giant-branded berries.

Most of the berries marketed under the sublicensing agreement will be packed under the Green Giant label, Ranno said, while Colorful Harvest will pack under Green Giant and its own Colorful Harvest label.

Wishnatzki will continue to pack strawberries in its Wishnatzki, Strawberry Joe, Simmons Farm and Ferris Farm labels.

“This will be a great opportunity for us to market our fruit under a national brand,” said Wishnatzki Farms president Gary Wishnatzki. “It will enhance the customer base we already have and will open some new relationships we didn’t have before.”

Wishnatzki and Ranno declined to state how much of Wishnatzki production would be dedicated to the Green Giant label. Colorful Harvest shipped nearly 3 million cases of Green Giant-branded strawberries last season. Ranno said he expects to ship considerably more berries this season.

“Berries grown in each region will still be regionally focused, but this relationship will afford the opportunity for us to better take advantage of a year-round supply strategy especially during certain times of the year when there is no availability,” Ranno said.

Before the announcement, Wishnatzki said it expected to break the 2 million-flat sales level this season for the first time. Last year, the 83-year-old company shipped 1.5 million flats, Wishnatzki said.

The first Wishnatzki-supplied Green Giant-branded strawberry packs began shipping from Florida Dec. 9.

The partnership also marks Colorful Harvest’s debut into blueberries. The company is starting to build its Green Giant blueberry program, Ranno said.

Green Giant-branded blueberry packs should start hitting retail shelves in April when Florida’s blueberry season — which runs through May — starts. Colorful Harvest, which also grows and packs Green Giant-branded artichokes and avocados, will start shipping Green Giant blueberries year-round then, Ranno said.

Colorful Harvest shipped what Ranno characterized as a fair amount of strawberries under the Green Giant label last year with the season being the first that included a small amount of Florida berries. The Green Giant label began appearing on Colorful Harvest’s strawberries shortly after the company’s 2003 formation.

The place-packed fruit will be packed in a variety of sizes including 1-, 2-, and 4-pound clamshell packs, full pints and stems in the 10-down modular footprint flats.