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While an emphasis on food safety, traceability and quality is not necessarily new to California Giant Berry Farms, the company is focusing more intensely on them this year, according to Cindy Jewell, marketing director.

“We are implementing an item-level traceability program this year on all of our California strawberries, so that is new,” Ms. Jewell told The Produce News Jan. 25. “We have also completely implemented PTI [Produce Traceability Initiative] as our customers requested. We are GFSI [Global Food Safety Initiative] compliant company-wide, and we are also taking advantage of the new food-safety training program that the strawberry industry has. So we are really trying to focus a lot on food safety, quality and traceability more so than ever.”

008-SoCalStraw-CalGiantStrawberries in a clamshell from California Giant. (Photo courtesy of California Giant)On the quality side, “we are going to have more people in the field with regard to inspection and really making sure that we have a consistent pack across all districts, across all ranches,” Ms. Jewell said. The objective is to assure “that consistent every-day quality that people have come to expect with our brand. So you won’t see a lot of differences” in California Giant fruit coming from different ranches. “You won’t even realize you are going from one district to another when you look at our fruit, it will be so consistent across the board.”

With regard to marketing, “we are definitely doing a lot of different things,” Ms. Jewell said. “We are focusing very strongly on the consumer and implementing some new technologies to dig a little deeper into who our consumer is and enhance our communications with them. We are doing some new and interesting stuff. We are also looking at partnering with some other companies to have a stronger presence with our consumer programs.”

She was not ready to give specifics, as she was “still finalizing some agreements and partnerships.” That was entailing frequent conference calls “to get it all pulled together.”

The company’s marketing efforts will involve internet activities as well as in-store promotional activities “with some key customers,” Ms. Jewell said. “We are doing a lot of that right now.”

As of the last week in January, the company was also very much “focused on the weather,” she said. “We’ve got some uncertain weather,” with rain and cold temperatures, “coming up in Oxnard, which is our Southern California growing district, over the next two weeks. That “could make for an interesting Valentine’s Day.”

California Giant’s acreage in Southern California is “consistent with last year,” Ms. Jewell continued. “We shifted our varieties a little bit. We added a little bit of Benicia down here, one of the newer short day varieties, along with the San Andreas.”

Also, during the winter period, California Giant has fruit coming out of Florida and Central Mexico “that complements what we are pulling out of Oxnard,” she said.