Blossom Hill offers ‘just picked’ freshness in its apricots
Family-owned for more than nine decades, Blossom Hill Packing and Lucich Santos Farms have more than 40 years of experience growing and shipping apricots.
“We specialize in apricots, and planting varieties of both conventional and organic enables us to harvest, pack and ship for eight weeks so that we can supply a good volume without gapping,” said Jim Lucich, sales manager for the Patterson, CA-based operation. “We grow about 1,000 acres and supply not only for the fresh market, but also the canned, dried, and processing industries.”
As anyone who works with the item knows, apricots are a very sensitive fruit, and Blossom Hill’s goal is to grow, pack and ship apricots so its customers will find them sweet and juicy.
“We are fourth-generation here at the farm,” Lucich said. “My grandfather, Luca Lucich, farmed and dried apricots in Santa Clara Valley. We have records from his dry yard dating back to 1921, so that puts us at 100 years.”
Lucich’s father, Nick Lucich, moved the operation to Patterson in the 50s and started growing apricots for the first time. Today, his brother Pete and brother-in-law Dave Santos have taken the reigns and done a great job making the company synonymous with apricots.
“We’ve seen the technology advance so much that we now have the only apricot-specific optical sorting machine, which enables us to consistently produce a great box of packed apricots,” Lucich said. “Farming apricots isn’t the easiest for the fresh market; what happens in the orchard will determine the eating quality. Consumers make the final decision on our success, if they come back to buy more, we’ve done our job.”
Like most, he admitted that trying to navigate COVID-19 has been challenging for Blossom Hill.
“We’ve taken all the available precautions and steps to keep our employees safe and be as protected as possible,” Lucich said. “In response to COVID-19, shoppers are buying more fresh fruits and vegetables knowing this builds healthy immune systems. Since apricots are a great source of many antioxidants, including beta carotene and vitamins A, C and E, plus they’re high in a group of polyphenol antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been shown to protect against illnesses, they have been very popular.”
To succeed in the apricot segment, keeping that “just picked” freshness is key, Lucich noted, which is why picking, packing and shipping all in the same day is the company’s goal.
“This ensures a better consumer experience,” he said.
The overall apricot crop in early 2021 looks much better than last season, which is good news to those at the company.
“Crops can be alternate bearing, and last year was a light year, so this year we see a good set of apricots,” Lucich said. “There will be great opportunities for promotions, and we should see the season begin around the end of April.”
The biggest opportunity for expanding and growing the category in 2021 is to focus on this eating experience.
“An apricot that looks great and has great flavor will grow this category for the retailer,” he said. “Also, carrying both conventional and organic apricots will help build the apricot category for retailers. Promoting during peak season and having large displays with full color apricots, at value, will create good movement.”
Blossom Hill is getting more requests from retailers who are looking to reduce plastic usage, and in response to this, it now has a compostable bottom clamshell that reduces plastic by 80 percent.
This year, the company will be partnering with Mountain View Fruit in Reedley for sales and marketing. “Our combined efforts will maximize our position in the marketplace bringing better exposure and sales for the long term,” Lucich said. “Blossom Hill and Mountain View have a long history of working together, so we see this as a perfect fit for both companies.”