Demand in the blueberry category has been rising exponentially in the last couple of decades, and Always Fresh Farms is right there with it. Through varietal innovation, calculated retail strategies, and an unmatched tenacity, Always Fresh Farms has positioned itself as a leader on the frontlines of blueberry sales. Follow along with us as we take a closer look at this burgeoning program...
The blueberry is a humble fruit—a small, deep-colored globe packing the nutrition consumers love with the flavor that keeps them coming back. These berries have maintained their status as a staple on shopping lists and are known for consistent quality that bulks up the average purchase order. Aside from its starpower in the produce aisle, this little fruit has also had unexpected influences on our culture as a whole.
2020 is referred to as The Blue Year, with Pantone naming “classic blue” as color of the year and Firmenich naming “classic blueberry” as flavor of the year. Needless to say, blueberry innovations are ripe for the picking and demand is exponentially rising. That’s what makes blueberries a key sales driver over at Always Fresh Farms (AFF), where the category continues to lead the pack in produce departments.
“Product, service, innovation, commitment. These are the four pillars of Always Fresh Farms. Our recent growth might have just put us on the radar of some, but we have a very experienced team that has been marketing berries for over 20 years,” began Greg Kosofsky, Northeast Sales Manager. “The Always Fresh team and its growers are some of the hardest working people in the industry, which ultimately sets us apart. Much like blueberries, you can expect AFF to continue to grow and improve year after year.”
Greg is a fierce advocate for these little produce powerhouses. Having spent significant time working on the buy-side before earning his supply-side stripes at AFF, Greg has a unique aptitude for driving retail sales in this category. With Greg on its team, the grower has seen blueberries continue to rise in the market and is positioning itself for long-term domination as one of the world’s leading blueberry suppliers.
As a trade news writer whose consumption of blueberries is practically a personality trait, I was extremely eager to sit down with Greg and learn about AFF’s dynamic program. I just had to uncover how this legendary fruit has helped Always Fresh Farms achieve such unprecedented growth.
According to Greg, it was the rising popularity of blueberries that prompted AFF’s Founder to pivot from the citrus category. Though the company has been wildly successful since it expanded its lineup to include blueberries, Always Fresh Farms broke onto the fresh produce scene just as the category was already gaining speed.
“Always Fresh Farms originally started as Florida citrus broker Westlake Miller,” he explained. “Then the Owner, Wayne Giddings, started integrating the company and saw the popularity of blueberries. He transitioned mostly out of citrus into the berry category and was on the forefront of Florida blueberries. From there, we have grown into Florida strawberries and other year-round berries.”
While the grower has continuously expanded within the past two decades, Always Fresh Farms is still seeking out new ways to maintain, and even accelerate, demand.
"Much like blueberries, you can expect Always Fresh Farms to continue to grow and improve year after year."
Greg Kosofsky, Northeast Sales Manager, Always Fresh Farms
“We anticipate demand will continue to rise as better varieties come to market. Consumers are looking for new varieties that provide a crunchy-but-sweet taste. We feel the category still has room to grow, and higher-quality varieties will keep consumers coming back week after week,” Greg said. “A lot of shippers are expanding their brands with clever advertising to describe the fruit and make it stand out on-shelf. This trend should continue to grow as well.”
With the market constantly changing, Greg’s confidence in the blueberry category is a testament to his years of industry expertise. Unlike some supply-side operators who grew their careers by selling produce, Greg has accrued his intersectional insights by kicking off his career on the buy-side.
“I started in the fresh produce industry about 10 years ago as a Buyer for C&S Wholesale, and then I went to Shaw’s Supermarkets on the retail-side,” he explained. “I’ve been here at Always Fresh Farms for three years now. I’m pretty well-rounded between wholesale, retail, and now sales on all our produce.”
To that note, I was curious to find out what Greg thinks retailers can do to better market the blueberry category. While he said it all comes down to knowing when to press the pedal to the metal for blueberry promotions, he suggested maintaining supplier relationships are integral to the equation.
“Continue to work closely with your suppliers, follow the old school strategy of supply and demand, and keep the lines of communication open,” Greg said. “Blues are as volatile as any piece of fruit—when it’s time to push, it’s really time to push. Blueberries are probably the most stable berry, but Mother Nature can still cause havoc. It’s important to stay nimble and provide feedback to your suppliers. We are always looking for feedback and ways to improve to be the best partner we can. In the end, we are all in this together.”
Another way for retailers and growers to stay ahead of the curve is to work closely with marketers to keep up with the latest trends. Consumers have very high expectations, and it’s the industry’s duty to keep them coming back for blueberries week after week. One of the most accessible ways to market directly to consumers is through innovative packaging.
“Club packs and organics have been around for a long time now, but we have seen accelerated growth recently. Retailers want more fruit in attractive packaging, and the blueberry category still has room to grow with marketing. You can now find ‘jumbo blues’ or ‘sweetest batch’ blues packed in a variety of different new sizes,” Greg reflected. “Retail partners are expressing that this new-wave packaging is reaching a new consumer, so this trend looks like it’s here to stay. Blueberry opportunities continue to grow each year, and retailers are looking to capture every sale possible in the category.”
"We are always looking for feedback and ways to improve to be the best partner we can. In the end, we are all in this together."
But even more than the diverse packaging and retail strategies, the very fruit that represents this category is what has inevitably won over the hearts of consumers across the globe. So, what is it about this little berry that continues to be a driver in the produce department?
“It’s simple: Blueberries are a superfood!” Greg told me enthusiastically. “Year after year, blueberry sales are becoming more essential to our business. The health benefits align perfectly with the current health trends and smoothie craze in the U.S. True gaps seem to be a thing of the past. Consumers are looking for quality blueberries year-round at aggressive pricing.”
As someone whose enthusiasm for the category is on par with my own, Greg has become a verifiable advocate for blueberries since his move to the supply-side. Therein lies the Sales Manager’s transition from grocery to growing. It was an opportunity to widen the scope through which Greg views fresh produce, and an opportunity that was not wasted.
“While working at Shaw’s, I reached a point in my career where I decided to take a chance and go to the other side of the business,” he said. “I saw a good opportunity with a growing company and worked a long time with Matthew Giddings, our Chief Operating Officer. He had become a good friend, and I really respected him in the industry—the timing was just right for me to take that leap. It’s worked out really well, and we’ve grown tremendously since.”
And, so it seems, this tremendous growth has yet to reach its peak. Always Fresh Farms entered into a strategic partnership with Giddings Fruit South America last year. Together, the two have successfully launched proprietary bush berries with the potential for more new varieties down the line.
Expansion comes naturally to Always Fresh Farms, and tapping into the lucrative, fast-paced blueberry business was truly just the beginning. As Greg so lovingly notes of the ag industry, no day is the same. This is one reason he is so infatuated with the supply-side and perhaps another reason why consumers continue flocking to the blueberry category.
It’s this constant pursuit of innovation that is the fuel for our industry and, in turn, it’s what sets us apart from any other in the world.