Del Rey Avocado enters blueberry business with Peruvian imports
January 30, 2014

Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. in Fallbrook, CA, has diversified its offerings this winter from its core offerings of avocados by taking on a blueberry deal out of Peru. Shipments started in October and were expected to continue through January, according to President Bob Lucy.

"Down in Peru, we have a venture where we have 1,100 acres of avocados," Lucy told The Produce News Jan. 7. "Our partner [Ulysses Quivedo], who farms 5,000 acres in Peru, has put in I think it is 150 acres of blueberries. He is marketing them and has asked us to assist in selling them into the United States, and we are doing that."blues1

The berries are being packed in the grower's "Talsa" label. So far this season, the quality of the berries has been "great," and the size has been "super good," he said.

Del Rey has never sold blueberries before, "but we are learning a lot each day and each week on it," Lucy said. "We find it exciting, but we want to make sure that we do a good job at it." It is basically a pilot program, but "if we can do a good job for our partners ... we will certainly continue. It is a good little niche for us."

Del Rey is "not the only one handling those berries," he said. "Nature's Pride is going to be involved, too, because we are talking big volume in the future."

The Peruvian blueberry crop appears to have a bit of a window in the North American market, Lucy said. It will come on in September, October and November, after the domestic volume has started to come down and before the Chilean volume comes in, "so it looks like a real opportunity for the Peruvian blueberry growers."

If all goes well with the Peruvian deal, Del Rey will look to expand its involvement in blueberries, Lucy said.

"We are hoping that we can get some organic blueberries in the future," said Lucy. "That is a strategy that we will work on."

Also, handling domestic production "would be a real possibility," he added. "That is something that we would really take a look at. And then if we really get serious about this thing and the volume justifies it, I would go hire a real blueberry salesperson."

Currently, "I am basically taking the lead" on the blueberry sales at Del Rey, he said, "but if it steps to the next level, which it very well could, I would probably want to hire someone who could come in to be a real pro at it. We are avocado people, and we have very good connection of retailers and wholesalers across the country, but [blueberries are] something that may take a little more specialized marketing ability."

The Produce News