A new organic berry distribution company created by partners in the U.S. and Mexico has recently kicked off its inaugural shipments, offering a balanced portfolio of all four berry commodities as well as avocados.
Berry People may be new on the scene, but its president Jerald Downs said it starts out with the solid foundation of its partners’ relationships, experience, and resources, and will serve as a reliable and attractive alternative for its buyers and growers alike.
Organic blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries will be unified under the Berry People brand, with most of the volumes coming from key Mexican growing regions from December to June, with a transitional overlap from California starting in March and peaking in July through October.
By pooling their resources and relationships, Downs said the team was able to offer a full line of branded organic berries for the entirety of the main Mexican growing season.
“We saw a real need in the market for someone to effectively consolidate a branded, year-round and balanced portfolio of organic berries,” Downs told Fresh Fruit Portal.
“We were fortunate, between the partners and key outside grower alliances, to consolidate a substantial portion of that portfolio in preparation for Berry People’s November launch of operations.”
Ortiz, who is chairman of both Berry People and a well-known Mexico-based berry company, is described by Downs as a “driving force in the Mexican berry industry” with substantial raspberry and blueberry operations, while Escalera is a long-time blackberry expert with a well-established growing and export presence. The partners share decades of collective experience in the fresh berry industry.
Downs, meanwhile, brings his expertise in retail and distribution together with selected third-party growers in Mexico, the U.S., and broader Latin America to establish the company as a “truly direct and diversified distribution platform.”
He explained many retailers were looking for a viable and trustworthy alternative supplier that could provide the full line of berries, and especially organically grown.
The partners are motivated and excited by the “healthy lifestyles and economic opportunity for all partners in the Berry People value chain” from the farm workers to consumers, he said.
Besides the consolidation of a branded organic berry offering, Downs emphasized Berry People would operate a very personal and transparent working style with both growers and buyers alike.
“We are always willing to pick up the phone or catch a plane and deal with the opportunity or challenge at hand, whether it be the funding and development of a new organic raspberry project or the closure of a category managed retail program,” he said.
“It is very important for the partners to be present and available.”
He also explained the company partners were all highly seasoned individuals who have been through their fair share of successes and challenges, giving them both wisdom and appreciation for everyone along the supply chain.
“Philosophically, the partners believe in working very hard to steward the work that has been entrusted to us, and we take nothing nor anyone in our ‘berry community’ for granted,” he said.
While organic berries are the company’s core business, it will also sell relatively small volumes of conventional berries, primarily from acreage in transition to organic production. Customers will be served both in the U.S. and Canada.
The main Mexican berry season is just getting underway now, with fruit to be sourced from Michoacán, Colima, Jalisco and Baja California.
Downs said a crucial medium-term goal of the company was to build up a balanced year-round supply portfolio, adding that future investment in production will be entirely demand-driven.
The company’s first shipments were received into Los Angeles two weeks ago and are being shipped to a variety of end users across the West Coast.
The Berry People partners are also very focused and invested in the ongoing development and succession of their genetic material, Downs said. This is done by working closely with key nurseries and via plant breeding club memberships to ensure quality fruit and productive farms for the next generation of employees, buyers, growers, and consumers.
In addition, the partners have substantial experience and production in the avocado industry, and the company will sell organic avocados under the Avo People brand for select buyer programs.