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Blueberries remain top item for Sonny Boy Produce

By
Keith Loria

For Sonny Boy Produce, blueberries are its No. 1 seller throughout the year.

“Our family has been involved in pushing blues for over 40 years and has been at the forefront of the growth of the item,” said Tom Consalo, president of the company. “We were among the first to make deliveries into Canada and many other market areas. During the local New Jersey season, many areas rely on us for their supply and expect quality product which we pride ourselves on delivering.”

Sonny Boy Produce sells primarily to retailers up and down the eastern seaboard, but also have business in the Midwest and Eastern Canada. 

“We also sell to some wholesalers, foodservice and marketers to maintain a diversified portfolio,” Consalo said. “Needless to say, the blueberry — and the berry category — is of the utmost importance to our company and we concentrate heavily on growing this part of the business through quality, consistency and brand awareness.”

Throughout the year, Sonny Boy Produce can move up to seven million pounds of berries with around half of that coming from New Jersey.

“That number has grown for us and will continue to, as we have plans to expand our import and southern domestic deal throughout the remainder of 2023 and into 2024,” Consalo said.

He noted that one of the best ways to stay successful in berries is being consistent with your label and quality. 

“We focus hard on our consistency and brand awareness and ensuring quality throughout,” Consalo said. “Once we can establish that our label brings quality, we gain the trust of our customers and allow them the peace of mind when partnering with us.”

Last year was something of a wild ride for blueberries, and the New Jersey deal was one like Consalo had never seen before.

“Areas that usually overlap our window were not in production as compared to prior years, which put an extreme demand on New Jersey,” Consalo said. “We were in solid position with our supply that satisfied customers’ needs. We’ve since grown that supply and hope to carry another good year in 2023.”

The upcoming crop is looking good thanks to a mild spring, with the weather looking to lend to strong supply and good sized fruit. 

“I see it a bit larger than last year’s supply with similar start and end to harvest,” Consalo said. “We will likely send our crews to get leader berries around June 8-9. After building small inventory and preparing for shipments, our estimates are shipping by around the 12-13, with promotional volume within a week of first shipments. We’ll harvest through July with later varieties ending in the first or second week of August.”

Over the years, the Sonny Boy label has been one customers look for and the company has gotten great feedback on the performance and sales of the brand.

“For us, as a growing company, our biggest opportunity is solidifying our supply with our brand throughout the year,” Consalo said. “There are ups and downs in any category, but blues have seen some bigger skips in supply in recent years with big swings in supply. The better we can equip ourselves with diversifying our reach in terms of supply, the better we can offer consistency for our customers if certain areas are short in certain circumstances. That will continue to be a focus for us as a growth opportunity.”

Sonny Boy considers itself lucky to be partnered with retailers that do a great job of maintaining stock and supply of quality product. 

“That, along with aligning timing with promotion, is what we see our partners excelling at,” Consalo said. “I think the communication with retail buyers and their suppliers is what keeps things moving like a well-oiled machine. That’s part of the relationship-based business that we’re in and strive to constantly be better at.”

Photo: Bob consalo and Tom Consalo  at  the Sonny Boy blueberry farm in Hammonton, NJ.

Keith Loria

Keith Loria

About Keith Loria  |  email

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is a D.C.-based award-winning journalist who has been writing for major publications for close to 20 years on topics as diverse as real estate, food and sports. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at magazines aimed at healthcare, sports and technology. When not busy writing, he can be found enjoying time with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Jordan and Cassidy.

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