Page 56 - December2018
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our independent California growers are in their o -season, using Florida farms allow us to utilize a bicoastal supply and  ll the winter supply gap for our retailers and their customers,” says Crowley. “ is means we are able to o er the same fresh, premium berries year-round, across the world, without compro- mising value or quality.”
Harps Food Stores likes to promote Florida winter strawberries. With increased freight rates, the proximity of Florida’s produc- tion helps with logistics, says Mike Roberts, director of produce operations for the Spring- dale, AR-based chain, which operates 87 stores in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. “We do a lot and want to do more, especially with all the new trucking regulations,” he says. “Being a little closer, the Southeast production helps. We do a ton of them.”
 e freshness angle is crucial, says Sue Harrell, director of marketing for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA), which is based in Dover. “Freshness and  avor are the key to success at the retail level,” she says. “ at means consumers want a straw- berry that looks fresh, tastes great and has a longer shelf life. Florida is the largest producer of fresh strawberries in the U.S. during the winter months. In the winter months, we have fresh Florida strawberries that go from  eld to table within three days.”
Florida grower-shippers distribute primarily to buyers in the East and in the Midwest.
 ough Grimes Produce sends berries to Texas and Kansas City, that’s about as far west as the grower-shipper goes on a regular basis. “We can get to the East Coast faster than anyone,” says Grimes. “It’s a one- to two-day trip.  at helps with the freshness. Customers like our fruit’s  avor, quality, sizing and shape.”
Red Blossom doesn’t ship any loads to the West Coast, says Casca. “ is past year, trucking was tight from all regions, but once Florida gets rolling, there seems to be ample truck supply, which means more reliable deliv- eries,” he says. “Florida strawberries have good color, great taste and more shelf life due to the closer proximity to East Coast retailers.”
With escalating freight costs, Florida strawberries play a critical role in keeping retail stores competitive, says Joe Pascarella, director of sales for Goodson Farms, Inc., based in Wimauma, FL. “It’s the proximity and that closeness in distribution,” he says. “ e biggest thing is with the new e-logs, Florida is 48 hours to everything east of the Mississippi,
while Mexican strawberries are 24 hours to 48 hours to get to the border.  e importance of Florida strawberries is to help maintain the availability of U.S.-grown product.”
Logistics issues are becoming more crit- ical. “ e trucking deal is extremely tight, and there are fewer trucks on the road,” says BBI’s Smith.  e new regulations make it more di - cult to get to places and it takes longer, he says. “Truckers prefer Florida,” says Smith. “ e advantages from a transportation standpoint are getting even better for us.  at doesn’t mean it isn’t costing us more, but it’s still better for us than anyone else.  ere are more products here, the whole vegetable crop in the South and in Florida.  ere are more miles truckers must run to other areas farther away. We can be there a lot sooner to our clientele, the eastern half of the U.S., and Canada, too.”
Florida’s location also helps shippers. As a coastal state, Florida o ers easy access to
CA, recommends erecting large, refrigerated displays prominently displayed in the produce department. “Knowing that strawberries in particular are the gateway to the produce aisle, and that the produce aisle really di erentiates any retailer from its competition, you need to put these berries out front and center,” he says.
Keeping the berries fresh is critical. “Show how you di erentiate in terms of quality by making sure consumers get the freshest berries,” says Wulf. “Keep the ordering fresh, keep the velocity moving at the consumer level by making sure you’re continually receiving fresh berries. Also, maintain cooled fruit. Draw attention not only to any sales and ads, but also to the fresh aspects of it and the quality of the berries.”
Displays must be well-maintained. “Full displays of fresh Florida strawberries need to be restocked and rotated during the day and always kept full,” says Harrell. “Always keep Florida strawberries fresh by placing them on refrigerated tables and display cases.”
 e best way to merchandise Florida Strawberries is in a lead location or in a high- tra c, visible area where consumers can see that they are in season, advises Astin’s Pollard. “Expanding the space on Florida strawberries and grouping all the berries together to create a one-stop location for berries is a proven success,” he says.
Retailers shouldn’t be afraid to display strawberries in other locations. “A satellite display outside of produce is an incremental sale after the consumer has left the produce area,” says Pollard. “Merchandising near the bakery or ice-cream section are great areas for addi- tional displays or even near the cash registers for  nal purchases. Cross-merchandise tie-ins like strawberry glaze, pound cakes, chocolate dips, milk-shake mixes and whipped cream to suggest dessert and entertaining options.
As always, use good signage to promote strawberries.”
Always Fresh’s Sumner recommends merchandising Florida strawberries in 1- and 2-pound clamshells at aggressive retail prices. “Promote, promote, promote,” he says. “Strawberries are an impulse item that need to be merchandised in a prominent location.” Sumner says the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Fresh from Florida point-of- sale material and marketing dollars can help retailers sell more fruit.
 e colorful Florida fruit plays well during winter holidays.
“We cover all the holidays, from Christmas
many options for quickly transporting goods to other areas of the country and the world, says Crowley.
“Incorporating Florida berries into our sales model means we can o er premium strawberries year-round to a wider market,” he says. “In turn, East Coast retailers can bene t from the sales of a consistent, quality strawberry supply during the fall and winter seasons where they normally might not have that additional boost.”
One of the most noticeable character- istics of Florida strawberries is they tend to hold more water, which makes them juicier, says Wish Farms’ Wishnatzki. Typically, Florida strawberry varieties are red all the way through. “California strawberries can be similar in size, but they tend to have more of a heartier texture and a more hollow center,” he says. “ is is partly due to breeding that takes into account the long distances these berries typically have to travel.”
Andrew Wulf, senior director of strawberry product leadership at Driscoll’s, Watsonville,

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