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Dave’s Specialty Imports has expansive berry program

Sourcing from multiple countries and a product line that is varied and ever expanding, Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., has been serving both retailers and foodservice operators from its Miami, headquarters for more than 25 years.

Founded by Dave Bowe in 1992, the company is a third-generation grower and marketer of fresh berries. “My grandfather worked his way up from grocery store bagger to director of produce and at one point even owned his own IGA store,” said Vice President Leslie (Bowe) Simmons of her grandfather. “Before starting his own company, he worked in imports and recognized berries as a unique item to bring into the U.S. during the winter months. At the time, only a small handful of people were doing just that.”

Today, the company offers blueberries from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Canada; blackberries from Guatemala, Mexico and the United States; strawberries from Mexico and the United States.; and raspberries from Mexico. Dave’s offers organic berries alongside its conventional line as much as possible.

“Our fastest growing imported item has been our pomegranate aril cups from Peru,” she said. “We have a few other items we bring in from time to time like red currants, citrus, or asparagus depending on what a customer is looking for.”

The blueberry imports get underway this month and continue for the next six months with shipments from Argentina, Mexico, Peru, and Chile. “This year we will bring some bulk fruit in from both Peru and Chile so we have even more flexibility over pack sizes during the season,” Simmons said, adding that organic blues will be available from Mexico and Chile. “For blackberries, we will primarily offer supply from Mexico and expect very good volume of both conventional and organic fruit. November is always a great time to promote the fruit.”

The company’s conventional and organic strawberry program out of Mexico will begin around the end of September or early October. Simmons said it was a small program in 2018 but Dave’s is expecting to expand it this year. She added that the Mexican program will include a small amount of raspberries, including organic raspberries for the first time.

Simmons said in general supplies will be fairly strong from October to April offering retail promotional opportunities, especially on the blueberries and blackberries. “We are open to working with customers to find the right window that makes sense for their shopper,” she said.

While Mother Nature always has a say in supplies and timing, the Dave’s executive said the weather has been very good this year. “Right now things are shaping up nicely and projections are looking good across the board.”

The company has traditionally been more heavily focused on its retail partners, but Simmons said “we are looking at alternative packaging and formats to do more on the foodservice side. We’ve been collecting feedback in order to come up with something that really meets the need of our foodservice partners and their customers.”

The newest addition to the company’s team is Alex Molina who joined the firm last year and is celebrating his one-year anniversary in the middle of September. “He is full of passion and drive and has been an excellent addition to the sales team,” Simmons said. “He also had a connection to my grandfather many years ago and it’s great that things have come full circle with him joining us.”

With regard to trends, Simmons noted that the blueberry market has become more saturated, as new growing areas have increased total volume.

“Peru has become a huge player,” Simmons said. “Ten years ago the marketplace was vastly different. Supply can also be affected by how much a country like Peru or Chile decides to send to Europe or China instead of into the U.S. and Canada. I think consumer demand is steady, if not increasing for both conventional and organic, but short and long markets (pricing variability) can shift consumer purchasing and expectations. Ultimately quality, flavor, and variety are what keep the berry market interesting,” she concluded.