As it looks ahead at its local blueberry and peach seasons, one New Jersey company says it’s planning for business as usual.
“We obviously recognize that the situation is abnormal so we’re going to be flexible and responsive to it as it develops,” says Tom Beaver of Glassboro, N.J.-based Sunny Valley International. “But in talking to customers and planning the movement of our blueberry and peach volumes, we’re going to approach it the same way we always have.”
What Sunny Valley does intend to do though is put more emphasis on the “buy local” message. “We’re talking with local and regional retailers about the importance of supporting local growers right now. We’re optimistic that when we get ramped up with NJ programs, customers who are in grocery stores will be excited about local product,” he says.
Beaver notes that blueberries in the state will start likely a week early this year around June 10th while peaches and stone fruit will get underway the first of July. In the meantime, he’s keeping somewhat of an eye on other markets growing those commodities as well such as Florida and Georgia.
Watching commodities elsewhere
“The dynamics for marketing blueberries in Florida are very different than in New Jersey in general,” Beaver says, noting that berries in that region for instance deal more directly with competing import berries than the New Jersey season does. “But we’re watching how the market evolves and what demand looks like for what we consider to be a premium fruit product.”
And then there’s the role of foodservice demand. While Sunny Valley has more limited customers in the foodservice business for these commodities, Beaver notes that the situation with lower foodservice demand could affect the movement of NJ berries and peaches. “The food that would be going to foodservice has to find a home elsewhere,” says Beaver.
“So, if the situation persists, that’s going to mean more volume has to find its way into retail. That would influence pricing and demand and it could mean some excessive volume to deal with. But it’s too early to know. We’re not sure how foodservice will rebound by the time we get going with our products.”
Looking ahead though, Beaver does note that both commodities should be strong coming out of the state this season. “We had a cooperative winter and things are coming along very well so we’re anticipating an excellent crop,” he says. “And we’re optimistic that by the time we get going, people will be excited about these summer commodities.”