Every Berry Tells a Story
Every Driscoll’s berry that makes it to your taste buds has gone on a journey. It takes five to seven years to produce a berry variety that is ready for commercial production! During that time, Driscoll’s berries are taste tested, analyzed, placed in nurseries, stress tested, flavor tasted some more, checked for robustness, and examined in all sorts of ways to ensure that only the top quality berries make it from the farm to the supermarket (did we mention that we taste them a lot?). So what are strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries doing during the 5-7 years before they’re ready to be stars in your everyday moments shared with family and friends?
Each berry begins with natural breeding through cross-pollination, a technique that has been used for thousands of years by breeders worldwide. Driscoll’s Berry Innovators’ pick out elite parent plants and match the best berries to create even better offspring. Driscoll’s Berry Innovators’ also look at the chemical composition of berries to better understand berry flavor and to understand what new delicious flavors can result from crosses. For strawberries alone, for example, Driscoll’s may cross over 700 plants resulting in 100,000 seedlings!
So how does Driscoll’s look at 100,000 strawberry seedlings to decide which ones will be exclusively available to their independent farmers to become the next great Driscoll’s berry? Berry Innovators utilize many techniques to find the best of the best. Berry Innovators can identify which seedlings will grow up to be the best plants by examining their genes. Then the seedlings that show signs of meeting Driscoll’s high standards go to a nursery to grow for a season. Of those, only the top one percent are chosen to move on to the next year for further analysis. During that year, data is collected about fruit yield, fruit size, shelf life, and Berry Innovators begin some initial flavor tests. Using a mixture of traditional techniques and state of the art technology, Berry Innovators test plants to identify the best berries.
After that, plants move onto the “time of planting trial” where berries will spend 3 years being tested in different plots. During this time, Driscoll’s Berry Innovators’ will conduct berry flavor sensory panels to ensure only berries that meet Driscoll’s high flavor standards can become a commercial variety. By the time a berry is released, it’s usually been tasted several thousand times! The final stage is the “on the farm trial” where berries are tested in different climates for different types of growers. Driscoll’s also works with its pathology department to ensure plant health and to make sure that plants can grow in a variety of conditions. Only after a berry passes these rigorous tests will a berry get a name and become a variety that you can purchase at your local supermarket. And, after all that, the life of a Driscoll’s berry is only 3.5 years. That’s because the progress in the breeding program is fast enough that Driscoll’s is always working to produce better and better berries.