California and Arizona are underway with the current crop of dates. Neil Merritt, Director of Global Sales at Bard Valley Date Growers (BVDG) says it began harvest the week of September 5th. “It was a little bit later than normal but we’ll finish in four to six weeks. Mother Nature determines that we pick the fruit within that time,” he says.
This year’s crop though has been influenced by some adverse weather conditions in the Yuma, Arizona-Coachella, California regions where there have been some micro storms and cooler weather.
While Bard Valley’s crop continues to grow annually given it has added plantings, the grower-shipper is also expanding its organic crop particularly. “Organic dates have definitely taken off more than conventional so we adjust our crop and dedicate a bit more each year to organic,” he says, noting that this year there’s a small increase on date pricing due to the increased production costs, from labor to freight rates.
Encouraging consumer trial
"Currently, in the U.S., dates have a household penetration rate of about eight percent," says Merritt. To help reach more consumers through trial and awareness, this year Bard Valley also has new products in its mix: the Snack Pack box contains three individually wrapped dates that retails for $1.99 and also Truffles, chopped Medjool dates covered in chocolate and available in Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Cherry and Chocolate Blueberry. “We’re trying to get more people into the date category and these are a low cost of entry to the date category,” adds Merritt.
The company is also looking at growth beyond North America. “We’re making a big push internationally and we’ll be out at more trade events around the world in the next year,” says Merritt. “There are a lot of countries we’re not in right now just because we’ve never had a big focus in those areas.”
To help its international reach, Bard Valley has strengthened its internal team to do so. This year it has appointed a director of global sales, added to its German office as well as Indonesia to handle Southeast Asian business and more.