Sunny Valley has strong partnership with Whalen Farms for cranberries
Sunny Valley markets cranberries on behalf of Shamong, NJ-based Whalen Farms, a grower-member of the Jersey Fruit Cooperative.
Whalen Farms is a first-generation farm, managed by Jeff Whalen, Bob Ritter and Chuck Torres. The farm was established in 1985 with 10 acres of cranberries and 1.5 acres of blueberries, but has since grown to over 300 acres of blueberries and 200 acres of cranberries. The Jersey Fruit fresh cranberry program emerged after Sunny Valley and Whalen Farms identified an opportunity to promote a “local” cranberry product in the marketplace.
The fresh cranberry deal is an extension of Sunny Valley’s summer blueberry and stone fruit programs and allows the company to offer continuity for customers looking to extend their local fruit programs into the fall.
In a normal season, the company will pack and ship approximately 10,000 cases of fresh cranberries, mostly sold in a 12-ounce, full-graphic polybag, emphasizing the prominent Jersey Fruit brand.
“We also ship in 3-pound and 10-pound bulk units,” said Tom Beaver, director of sales and marketing for the Glassboro, NJ-based company. “Typically, we ship cranberries from early October through Christmas, with the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday being the peak of our season.”
The differentiator between Whalen Farms and others is that all of its fresh cranberries are dry harvested and packed fresh to each order. Therefore, the Ben Lear and Stevens varieties are outstanding, ideal for New Jersey’s unique growing conditions. Both are notable for exceptional size and color when pre-harvest conditions cooperate, which is the case this year.
“The polybag we use also pops at retail, with beautiful graphics, cooking and prep tips, and a large clear viewing window that ensures that the beautiful, full color cranberries are very much the star of the show,” Beaver said.
The 2022 cranberry season was very strong and it’s expected that 2023 will be just as equally excellent.
“Fresh cranberries are a must-have item throughout the fall holiday season, and it seems that the pandemic resulted, at least in part, to a shift back to home-prepared meals,” Beaver said. “This has resulted in a new group of consumers interested in preparing their own cranberry-based dishes at home.”
Whalen Farms also has state-of-the-art packing and sorting equipment to ensure that only the highest quality fruit is packed into the polybags and bulk boxes. This equipment allows it to sort out shriveled and undersized fruit, and to select for high-color cranberries that consumers are looking for.
“Success in this segment comes easily when you’re marketing excellent quality fruit, and we’re fortunate that Whalen Farms gives us the opportunity to do just that,” Beaver said. “If they aren’t already, we think that every retailer in the tri-state area should consider incorporating a local, fresh cranberry program as part of their fruit marketing efforts this fall. The sales team at Sunny Valley International is ready to assist wherever we can this season.”
Photo: Chuck Torres, Jeff Whalen and Bob Ritter of Whalen Farms.