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Expect a sweet season for Florida strawberries

Florida’s popular winter crop is yielding higher quantities in response to consumer demand. The first trays of Florida strawberries left Plant City mid-November, despite cooler temperatures limiting early yields and fruit size. As of January, the number of strawberries shipped to date showed a 56 percent increase from last year. This is a promising start to the season, which can expect to gain momentum in coming weeks.straw

Florida is the second-highest strawberry-producing state in the U.S. with more than 10,000 acres and a legacy dating back to the late 1800s. Florida’s strawberry growers are proud of their rich heritage. This spring marks 90 years since the inaugural Florida Strawberry Festival, which has become one of the top 40 fairs in North America. In addition to celebrating tradition, Florida’s strawberry community is committed to agricultural innovation.

With a mild year-round climate and dedicated research facilities, Florida is constantly developing new strawberry cultivars. Factors considered in new varieties include enhanced flavor, earlier harvests, higher volume yields and longer shelf life. Among these remarkable new varieties is the Florida brilliance. Commercially introduced last season, approximately 10 percent of Florida strawberry acres participated in the record-setting roll-out. After a successful first season, industry interest in the variety spiked. Florida Brilliance makes up approximately 66 percent of strawberry acres this season replacing Sweet Sensation as the predominate fresh-market strawberry.

Consumers can find Florida strawberries in stores by looking for the Fresh From Florida logo. Representing Florida’s farmers, ranchers and fishermen, The Fresh From Florida brand is a household name. Surveys indicate that 83.5 percent of Florida consumers recognize the Fresh From Florida logo, nine out of 10 shoppers are more likely to buy a product with a Fresh From Florida label than one without and 77 percent are willing to pay more for a product labeled with a Fresh From Florida logo.

This season marks the 30th anniversary of the Fresh From Florida program. Started in 1990 by the Florida legislature, the program has evolved into a robust marketing campaign. Last year Fresh From Florida promoted strawberries in more than 250 marketing events resulting in 455,000 engagements from media efforts. Fresh From Florida retail campaigns resulted in an impressive $27.6 million in additional sales.

Strawberries are the fourth- most-popular fruit, and in the top 10 of all produce items, according to the Fresh Trends 2018 report. They appeal to people of all age groups and from all regions but are especially loved in the South. This widespread popularity is reflected in an increase in per person consumption over the last decade with surveys indicating 62 percent of all consumers purchasing the fruit. When shopping for strawberries, consumers should look for a glossy, bright red appearance, a firm shape, and sweet flavor. Florida strawberries deliver on all accounts. From a healthy breakfast to a sweet dessert, strawberries are the go-to fruit and Florida is your grow-to strawberry supplier.