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FSGA expects strong Florida strawberry season

The Florida Strawberry Growers Association reported in December that the state’s strawberry season started off slow with moderate volume, but still expects some good news for growers by the time the season ends early in 2019.flo

“The fields look good, but it has been warm and the fruit started out small,” said Sue Harrell, director of marketing for the Plant City, FL-based association. “The weather has cooled off and if we can stay ahead of the rains, our size and volume will increase. The crops have been great so far. Berries are staking up so it won’t be long and you will see higher volumes in production. It looks like we will have a good supply by mid-January.”  

While Florida farmers are seeing more competition from Mexico, the association touts its strawberries because they has fewer miles traveled to the markets, which makes them fresher.

“Mexico’s market share is increasing, though,” Harrell said. “We are continuing to educate the consumers to look at the address on the package. Our fruit is USA-grown and it is fresher and has a longer shelf life.”

 Additionally, The Florida Strawberry Growers Association calls out the emerging innovation that has helped the state’s berries become even more in demand.

“The berry varieties that we are using now have so much more flavor than the past varieties,” Harrell said. “The University of Florida has been focusing on the taste. We are in the pursuit of that perfect Florida strawberry in terms of taste, color and shape, and one that can make the trip to the market place with great shelf life.”

 As part of its mission to hype strawberries from Florida, the association is concentrating on reaching consumers in 2019. It has partnered with Publix for the 11th annual Publix Florida Marathon Weekend featuring the Florida Today 5K and 8K runs, Feb. 8-10.

“Beautiful Florida strawberries will be served and given to the winners along with a strawberry-themed medal featuring the Florida Strawberry Growers Association mascot Jammer on a surf board. We are excited to be a part of this amazing weekend,” Harrell said.

“We’ll also be working with retailers by partnering with the Fresh From Florida folks at the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, and we have numerous contests during the season to promote buying fresh Florida strawberries such as our Strawberry Beanies, which are cute winter stocking caps, a perfect reminder that Florida strawberries are a taste of Florida sunshine all winter long,” said Harrell.

Harrell called strawberries “the color of the holidays,” specifically Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, and believes retailers should highlight these strawberries more in holiday displays and even provide recipe ideas.

“Retailers can decorate the produce department with strawberries during the holidays by placing them in front of the produce department. It’s a way to persuade consumers to buy,” she said. “Cake and whipped cream is not all consumers do with fresh strawberries now. Recipes for healthy salads, smoothies, desserts and even savory dishes incorporate fresh strawberries. Consumers love recipes and are always looking for creative ways to introduce fruit to their diet.”