Sunny temperatures and soft fruit, a perfect match

June sees the climax of the soft fruit season. This means the fruit shelves are filled with a summery abundance. Raspberries remain the top favourites, but why not tempt your customers with some 'healthy snacks' in red, white and black from the range of berries?

Year-round supplies
Soft fruit is the generic name for fruits with a soft texture. The major ones are strawberries, but raspberries, blackberries, currants (red, white and black), blueberries and gooseberries are also part of the Flandria soft fruit range. The cool spring did delay the harvesting of raspberries and blackberries a little, but as from week 26, the season will be bursting into life. Peak time for the production of raspberries, blackberries and red, white and black currants is in July and August. July is also the top month for gooseberries.
Year on year, the areas are expanding and the LAVA growers are bringing this product to market earlier and earlier. Innovative cultivation systems guarantee Belgian supermarket supplies virtually all year round.

Homogeneous product
The focus for our growers is firmly on quality, as they strive to make their products stand out from those imported from the south: large, uniform fruits and premium quality in terms of flavour, appearance and keeping properties. It is a constant challenge to find new varieties that score well for flavour and appearance while still delivering good production and guaranteeing a good shelf life. One variety guarantees uniformly large blocks of the same grade on the clock. This enables the LAVA auctions to offer the trade a sufficiently large homogeneous volume each market day.

Top Flandria quality
Soft fruit producers grow their crops in accordance with the Flandria specifications and therefore satisfy strict demands in terms of quality, food safety and sustainable cultivation. The products are also prepared for market in line with the Flandria criteria. The product is carefully graded and packed on the farm. This means that the fruit in a given package will be evenly sized and the same colour and ripeness. Bunches of berries are always laid facing in the same direction. Raspberries and blackberries are always hulled. The fruits show no bruising or decay. The product is delivered chilled to the auction in the morning, with due respect for the cool chain. The fruit is not then repackaged in the course of the sales circuit.
The auction guarantees strict controls over various criteria:
• picked fresh every day
• uniform grading by size
• attractive presentation within the pack

Tailor-made delivery
Small fruits are marketed in crates with 12 x 125 g/150 g punnets. In the peak season, they are supplied in boxes of 10 x 250 g punnets or 8 x 500 g punnets. In addition to the standard packaging options, the producers also deliver in the packaging requested by the buyer. Everything can be customised: lidded punnets, top sealing, punnets with a little handle, personalised labels, special aluminium punnets for market traders to offer attractive presentation on the stall, etc. Supplying products tailored to the customer's requirements is a comfortable arrangement for the trade.

On the clock and weekly prices
It is mostly strawberries that are sold on the clock. The auctions respond to the growing demand for weekly prices, in particular for raspberries and blackberries. This offers greater price security for all concerned.

Tips for the shopkeeper
• Always display Flandria small fruit in the original packaging. Try not to handle it any more than necessary, or to treat it roughly. Careful, attractive presentation will deliver better benefits in terms of purchasing intentions.
• Avoid condensation by increasing the temperature to between 8 and 10 °C before displaying.
• Soft fruit is often an impulse purchase. Capitalise on this by displaying an attractive presentation of colours and flavours. This will help the product fly off the shelf.
• The best way to store small fruit is at a RH of 95% and temperature of between 0.5 and 1 °C, to prevent it from drying out.
• Best kept in the fridge.
• Pay more attention to careful presentation in the summer.

Appealing to young families
These types of fruit are perfect for the waistline. Soft fruit is nature at its purest and best. The fruits are bursting with health: crammed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are also an attractive product for young families as a healthy summer snack for the kids. You can capitalise on this by providing little samples to encourage shoppers to buy. The product remains easy to see in the packaging, which is an extra sales factor.
Give your customers some suggestions for some unusual summery dishes. Soft fruit is delicious in cakes and puddings, smoothies or as a garnish for other dishes. It is also ideal in colourful salads, coulis and dishes with fish or shellfish. Or why not use fruit to jazz up a hearty dish with a bit of a sweet-sour contrast.

Available into the autumn
The peak time for soft fruit comes in June, July and August, but products grown under glass extend the season into the autumn. Plentiful supplies of red and white currants are available into September, large quantities of strawberries and raspberries until October, and even into early November in the case of strawberries. Blackberries round off the Belgian soft fruit season at around the end of December.

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