Oishii, the Tesla of strawberries, is lowering its prices and coming to Whole Foods.
Beginning today, Oishii’s Omakase Berries—which are available to purchase on the company’s website and select locations in New York, and which previously retailed at $50 for a tray of eight—will be $20 for trays of 11 medium berries or eight large berries, $11 for trays of six medium berries, and $6 for trays of three medium berries. Launched in 2018, the strawberries, which are a particular varietal from the foothills in Japan, quickly gained attention from foodies and Michelin-starred chefs for their particular sweetness and aroma.
With the opening of its newest and biggest vertical farm, exclusively dedicated to growing strawberries, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the company is now able to meet customer demand and sell its products at a lower price point. The 74,000 square-foot new facility—which has a carefully controlled artificial environment with specific lighting and bees to cross pollinate plants—is the largest of its kind in the world. Using robotics and automation, the farm is also more eco-friendly than the company’s earlier operations, using 60% less energy and 40% less water than Oishii’s first-generation technology. These measures also save the company money, helping it reduce the strawberries’ price. The company repurposed a former Anheuser-Busch factory and transformed it into its new vertical farm and headquarters.
This summer, Oishii will begin selling its strawberries at Whole Foods’s new flagship store in New York’s NoMad district, and cofounder Hiroki Koga hopes to build more farms and eventually sell them nationwide. The expansion comes after the company opened a farm in Los Angeles in October 2021. Because the strawberries are too delicate to transport over long distances, they are not available outside the LA and New York area, though Koga hopes that will change.
“The whole idea of doing this in a vertical farm is so that we can be close to the consumers,” Koga says. “We’re going to be able to build facilities right next to all of those major cities. There won’t be one central facility where we ship from to all over the country. Our farms are always going to be within a few hours of driving distance from any of these cities that we’re gonna supply to.”
While vertical farming competitor Bowery Farms introduced strawberries to its lineup at $14.99 for eight berries, Koga says that Oishii’s offering will still be different. “Our strawberries are a special Japanese varietal, so they are going to taste different. Bowery is making a fresh variety of what’s already on the market today. We have been solely focused on strawberries for the past four or five years.” Oishii was founded in 2017 and raised $50 million in a March 2021 series A led by Mirai Creation Fund.
And strawberries are just the beginning. Koga says that the company is looking to expand into other produce categories, including tomatoes, melons, and peppers.