Berry breeding coming to fruition for North Bay

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Berry breeding coming to fruition for North Bay

For the last decade, North Bay Produce Inc. has been working on breeding improved blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry varieties. The global  grower-owned cooperative based in Traverse City, MI, is now seeing this work coming into fruition. Brian Klumpp, North Bay’s director of sales and marketing, tells that several new varieties “are hitting at the same time.” There is a lot more to come, but the last year has brought “wonderful” new varieties from the family of Sekoya blueberries as well as Splendor raspberries and blackberries. Other new varieties will be rolling out over the next few years. 

Standing for this interview at the busy North Bay booth Oct. 21 at the Global Produce and Floral Show in Anaheim, CA, Klumpp indicates these new blueberry varieties were well-represented in Peru in 2023. It was a down year – about 50% overall! - for Peruvian blueberries because of adverse weather.

However, North Bay’s Sekoya family of blueberries “are doing very well because of a special variety that was designed for no chill environments. It's been so warm but they're holding up and growing very well. And they are very good! They're that much better than most of the other berries out there, with such a great crunch. They're a big, full-size berry with long shelf life. So, it's been one of the bright spots this year.”

Related articles: North Bay outlines upcoming shipping plans

 For North Bay, the breeding comes through partnerships with “different universities and private groups too so it's been interesting.  North Bay has had this varietal development focus for over a decade. As a result of our work, we are realizing many exciting new berries coming in from different parts of the world.”

Brian Klumpp, North Bay’s director of sales and marketing.

Brian Klumpp, North Bay’s director of sales and marketing.

This effort is important for berries, much as the apple industry emerged with improved varieties several decades ago and continues to evolve today. As new kinds of apples came onto the market “people started realizing that some of those varieties are better than others for various characteristics that appeal to people’s different preferences.” In the case of North Bay’s berries, they are offering improved taste, flavor, crunch and shelf life.  

Similarly, “if you go to the store and buy berries and they are not good, the likelihood that you will go back and buy them again is significantly reduced. But if we have a good experience, we are more likely to buy them again next time. Berries are very fragile and are a fruit that isn't always perfect. But when you get a really good one, it's great.”

Klumpp looks forward to several varieties of the Sekoya-brand family that are coming out now. New blackberry and raspberry varieties will be launched “very soon.”

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