California produces 29% of the world’s strawberries, but the ample water, cheap labor, chemicals and climate that support the state’s output are changing. In Bloomberg Business, Dune Lawrence writes about a breeder at Driscoll’s who’s trying create a strawberry that requires fewer chemicals, less water and less oversight.
Having spent decades building a brand known for consistent quality, Driscoll’s thinks consumers are ready to pay more for super premium varieties. “You have that kind of segmentation in many other products—like cars—and you begin to see the beginnings of that in berries,” Bjorn says. “We think that’s sort of where the next frontier is.”
The U.K. market is especially encouraging. There, Driscoll’s Jubilee line, marketed as “the Queen of Strawberries” and featuring a rich ruby coloring, commands a 30 percent premium over other varieties. In the U.S., the company has introduced a blackberry variety that’s especially flavorful, which it sells as “Season’s Finest” for just a short period each year at a steep markup. Stewart is working on doing the same for domestic strawberries. “Fundamentally it starts with the genetics,” says Bjorn. “If you don’t have the genetics to support that, you can’t make the product better.”