California strawberries are still seeing a surprisingly strong market right now.
“I’m still seeing a pretty good supply of strawberries. We are enjoying a good market which is quite unexpected for this time of year,” says Jim Grabowski of Well Pict based in Watsonville, CA. Part of the reason strawberries are still moving well could be because of some tightness on other traditional summer items such as sweet corn, watermelon and cherries.
Grabowski notes that supplies are fairly comparable to last year at this time and are coming out of the Watsonville-Salinas, CA area. “We’ve hit our peak in that area and traditionally at this time, supplies are getting less every week. But there is still a substantial amount of fruit that’s available throughout the marketplace.”
At the same time, there are some smaller local deals and U-pick operations going on throughout the U.S. on strawberries, though Grabowski says they aren’t really competing with California. “Michigan strawberries have come and gone and Canada, Wisconsin and some of the midwestern states might be having some right now. But the local deals are short-lived and not enough to put a dent in our business,” he says.
Jim Grabowski of Well Pict.
Demand up for strawberries
Demand right now for strawberries does feel slightly stronger notes Grabowski because of the tight availability of those other summer items. “Eventually strawberries will lose some steam to those commodities as they get stronger into July,” he says. “Once we get past June and into July, that’s generally a downturn time for us.”
He adds that organic demand is also strong. “Organics are funny because sometimes we wish we had more organic supplies and other times, not as much,” says Grabowski. “But we’ve seen a bit of an uptick in larger sizes for organics, such as the 2 lb. packs, which is unusual.”
In general, interest has increased over the years in larger pack sizes. “For awhile there the 1 lb. pack was the king of the market and people ran them every which way they could—buy one, get one or two for $3, etc. They were all multiplying the 1 lbs.,” says Grabowski. “Then, maybe three to five years ago we started to see an increase in the 2 lb. business and that’s a fairly strong item these days. They used to run them on ad and then stopped them but now we see them getting everyday shelf business.”
All of this solid demand means that pricing is a little bit higher than in the past at this time of year. “We’re seeing some double-digit pricing which is unheard of at this time of year. It’s just been in the last two to three weeks,” says Grabowski.