Berry sales may not reach the stratospheric heights in winter that they do in summer, but retailers say today’s consumers want the fruit no matter what season it may be.
“Their expectations are that you have berries year-round, and it’s our job to find them,” said Dennis Chrisman, vice president of produce for the three locations of Dayton, Ohio-based Dorothy Lane Market.
Dorothy Lane Market tries to keep its berry displays consistent year-round, he said, even though there may be fewer opportunities for berry promotions in winter than other times of the year.
The stores offer Driscoll’s brand strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries whenever possible and display all the berries together.
Customers may prefer domestically grown berries, but they’re accepting of imports if the quality is there, Chrisman said.
“It’s going to be quality first,” he said.
Chrisman doesn’t believe that the distance imported berries travel have much of an impact on quality or shelf life.
“Mother Nature determines the quality, not necessarily the distance the fruit travels,” he said.
Berries also move well during the winter at B&R Stores, a Lincoln, Neb.-based chain with 20 locations, said Randy Bohaty, produce director.
“Berries are a pretty strong category for us throughout the wintertime,” he said.
Winter berry displays are one-third to one-half the size of summer displays, but they’re larger today than were five years ago, he said.
Bohaty also sees increased demand for berries other than strawberries.
“We’ve had more success with the varietal berries, like raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, in the wintertime than we used to,” he said.
Bohaty merchandises all the berries together and advertises them “quite frequently” during the winter, often featuring one kind of berry on ad each week.
He’s also found that consumers use berries differently in summer, when they’re eaten fresh, than in winter, when they’re often used in baking.
Lee Anderson, produce manager at a Hy-Vee, store in Omaha, Neb., said the company puts berries on ad about once a month during the winter, though raspberries, blackberries or blueberries usually are featured rather than strawberries.
The main refrigerated strawberry display stays much the same year-round, he said.
“When the summer comes around, we add space off refrigeration and all over the store.”
Hy-Vee shoppers, like those at other stores, want berries year-round, Anderson said.
“Customers don’t distinguish anymore between seasons,” he said. “If they can get strawberries in the summertime, they want strawberries in the wintertime.”
They also would like to see them sell for the same price year-round, he said, but that’s not likely to happen.
A 1-pound container of strawberries that sells for $1.99-2.99 during the summer will be $3.99 to 5.99 in winter because of increased transportation costs and tighter supplies, he said.