This morning's print edition of The New York Times chronicles berry behemoth Driscoll's and its goal of further dominating the U.S. market for strawberries by making its brand a household name.
This was a horror story masquerading as a love letter.
As WW wrote in June when it looked at Oregon's shrinking role in U.S. strawberry production, about nine out of 10 U.S.-grown strawberries come from California, many of them from growers who cooperate with Driscoll's. (Driscoll's berries come from outside of California as well.)
There's a problem with this. California-grown berries just don't taste as good as Oregon's.
Sure, our berries are less "uniform" than California's, meaning they're harder to pick and more expensive to produce. They bruise easily and don't travel to out-of-state markets well. But Oregon's summer climate, with warm days and cool nights, means berries grown here from May to October don't lose as much sugar during ripening. Their flavor is more intense.
In writing about Driscoll's efforts, The Times gave scant attention to one topic. That would be taste. The word appeared in the newspaper's story in relation to strawberries just once. (The story did also talk about Driscoll's efforts to boost sweetness without increasing berries' sugar content, which would be expensive.) There also was no mention of workers' boycotts against Driscoll's over conditions and wages.
A vice president for Driscoll's told The Times that it's hard for consumers to distinguish between strawberries from different growers. But Driscoll's goal is to end that.
"You have to find a way to say this strawberry is different from that strawberry, which isn't necessarily an easy thing to do," Soren Bjorn, executive vice president of Driscoll's, told The Times. "But our strawberries actually are different — no one else grows the strawberries we grow."
In Oregon, we don't want to.