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The Freshwave expecting big increase in New Jersey blueberry volume

Consalo Family Farms is anticipating a much larger volume of New Jersey blueberries this year compared to last year, according to Tom Consalo, vice president of The Freshwave, which is the sole marketer of all products grown by Consalo Family Farms.

How much more volume is he expecting? “I want to say a 25 percent increase. That’s what we’re seeing on our farms,” he told The Produce News Thursday afternoon, May 25, at the company’s headquarters, here. That would mean about 200,000 cases of Jersey blues, barring any major weather problems.

NJblues4646A.J. Consalo, Tom Consalo and Chelsea Consalo of Consalo Family Farms in front of some Duke variety blueberries, part of the company’s 200-acre farm in Egg Harbor City, NJ. Photo by Gordon M. HochbergAs to when the blueberry harvest will start this season, Consalo said, “We’re looking at around the 10th of June for the first pick,” which would be just about normal. He expects “promotable volume by the 14th of June,” since once the harvest begins, “it rolls right in.”

Asked about quality, Consalo stated, “It’s a little early to tell, but everything looks good so far. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

While the Duke and Bluecrop varieties are the mainstays here, the company continues to “manage the varieties” in an ongoing process to offer its customers consistent supplies of high-quality berries, including late season berries, said Consalo.

In any event, blueberries remain a key aspect of The Freshwave. The company handles a full line of produce from all over the world, but blueberries are its key item, Consalo has said before and reiterated during this interview. The company has a comprehensive program in place to make sure that it has blueberries on hand to supply its customers virtually all year long. It offers Chilean blueberries generally during January, February and March, moving to Georgia from around mid-April to the end of May. North Carolina usually has berries from around mid-May to mid-June. New Jersey historically is producing from mid-June to late August, with Michigan and British Columbia shipping from mid-August to mid-September. Argentina completes the cycle from around October into mid-December.

But the company has a major addition to that comprehensive program. “We’re adding a Peruvian blueberry deal for the first time,” Consalo announced with excitement. “Those berries will come in from about September through March. This deal will supplement all of our existing berries.”

Asked how many berries he expected from this new deal, Consalo replied, “It looks to be significant. I’d say a minimum of 250,000 cases. And that’s even a modest number.”

Almost all of the new Peruvian blueberries will be conventional, with just a few organic, he noted. They will be packed in six-ounce and one-pint clamshells.

But as important and exciting as this new deal is, Consalo reaffirmed his company’s strong commitment to New Jersey blueberries, which historically represent about 25 percent of the company’s overall volume. As he put it simply, “They’re still our bread and butter.”