Sun Belle is planning to expand its berry grower partnerships following the end of its relationship with the Giddings Group.
The U.S.-based provider of conventional and organic berries also says it sees a "wonderful opportunity" for more innovative programs.
In 2002, Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle, teamed up with Julio Giddings to form Sun Belle Mexico S.A. de C.V. and Sun Belle Berries S.A. in Chile to bring Chilean and Mexican berries to worldwide markets during the Northern Hemisphere's winter months.
Sun Belle says its North American berry business has grown substantially during this time. It attributes this to its focus on marketing, handling and distribution, and bringing good varieties and new pack types to market.
“Giddings’ decision to pursue its dream of shipping its own label presents Sun Belle with a wonderful opportunity to bring more innovative programs and finer product direct to market from the grower,” comments Honigberg.
“Though Giddings has been an important source of berries to Sun Belle Inc. during the import season, we have increasingly worked directly with superb growers during this part of the year, and will continue to bring the highest quality berries to market.”
“Sun Belle also works directly with top quality growers and packers throughout the domestic season, ensuring that we are able to meet customer demand 52 weeks of the year with the best berries under the sun.”
Last week, Giddings announced a new venture with Always Fresh Farms.
A history of pioneering
Sun Belle says it is confident it will exceed customers’ and growers’ expectations in the years ahead.
The company opened in 1986, importing fresh raspberries from Chile. The same year it began distributing blackberries grown in the historic Virginia Tidewater.
At the same time, it was a pioneer in greenhouse-grown vegetables, importing produce from Israel, the Netherlands and Belgium. In 1992 Sun Belle introduced the first greenhouse-grown tomato on the vine to the American market.
In the early 2000s, the organization championed the Tupy blackberry and developed the larger “club packs”. It says these have resulted in skyrocketing blackberry consumption in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
In 2007, Honigberg identified the Erika raspberry grown in the Italian Alps and brought it to the Americas. With its dedication to bringing better berries to market, the company has agreements with several university and independent breeding programs on new berry varieties.
Currently, it is bringing to market more sustainably-grown berries from Demeter-certified biodynamic farms and growers using regenerative organic processes.
The entity's distribution centers are located in Miami, Florida; Jessup, Maryland; Schiller Park, Illinois; and Oxnard, California.