Page 58 - December2018
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to Valentine’s Day,” Pollard says.  ose are great periods to promote Florida’s domestic strawber- ries. Flavor sells. It’s all about the  avor pro le. When consumers have a positive experience, they will come back and purchase more.”
Adds Harrell, “Holidays are our business; we are bright red and green and perfect for your holiday displays,” says Harrell.
Cake and whipped cream are not the only complementary items consumers look to pair with strawberries. Recipes for healthy salads, smoothies, desserts and even savory dishes incorporate fresh strawberries. Consumers love recipes and are always looking for creative ways to introduce fruit to their diet, says Harrell.  e FSGA o ers recipes on its website and social media channels, which it can share with retailers.  e organization also sponsors numerous contests during the season to promote buying fresh Florida strawberries.
Cross-merchandising works well throughout the season, says Well-Pict’s Crowley. “Retailers can cross-market our berries with football, school, Halloween,  anksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Valentines themes, just to name a few, and other marketable opportunities that might not jibe with a traditional berry season,” he says.
To stay competitive in the fresh straw- berry business, Florida varieties continue to improve in  avor and shelf life.  e state o ers new varieties that will be in the marketplace this year. “ e goal is to develop varieties that meet or exceed consumer expectations, as well as being sustainable for the grower,” says Kenneth Parker, FSGA’s executive director. University of Florida varieties account for 90 percent of Florida’s production acres, he says.
As some of Astin’s plots are located close to the University of Florida’s Balm, FL, research center, researchers conduct trials in Astin’s  elds. “ ey spend a lot of time on our farms and are committed to developing new and improved varieties,” says Pollard. “Researchers are there frequently looking at varieties, trials and sharing information, which is very bene cial.” Pollard cites the Brilliance and Sensation varieties as well-per- forming varieties.  e recently introduced Beauty variety continues to increase acreage.
 is season, Red Blossom is growing Brilliance. “ ey look promising for size and shipper quality,” says Casca. “ ey are hearty for shipping and eat very well.”
Florida berries are catching-up with California’s, says Casca. “California grows the best berry because of the lower humidity than what Florida experiences during their season,” he says. “But the di erence between California and Florida is decreasing yearly.  e Florida growers are getting better at growing. Coolers are state-of-the-art to get  eld heat out quicker and the shorter trans- port times also help.”
 is season, Driscoll’s plans to ship Prado, a premium variety, on a limited basis, but is looking to expand on the special label and grow more, says Wulf. “Florida, along with other regions, has been able to put together quite a few genetics in the pipeline that are very  avorful,” he says. “ e Florida pipeline is incredibly strong for really  avorful fruit and able to satisfy and delight our consumers, which is what we go for.”
 e state’s growers are also well-known. “Florida has a great reputation for bringing a strong tradition of grower that are dedicated to their craft and investing in their commu- nities, as well,” says Wulf. “Every region has its challenges, but Florida is able to react and move forward and still deliver high-quality berries.” pb

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