Soren Bjorn, President of Driscoll’s

“No doubt about it - labour is the biggest challenge”

Conventional and organic berries are now available year round at Driscoll’s. ”That is a big change,” says says Soren Bjorn, the company’s president. “This, in turn, drives consumption because there is always availability.” The ability to have berries available year round is not without its challenges.

When asked what are the biggest challenges facing the company, which is based in the USA, Soren said: “No doubt about it - labour is the biggest challenge. With fresh berries, you want to be close to the consumer, and berry consumption directly correlates to income levels. We tend to sell in countries where income levels are high, but these countries tend not to have sufficient labourers.” This means the company has to grow their berries a little further away, but still within trucking distance. “For example, produce from Mexico goes to the US; produce from Morocco goes to Europe, and produce from Southern China goes to Shanghai.”

Soren Bjorn from Driscoll's

Production expansion
“We are expanding production in developing countries, but the demand is in developed countries”, explains Soren. “To try and match the two up, and to try and do it year-round, is the hard part. It is really all labour-driven.” Soren says this is why technology is so critical. “We are looking at technological solutions that are more labour-friendly and more efficient, so it’s easier to harvest the berries”, he says. “In this way we can try and keep labour costs under control.”

“Interestingly in China, we started using production technology that was about as advanced as anywhere in the world, right away”, Soren says. “With this we can also get more consistent quality.” He says that Driscoll’s growth potential for the future, definitely, lies with Asia. They have created a production base in China, and now we also have a branch there. “China is unique as a market, and operating there certainly has a lot more restrictions”, he says.

“One of the things we have learned from other areas is, the sooner we have a predominantly local team in place, that understands the culture, and how to actually navigate things, the faster we can grow”, continues Soren. He says China is their most important market, but that they also have growth opportunities in other Asian countries, like Korea, Singapore, and Japan.

This berry company also has a couple of joint ventures with The Costa Group in Australia and China. “It’s been more successful than we thought it would be”, admits Soren. “They’re still very small in comparison to the rest of the company, but our initial success has given us a lot of confidence and some good momentum.” Another venture that has been doing very well for Driscoll’s is their brand unification campaign. “For the last two years, we have been ensuring that, globally, we have consistent messaging around our brand”, says Soren.

Workers and consumers
Looking forward, Soren says the vision for the company is to change the production environment. “You must make it more attractive for people to come and work in the berry fields”, he says. “We have some opportunities, especially in North America, to make work available all year round, not just seasonally.” Another important aspect for Driscoll’s future is, according the company’s president, their connectiveness with their consumers.

“We think we can dramatically deepen our relationship with our consumers”, he says. “The way in which branding companies interact with their consumers is going to change completely.” In Soren’s opinion, technology is going to be the driving force behind this. “Going forward, consumers and workers are the two most critical stakeholders in our business”, he concludes.

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Soren Bjorn

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