Fall Creek Farm & Nursery produced 11 million plants of blueberry for the Europe - Africa region in 2023 for customers in 35 countries ranging from Portugal to Turkmenistan and from Scotland to Senegal.
In this exclusive interview, Fall Creek's global top management exposes to Italian Berry the strategies and key business development directions of the U.S.-based company, which is consolidating its presence in all major global production areas. The video interviews with Jason Wolcott (sales director), Michel Kaczamrek (EMENA sales manager) and Olivier Coste (EMENA South area manager) are in English and the transcript in Italian is below.
Commercial director (Fall Creek Farm & Nursery)
We look to the future of blueberries and this is the most important aspect for Fall Creek. That's why we call it our bright blue future. If you look at consumption today, you look at the penetration of blueberries in the consumer market.
Our vision for the future is for blueberries to become one of the top five products in the fruit department. We see blueberries becoming increasingly important to the consumer. And more and more consumers have access to blueberries. Looking at market penetration and increasing per capita consumption of blueberries, the need for blueberries will continue to increase and volumes will be much higher than they are today.
I know that many people worry when looking at the blueberries market. Many consider it a zero-sum game. We do not see it as such at all. We see it as an opportunity in the future for all market windows and that many, many countries and parts of the world will have opportunities in the blueberries sector.
Our mission is to build a world with blueberries better, and if we consider what that means for us, the first thing is that we have to bring varieties that have two characteristics. The first is that they have to produce fruit. The consumer wants to eat, and very importantly, they have to produce. Plants that growers want to grow and that are profitable for growers. So we try to have really good fruit with plants that allow the grower to have the lowest possible cost.
The other characteristic of Fall Creek is that we want to produce our plants where the growers will produce the fruit. So if you look at where our nurseries are located today, we have nurseries in the United States, a nursery in Mexico, a nursery in Peru, a nursery in the Netherlands, a nursery in Spain, a nursery in South Africa, and we are currently building a nursery in Chile. We are trying to acquire land in China to build a nursery and are evaluating a couple of other areas. Eastern Europe and even North Africa are possibilities for us in the future.
Another area that is very important to us is to have great support for growing all over the world , and we are currently expanding our grower support team and the people who interact with them on the front lines, providing them with cutting-edge training so that they can really become part of the Fall Creek team and provide value to growers all over the world.
Another important aspect of the future of blueberries and the blueberries industry is how we engage retailers and retailers. One of the things Fall Creek has planned is to engage retailers and retailers in different ways. If you look at the different geographic areas where the industry is growing, you will find that retailers and retailers are in different positions.
For example, European retailers and traders have better knowledge of the blueberry industry than U.S. retailers and traders, and so we will try to connect U.S. retailers and traders with European retailers and traders by teaching them about the blueberry industry, varieties, blueberries growing areas around the world, and how to create a 52-week supply.
EMENA (Fall Creek Farm & Nursery) sales manager.
Hello, everybody. My name is Michel Kaczmarek. I am the sales manager for Fall Creek Farm and Nurse. Today I would like to talk to you about the market dynamics in terms of production that are happening in Europe and North Africa. If we start with southern Europe, the traditional production regions like Portugal, where we see a lot of good quality products. The market is not developing as such, there is not much expansion.
However, these regions play an important role in supplying the market with experienced growers who can bring blueberries to market along with other berries such as raspberries or strawberries. But in southern Europe, the main platform for expansion is currently Morocco. Why Morocco?
Because there are good growing conditions for blueberries to produce, good soil and the availability of local labor, and as a result, this region is expanding very rapidly. We currently anticipate growth of over. 5-6 hundred hectares more, which is a fantastic opportunity for both Moroccan growers and the market, which will have more fruit available at the beginning of the season.
If we talk about Northern Europe, we also have some very traditional production regions such as Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom that have some local relevance. The consumer wants to have local fruit for local fruit. That's why there is some production in the UK, Benelux and also in Germany. Poland is a very large production platform, with many hectares under cultivation. We are talking about more than 11,000 hectares under ground cultivation, and they keep expanding and renewing their assortments to get better quality fruit.
Expansion on this front is happening mainly in the eastern part of Europe , and I am referring to Serbia, Romania, but also on the other side of the Black Sea, with Georgia and Turkey, which are starting very strong blueberries production.
It's about providing more volume to the market because there are more consumers consuming blueberries, but it's also about supplementing the production window to make sure that the fruit is available year-round.At Fall Creek we are a nursery: of course we produce plants, but mostly varieties , and the way to provide good genetics and good varieties to our growers is to sell the plants.
Fall Creek has a breeding program, but also some exclusive distribution agreements with more than 25 license holders worldwide. We have very good genetics for Northern Europe. I think we are on the cutting edge. Fall Creek has launched several varieties, such as the Collection program with LoretoBlue and ArabellaBlue, suitable for northern latitudes, with good quality fruit, good shelf life, which is very important, good size and flavor.
We also have some varieties for what we call the medium cold region and for producing fruit in June: varieties like Blue Ribbon that can fill some gaps in supply between southern Europe and northern Europe. Finally, we also have a very good program for the low temperature environment.
Harvesting varieties in low-cold and zero-cold environments, such as Azrablue, Atlasblue, Olympusblue and KeplerBlue, offer different characteristics in terms of early productivity. These varieties were created to ensure growers' success and to make sure they produce with a low cost of production per kilo and a fruit that people want to eat.
EMEMA South Area Manager (Fall Creek Farm & Nursery).
The Ventura variety was planted heavily from 2013 to 2018-19 because it produced earlier. Before that there was the Star variety, which peaked in late April, early May. Ventura started producing in March, so production was much earlier. And as for the advance, today we harvested 150 grams of Ventura. This is an outstanding advance for a plant planted 10 years ago.
On the other hand, Sekoya Pop is now one of the most planted varieties in Fall Creek from 2020/2021. The difference with Ventura is that today, in mid-March, we have harvested 1.5 kilos so far, so it is much earlier than Ventura. At the end of December, here in our nursery, in southern Spain, it gives very big fruit and great production.
All rights reserved - Italian Berry - CC BY License