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Always Fresh Farms remains a leader in berries

By
Keith Loria

Berries are a big part of what Always Fresh Farms, headquartered in Winter Haven, FL, does. In fact, the category represents 85 percent of the revenue from the company.

“We represent tens of millions of packages of berries, which equate to roughly 100 million pounds of berry production globally,” said Wayne Giddings, president and CEO of the company.

Always Fresh Farms’ history began in early 2000, and over the course of the last two decades, it has built farms, and established strong relationships with farmers and nurseries to develop its berry category by demand.

“To be successful in this area, I feel consistency and innovation in packaging are key,” Giddings said. “When I first started Always Fresh, there were limited SKUs within the berry category. For example, conventional pints were the most popular container for blueberries. Now, we have nine different SKUs and pack styles. Earning the confidence of the buyers is also key.”

Things at the company have been “outstanding” this past year, as Giddings noted no matter where people were dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, they still needed to eat.

“I think that most people found comfort in adding healthier options like berries and vegetables to their grocery lists,” he said. “Our employees worked tirelessly through extremely difficult and uncertain circumstances to ensure our responsibilities were fulfilled.”

The past 12 months have resulted in the strongest demand Always Fresh has ever seen in the berry category as berries remained the largest producer of revenue within the produce department of retail stores.

One way he’d like to see retailers increase sales is by concentrating more on displays.

“The location of those displays; end caps, island within the aisles all increase opportunities for impulse purchases,” Giddings said. “Multiple selection opportunities as well; offering two for $5 or three for $10 type purchases would do well.”

To help retailers, Always Fresh provides reliable information, planning and scheduling.

“Finding growers who can commit to the ever-growing demand helps,” Giddings said. “We work closely with berry councils, advertising opportunities and social media to increase our presence. While we strive for perfection it is a tall order; we do everything we can to achieve it.”

Looking at the state of the berry crops, Giddings noted the Florida season has been fair from the quality and production; however, demand has exceeded supply for the majority of the deal.

“With Georgia now well under way, we’re seeing high volume,” he said. “Quality has been intermittently impacted by weather in the Southeast. With the increase in mechanical grading and color sorting Always Fresh has implemented, additional quality control steps are being taken to ensure what we deliver is just that — always fresh.”

With blueberries, there’s a lot going on along the East Coast currently as demand is overwhelming and it’s a very competitive market.

“Supply is abundant,” Giddings said. “Over the next 100 days, blueberry production in North America will be at its peak. There should be multiple opportunities to feature berries.”

Always Fresh Farms has continued to grow in all areas — acres of berry production, adding new growers to its family of growers and adding fresh new faces onto its team.

“We’ve offered numerous internship opportunities over the last few years in all aspects of the business, some of which have turned into full time positions after graduation,” Giddings said. “Most recently, we’ve added Sarah Savage and Bella Giordano, both graduates of UF, to our team.”

Prior to the pandemic, the company purchased a building that has since been converted into a 70,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art cooling facility.

“We are constantly evolving and changing to make sure we stay true to our values,” Giddings said. “We are committed to being a leader in marketing quality produce grown in a socially and environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to provide the highest level of service in everything we do.”

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