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Jean-Bernard Cherblanc, Sicoly

“Democratizing the consumption of red fruit thanks to a counter-seasonal offer”

Sicoly recently started marketing strawberries. The campaign is off to a slow start, due to the lack of favorable weather conditions. "A month ago, we were ahead of schedule. But for the last two weeks, the rainy weather and lack of light have not been conducive to production. We are also behind schedule with the raspberry production. We should have started the campaign by now, but we will not be able to begin for another two weeks, with significant quantities due to arrive in early June," explains Jean-Bernad Cherblanc, manager of the fresh fruit sector at Sicoly. The season is shaping up very well, according to the manager.

Photo credit: Sicoly

Keeping the lines open thanks to off-season marketing
The French supply is lagging behind, but it is now supported by off-season production. "We used to only market our French production, from May until November. We chose to work with varieties that were highly palatable, prioritizing quality over productivity. For 5 years now, we have also been offering imported products from Morocco and Portugal under the Lovely Berry brand, enabling us to supply our clients all year round without interruption. This way, we maintain contact and open lines, making it much easier to switch from one origin to another."

Democratizing consumption
This approach has other advantages as well. "Off-season imports at lower prices, since labor costs are lower than in France, democratize the consumption of red fruit, making it more part of French consumers' eating habits. This makes red fruit a fairly linear and affordable pleasure product. Having a trading activity in the off-season also enables us to maintain jobs all year round."

Photo credit: Sicoly

Insufficient domestic supply
French consumption has grown considerably but production is not sufficient to supply the domestic market. "Although our growers' production has been increasing every year, often to the detriment of other crops such as apples, we are always on the lookout for new growers to join us. Even at the height of the season, we need imported products to satisfy the demand on the French market. Growers are specializing to some extent in small fruit, but the challenge for the coming years will be to find new producers."

A secure and lucrative sector
"The red fruit sector does not attract many professionals today, despite its many advantages. Although labor-intensive, it is easier to manage than other sectors, where outdoor harvesting depends on the weather. In a controlled environment, labor management is simpler. It is also more profitable because it is safer. Being produced in greenhouses, the crops are not subject to the risks of frost or hail. As a result, income is more guaranteed and market prices are less variable. Today, soft fruit markets are fairly stable and linear. Red fruits also benefit from a good image: they are a sweet pleasurable product that is also good for our health. We are working hard on communication to raise awareness about our profession among young people."

Photo credit: Sicoly

"Fruits of the Heart" operation

This year, Sicoly has decided to run a social and solidarity operation, donating 10 euro cents [0.11 USD] per tray sold to an association working to help the disabled. "This operation called 'Fruits from the Heart' aims to help people with disabilities attend the opening of the Paralympic Games. This operation has been generating a lot of joy."

For more information:
Jean-Bernard Cherblanc
[email protected]

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