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Sunny Valley continues growth of berry program

Sunny Valley International continues to see growth and expansion in its berry program as it handles the popular fruit category for an extensive period by sourcing from many different domestic and foreign districts.

Bob Von Rohr, who is director of marketing and customer relations for the Glassboro, NJ-based firm, told The Produce News in early September that its imported berry deal was just about to get underway. “Our imported blueberry arrivals are both conventional and organic from Argentina, Peru and Chile,” he said and then went on to explain the timing for each point of origin.

blueberries-from-Sunny-Valley The imported blueberry season runs from mid-September through mid-April with steady availability during that entire seven month period. The season kicks off with a regular supply of Chilean, Peru and Argentine blueberries by air into Miami in mid- to late September. From mid-October until the end of the season, the company shifts to ocean container fruit, which is unloaded at the Philadelphia port.

That shift coincides with the peak volume of Chilean blues, which runs from late October through April. Chile is the company’s main source of imported blueberries.

“Each season our imported blueberry program continues to grow. This year we have Argentine organic blueberries starting to arrive in mid-September by vessel in 10-pound bulk containers, which we can pack in a multitude of clamshells to meet customers’ needs,” he added.

Von Rohr said the key to its success is “excellent growers who take a lot of pride in their growing and packing practices and are committed to consistent quality and food safety programs. We have an excellent sales team who have developed long term trusted relations with customers. We also have a large organic blueberry program which complements our conventional blueberry program.”

He added that the blueberry continue to be an on-trend item. “Blueberry sales continue to grow each season with consumers looking toward healthy eating,” he added. “Blueberries are high in antioxidants.”

With regard to packaging trends, the company executive said retailers are looking for larger pack sizes, such as 18 ounces, 24 ounces and two-pounds.

This season, the company is helping to facilitate the increased interest in different pack sizes by doing some of the packing in the United States. “We are expanding our arrivals of bulk blueberries,” Von Rohr said. “This help ensure a freshly packed to order consumer clamshell.  We have the capability to re-style blueberries into special packs at the Eastern Propak facility in Glassboro, NJ, with a 24-48 hour advanced notice. It’s our strength in that we can convert to different pack styles or repack blueberries to meet our customers’ needs.”

He offered that the best way to promote blueberries at retrial is to give them an excellent place in the produce department, build attractive displays, advertise aggressively and offer diverse pack sizes, which, of course, Sunny Valley can accommodate.

Sunny Valley International has been a supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables to the North American market since 1986. A domestic fresh fruit program was added to the mix in the mid-1990s. The company’s website lists its most important fresh produce products as table grapes, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, pears, apples, Spanish clementines, and avocados. Von Rohr called Sunny Valley “a sales and marketing company” and says it specifically represents New Jersey and South Carolina peaches, New Jersey blueberries, imported citrus, grapes and kiwifruit as well as having a New Jersey fresh cranberry deal during the fall months. He said the firm is also working on expanding its imported citrus and grape programs for this coming year.