U.S.-headquartered berry distribution company Sun Belle is set to open a new distribution center in Florida in this month on the back of substantial growth from the Southeast and East Coast regions.
The company, which was founded in 1985 by Janice Honigberg, is replacing its previous plant in Miami with a facility that is around five-times larger.
“We’re constantly looking for new opportunities to get closer to our customers and perform better for them,” sales and marketing representative Phil Rindone told Fresh Fruit Portal at the New York Produce Show in December.
“We are opening a new facility in Miami in January, which will be roughly five times the size of our current facility and we’re really excited about that.
“We think we’re going to go a great job in the Southeast and East Coast with that facility as we’ll be able to sere our customers a lot more effectively, so we’re very excited about that.”
He the new facility had been greatly needed as the company had outgrown the situation it was in before.
Sun Belle owns three other facilities in the U.S. – in Chicago, California and Maryland, Rindone said.
“Our model is that we have company-owned and staffed distribution points, and we import the product directly to those distribution points so we can perform the final quality control and be close to our retail partners and reach them in under a day so the product arrives fresh,” he said.
The company imports blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries from Mexico, Chile, Peru and Argentina, also working with U.S. growers during the domestic season.
Wisconsin-grown fresh cranberries are also offered in a clamshell pack, which Rindone said was a relatively new packaging style for the commodity in the industry.
“A recent idea is to offer them within a clamshell so that they can be merchandized in a berry set. Typically cranberries are available before the Thanksgiving period, and so this encourages people to pick cranberries up prior to shopping frenzy,” he said.
He added that business had been going very well over recent years thanks to soaring demand for berries.
“It’s been phenomenal – we’ve experienced double-digit growth,” he said.
“The berry category has become the number one category in every supermarket chain. Berries taste good, they are good for you, and there are great volumes and opportunity available, especially with varieties coming out that emphasize flavor and shelf life – that works for the producer, it works for the retailer and it works for the consumer.”