Supplies of California dates are steady as suppliers manage challenges with exporting the fruit.
“The movement has increased domestically on our current crop. But has decreased on exports compared to previous years,” says Hope Barbee of Coachella, CA.-based Double Date Packing. “It’s specifically tied to COVID-19. With borders, ports and some countries still closed, sales that normally go to export aren’t doing so.”
That said, domestic demand continues to rise for the fruit. “Domestic demand has increased compared to recent years. Over the past few years, dates have become more popular,” says Barbee. “And this year, consumers are cooking at home, trying to make healthier choices, experimenting with interesting and exciting ideas on what to make.”
Better packaging for the fruit and saving plastic
To help fuel demand and maintain product integrity, Barbee says Double Date continues to be innovative with the new addition of a stand-up recyclable pouch to contain the fruit. She says the bags extend the shelf life of dates to nine months compared to six months in clamshells. “Clamshells are clear on all sides so the fluorescent light hits the fruit and ages it prematurely. The bag creates a natural microclimate that holds the quality longer. You don’t see the natural sugar crystalizing as quickly as you would in a clamshell and the plastic usage of 49 grams with the clamshell versus the pouch 14.56 grams is making an impact,” she says.
As for the incoming 2020 crop, which tends to wrap up harvest between late October and into early November, Barbee says the quality is comparable to the 2019 crop. “The volume will increase due to younger trees that are now ready for production,” she says.
And on pricing, Barbee notes pricing will see a slight lift this year, in part tied to the continued annual rise in California’s minimum wage rates.