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Lower California strawberry volume, but harvest will continue
Trace back program increases communication between strawberry growers and consumers
While seasonal volume is essentially winding down, Red Blossom is still harvesting 100,000+ strawberries per week right now and will push through the first week of July, according to their latest field data. “Our spring programs aren’t completely finished but they’re winding down,” said Michelle Deleissegues of Red Blossom. They’ll keep going as long as the quality holds out and that retailers continue to be happy with what they’re receiving. “We’ll pick out of California’s Santa Maria area. There does come a moment when it’s time to acknowledge that the plants are tired.” Until then, the berries are shipped throughout North America.
Real time field data obtained
Further field data is now being obtained through Red Blossom’s Trace Back program, which was launched earlier this spring. The feature allows customers to go online and enter a code from their clamshell to see an up close and personal view of where their berries came from.
Deleissegues says it’s surprising how much contact they have with consumers compared to previous years. “I feel like this spring, more than ever,” she said. “It just seems to increase - the number of consumers who email us or message us on Facebook. A lot of them have questions about their food. It’s a great way for us as growers to interface with consumers; we don’t normally have that type of contact.” Traditionally it’s the retailers who get the face time with the consumer. “This is our opportunity to bridge that gap for the grower.”
The Trace Back program is an insider’s look at the life of the berries in each pack. After entering the code on the package, information details when the berries were picked, what variety it is, Google map options to zoom in on the field itself and there are also videos of the picking process and information about the picking crew. “It’s a one-of-a-kind for the industry,” she said.
Consumers get better understanding of where food comes from
Whether their feedback is positive or not, Deleissegues says it’s a revelation for people. “They don’t have a concept of where their berries are grown or what the fields look like. I think they look at the information and it’s a revelation to see the acres of strawberries. It doesn’t occur to them the pickers are out there in the wind and rain. It creates a genuine understanding (good and bad) of what it takes to grow something like a strawberry or other produce. It’s not a simple or easy task and there are a lot of factors along the way.”
Grower insight into picking crews, gaps and other details
Growers use it as intricate chain of communication. “It gives us a lot of confidence and assurances in our entire food safety program,” said Deleissegues. “We know we can get immediate feedback as far as every single field, lot, picking crew – we can get quality reports, where issues might be coming from in real time. We can see volume gaps faster, see volume excesses.” The sales team can use the data to work with customers so they’re not feeling any pressure. “It helps us be more fluid and proactive and also makes us a good partner with the retailer because we can nail down any issues immediately.”
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