Kingsville, Ont.-based Mucci Farms is well-known for its greenhouse-grown tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and lettuce. The company is also a player in the greenhouse fruit arena, producing strawberries under the SmucciesTM brand name.
In fact, Smuccies Sweet Strawberries are one of the company’s top SKUs, said Joe Spano, managing partner.
“We consistently add new varieties to our lineup to broaden our category assortment and strawberries have been a very successful item for us. The program was built on the foundation of our extensive R&D trial program that has over 250 seed trials that help us identify new items to take to market through retail partnerships.”
Mucci Farms introduced its strawberry program on a trial basis in 2015. It’s now a full-scale program with a key retail partnership in Canada.
“What began as a 36-acre project is currently a 72-acre dedicated growing facility,” Spano said.
An additional 83 acres are scheduled for expansion in the next two years, he added, bringing Mucci Farms’ total strawberry production to more than 150 acres.
“It’s the largest indoor berry growing facility in North America, possibly the world.”
Volumes are increasing, Spano said, because of a steady increase in demand that can be traced to many causes. First and foremost, the greenhouse industry is uniquely equipped to manage and address the main areas of concern for retailers. Those include product quality, contractual pricing regardless of unforeseen weather events, year-round supply through winter production, timely delivery, and predictable volumes.
“The ability to forecast supply well in advance gives retailers an opportunity to focus on more pressing issues at the store level,” Spano said.
In addition, Mucci Farms’ and other greenhouse growers’ emphasis on sustainable and clean growing practices is steadily gaining traction with consumers who are increasingly concerned about environmental issues, pest management, food waste and other, related issues.
“The greenhouse industry does a remarkable job of being able to provide a steady source of local food supply using sustainable growing and packing methods. Particularly in cold climate regions, were are able to use grow lights to maximize local production, while reducing food miles and environmental impacts,” Spano said.
Sustainable packaging is a big part of Mucci Farms’ commitment to responsible practices. The company is also always looking to add new SKUs to its line of sustainably-packaged products.
“We’re happy with the success of our Paper Reseal innovation, which is consistently gaining traction with new customers.” With Paper Reseal, the lidding film on Top Seal packaging was replaced with paper, converting packaging into a 100% recyclable option, Spano said.
Lately, the challenges surrounding disease pressures have channeled Mucci Farms’ efforts into looking for high-resistant varieties that deliver quality, flavor, and yield.
“We’ve identified a handful of rugose resistant varieties that we are planting in the immediate future and are consistently trialing new ones to stand up to disease pressures.”
This article is an excerpt from the September 2023 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Greenhouse Fruits feature and more in the digital edition here.