BY WILL FIFIELD
PASSION AND PRIDE are apparent at every level
of Driscoll’s, a Costco berry supplier. Whether you
talk to company leaders or one of Driscoll’s independent farmers in the field, the same enthusiasm is evident. The driving forces at Driscoll’s are
its relentless pursuit of quality, investment in the
welfare of the people who grow their berries and
dedication to ensuring that its berries are grown
in an earth-friendly, sustainable way.
“I think a lot of businesses, including ours,
are now looking much more broadly at the impact
we are having in the areas [in which] we operate
and taking more of a holistic view,” says Soren
Bjorn, president, Driscoll’s of the Americas. He
says that beyond its commitment to deliver a
superior product, Driscoll’s works to create sustainable communities. Sometimes that involves
ensuring that its workforce has basic needs
tended to and services provided; other times it
requires addressing environmental problems.
Experience and innovation
Driscoll’s is not new to the berry business. A
hundred years ago, its founders were growing
strawberries in California’s Pajaro Valley for the
local market. Today, however, the company’s marketplace is the globe and the berry season never
ends. Driscoll’s has added raspberries, blackberries and blueberries to its original product lineup
and works with more than 800 farmers around
the world to meet the ever-increasing demand.
Part of what drives the demand for Driscoll’s
berries is the company’s tireless efforts to improve
its product. Since the 1940s, the company has
been developing superior varieties of berries,
using only natural breeding methods. The berries
are not genetically modified and they’re never
irradiated. Each seedling Driscoll’s farmers grow
must be an improvement on the berry varieties
already in production. Only about 1 percent of the
myriad plants grown in test plots advance for fur-
ther testing. Fewer still make it all the way to
become a patented Driscoll’s variety.
“We produce hundreds of varieties every
year, and we’re always trying to make incremen-
tal improvements,” says Henry Yeung, a sensory
scientist at Driscoll’s. “Sometimes we’ll make
leaps and bounds, but other times we might not.
That’s just the process of natural breeding.”
It takes about 10 years to develop a new com-
mercially viable berry variety. These hardy
plants are a big part of what sets Driscoll’s apart
from its competitors, because they yield tasty
and beautiful berries.
Fruit of their labor
The many varieties of Driscoll’s berries, each
with its own strengths, allow experienced independent farmers all over the world to extend the
growing season and meet the rising demand.
Because Driscoll’s handles sales, marketing and
distribution, the farmers are free to concentrate
all their energy on the formidable task of growing Driscoll’s berries to reach their full potential.
“We produce the plants in a nursery,” says
Bjorn. “Then we hand that plant to the grower.
The gro wer does the really hard work, which is to
plant the fields and grow the fruit. They have to
hire all the labor to look after the fields and harvest the fruit.” He notes that Driscoll’s works
with entrepreneurs who run farms from as small
as 5 acres to operations that have several thousand acres, and everything in between. But even
with all the experience, skill, special equipment
and diligence that the farmers employ, from
maintaining beehives to pollinate the plants, to
using plastic hoop houses that maintain optimal
temperature and humidity, to planting in ideal
soil, there are no guarantees against Mother
Nature’s elaborate tricks.
The taste of excellence
Driscoll’s berries are good in so many ways
Driscoll’s works closely with
its growers to make sure each
variety of berry they plant will
reach its full potential. It requires
specialized knowledge and a
PRESIDENT Soren Bjorn
ITEMS AT COSTCO
Fresh strawberries, blackberries,
blueberries and raspberries.
QUOTE ABOUT COSTCO
“It turns out that our progressive business philosophy is
very closely aligned with how
Costco runs its business and
what Costco expects of its
suppliers. Costco has been a
partner in supporting our Fair
Trade program in Baja, Mexico.
We actually selected that program, in part, based on input
provided by Costco’s leadership
and Costco’s experience with
fair trade.”—Soren Bjorn, president, Driscoll’s of the Americas