Sonny Boy Produce sees dynamite blues ahead

From The Produce News | 17 June 2024

Overview of blueberries from New Jersey in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on June 17, 2024.

Blueberries are Sonny Boy Produce’s biggest item, so they are of the utmost importance to the company. In fact, the company ships between 5 and 6 million pounds of blues throughout the year and the New Jersey deal can account for up to 40 percent of its annual blueberry sales.  

“With very humble beginnings, Sonny Boy started with one small truck that held 12 pallets of blues that at times served as a cooler for us as well,” said Tom Consalo, president of the Landisville, NJ-based company. “In a short time, the business has grown to use several tractor trailers seven days a week, shipping load volume daily throughout the New Jersey blueberry season and beyond.”

Starting small, Sonny Boy found momentum and developed its infrastructure to harvest, pack, cool and ship promotional volume daily and build its program each and every year.

“To become and remain successful in the category, quality and consistency are key,” Consalo said. “It seems simple, but a lot of hard work goes into maintaining good quality fruit with consistent supply. It takes experience in the category of knowing what the volume looks like ahead of time and promoting accordingly. Keeping an eye out for weather events and forecasting and monitoring inventory are also key parts of showing value to our partners.”

Last year, the blueberry market was a challenge with big market swings and a few weather events; however, the company put out more volume than ever which was a big takeaway from the season.

blueberry volumes by his 2

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

“As compared to years past, the markets were a little more volatile and our volume was up significantly,” Consalo said. “This year, the crop looks dynamite. The weather has been conducive for good volume and quality, which will be perfect for promoting New Jersey blues. We look to have another great year in volume and will promote throughout.”

He believes that retailers who are nimble to fluctuations in the market will find things very advantageous in 2024.

“If we see that there is a push or a pinch in a certain market, being able to react quickly with affective communication could be a point of improvement,” Consalo said. “It’s ironic that in an age where communication is at an all-time high in terms of accessibility that we don’t always communicate effectively.” 

Sonny Boy Produce sells primarily to retailers up and down the eastern seaboard, but also have business in the Midwest and Eastern Canada. 

“To remain diversified, we do partner with a few wholesalers and foodservice as well and we place our varieties and specialty pack sizes accordingly,” Consalo said. “Partnerships thrive on trust and integrity and we strive to maintain those values in every aspect of our business. We aim to uphold long standing relationships and forge new ones with the same frame of mind.” 

This year, Sonny Boy sees the biggest opportunity in expanding on new relationships. “We have a number of new programs and initiatives that we are excited about in coming years and we look at any new opportunity as a chance to prove ourselves,” Consalo said. “We will have some added acreage and grower partners this year in both blueberries and blackberries that we are excited to showcase.”

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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