Driscoll's Berry Big™ Strawberries: More to Dip, Slice, & Share
In the spring and summer months, when strawberry season starts here in California’s Pajaro Valley, our Berry Big™ Strawberries bump up in size and juiciness. Consistently larger in size and great quality, our Berry Big Strawberries lend themselves to more versatile use and are perfect for dipping, slicing, filling or sharing with loved ones. With a bounty of flavor in every bite, they offer more to share.
And also making a big debut is Driscoll’s first corrugate packaging. These fresh and juicy big strawberries are beautifully displayed in in a single-layer, giving them some extra wow. The packaging is 100% recycle ready by simply removing the thin plastic film and recycling both pieces separately.
To learn more about our Berry Big™ Strawberries, we sat down with Phil Stewart, Driscoll’s Global Director of Strawberry Breeding for North America. We had a fun Q&A session covering a wide range of topics, from what goes on behind the scenes at our Cassin Ranch Research Center, to what makes our Berry Big Strawberries so special—and so delicious.
What does a strawberry breeder do?
Like many jobs in the fruit business, what Phil does changes with the seasons.
“In the winter, there’s a decent chance I’ll be in Florida or Mexico or Oxnard. I meet with the local Driscoll’s breeders and we go through their test plots. There are two primary purposes to my visits: One, I report back on the current status of the breeding program and what the local breeders are doing. Two, I’m there to make sure people have the resources they need, make sure things are on track, and make connections between the programs.”
And when it’s strawberry season here in California, you’ll likely find Phil in the field.
“In the spring and summer, when the local strawberry season picks up, my job becomes a mix of breeding-intensive things and management. I’ll spend a day walking seedlings with my team. On a typical day in the seedlings, I might taste 200 to 250 strawberries!”
Why are Berry Big™ Strawberries so big?
It all comes down to one word—variety. During our chat, Phil gave us an insider’s look on how the Berry Big™ Strawberries came to be. “Here in Watsonville, there are two strawberry varieties, both of which have considerably large fruit,” Phil says.
Berry Big™ Strawberries are only available at certain times of the year. When can you find them in stores? “Availability should be best early in the Watsonville season,” Phil shares, “Size tends to fall off as the season progresses.”
Are Berry Big™ Strawberries genetically modified?
No, our Berry Big™ Strawberries are non-GMO. At Driscoll’s, we only use traditional methods of plant breeding, like cross-pollination.
As a plant scientist with a background in both classical and molecular plant breeding, Phil gives us a more detailed explanation.
“Classical breeding is making crosses, evaluating plants in the field, thinking about the inheritance of traits in terms of large-scale, servable things—what breeders have been doing for generations. In my PhD program in Florida, I was focused on the genes that produce proteins, genes acting together…There’s a bridge between the two in that ultimately, everything you’re observing in the field is the product of a bunch of genes interacting, so being a breeder who’s fluent in the molecular language is a good thing.”
What do you look for in breeding delicious strawberries?
Since day one, Driscoll’s has been focused on flavor, and our Berry Big™ Strawberries are no exception. With almost two decades of fruit breeding under his belt, Phil pinpoints what he and his team are looking for.
“When we walk the seedlings, we’re looking for attractive fruit, nice regular shapes, glossy, good color, and size. Both consumers and growers like a good size, so that’s a winner all around.”
Believe it or not, “flavor” isn’t exactly the right word. Phil goes into in more detail.
“Actually, flavor isn’t the word that we use internally—what we call it in our tests is ‘eating quality’ because it encompasses more than flavor. There’s texture, aroma and other qualities that we’re looking for.”
And the most important quality of all? Oh, how sweet it is.
“The biggest single driver on flavor is sweetness, and that’s one that many consumers can miss the most if it’s not there.”
A deliciously fun fact about any Driscoll’s strawberry? “By the time a strawberry is released as a variety, it’s already been tasted over a thousand times,” Phil tells us.
What makes the Berry Big™ Strawberries so unique?
As Phil shares with us, the early season is best for sweet, juicy Berry Big™ Strawberries. But besides their great flavor, he shares other things our berry fans expect from these beautiful berries.
“Consumers can expect a pleasantly large size and uniformity with these Strawberries. If consumers are looking for a strawberry that’s a real showpiece, these are attractive and uniform strawberries that they can lay out on a dessert. I think there’s an appeal to uniformity, even when consumers cut them up.”
Want to know more about our strawberry story? Check out our Pursuit of Flavor video, where we share an insider’s look at how we breed and grow delicious strawberries.
Retailers Carrying Berry Big™
Kroger King Soopers
Safeway Northern California
Stop & Shop