The Huelva-based cooperative Grufesa has started making its first strawberry shipments. The season kicked off for the company in mid-November with the extra-early varieties. Currently, the harvest volume is on the rise, making it also possible to increase the frequency of shipments to export markets in Europe.
This has been explained by Grufesa manager Carlos Cumbreras, who assures that it is "very important to have enough strawberries available in this period, as it truly strengthens your relationship with the customers, who are offered the possibility of purchasing strawberries for as long as possible. Strawberries reach the tables in time for Christmas, becoming an indispensable fruit. Due to the partial commitment to early varieties, we have managed to advance the production period by two months over the last ten years," points out Cumbreras.
Carlos states that the strawberries are reaching a very good quality, even though the much warmer temperatures for this time of the year (hot days and cold nights) are slightly accelerating production.
Grufesa remains committed to strawberries and is starting with blueberries
According to official figures provided by the Association of Producers and Exporters of Strawberries from Huelva (Freshuelva), the strawberry acreage planted this year in the province of Huelva has declined by about 8%; however, for Grufesa this strawberry acreage has increased by around 3%. "Even though it is not very significant, it strengthens our position as strawberry specialists," he assures.
This season, the cooperative from Huelva will start marketing its first blueberry volumes under the Mr. Blue brand. The volume will still be small, but will pave the way for this berry to become an integral part of Grufesa's range. This, according to the manager, is "our first experience with this fruit, which is starting to gain a foothold in the shopping basket due to the health benefits it provides."
Innovative production technologies and new packaging
The production of blueberries is not the only novelty for Grufesa this campaign; the firm will continue to base its berry production processes on sustainability, using technologies such as IG4 (which last season made it possible to save up to 30% irrigation water, using only the nutrients that the plant needs) or Food Chain Partnership, a program launched in 2010 in partnership with Bayer CropScience.
This campaign, Grufesa will launch a premium line of strawberries; a fruit to be selected directly in the field and which will feature special packaging. The packaging has precisely been one of the key aspects for the firm. As noted by the manager, "the presentation of our fruit is very important; it is an aspect that consumers give great importance to before taking the fruit home; therefore, we will make a special effort this campaign, with some new features. Grufesa is presenting a new packaging line for both strawberries and blueberries, with a new design that emphasises the company's sustainability. It will incorporate an innovative transparent labelling to the container lid."
Meanwhile, they will relaunch the special LOVE gift packaging presented last season, as well as a new design within the subject "Strawberries as a gift", in addition to other special formats for festive periods.
New lines of business in the Middle East and Asia
Grufesa has been working to expand its export markets, while maintaining those established in recent seasons. Consequently, according to its manager, and as part of the new lines of business, they are "making small shipments to the Middle East," a market that currently demands "Spanish strawberries and with which we can work at certain times of the campaign."
The Moguer-based company also points to Asia, although according to Carlos Cumbreras, the introduction of strawberries into the Asian market "is still in a distant horizon compared to other berries, like blueberries." Despite all this, "strawberry consumption possibilities are very high. You have to find the right windows that will allow you to deliver the product in good condition and to become a real alternative to other, already established origins."
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