Think of a strawberry. Chances are you're picturing a Driscoll's berry: "glossy, red, and heart-shaped, and firm enough to ship to the East Coast or to the Middle East." And that's not surprising. Driscoll's controls about a third of the US berry market, making it the largest berry company in the world, the New Yorker reports in a longread on how the California company shaped the modern conception of a strawberry. Heck, Driscoll's was even the first company to start putting berries in those ubiquitous clear plastic clamshells. Driscoll's—which started during World War II, taking advantage of an opening in the industry created by the internment of Japanese-Americans—got to where it is by focusing on a strawberry's appearance over its flavor.
“We have helped shape what a strawberry looks like with our relentless focus,” Driscoll's president, Soren Bjorn, tells the New Yorker. The company—which employs teams of scientists with names like the Joy Makers and the Dead Variety Society—spends years crossbreeding varieties and developing new cultivars in a highly secretive process. The end result is a uniformly colored and shaped strawberry that renders shoppers ignorant of the fact that the strawberries they eat throughout the year represent many different varieties and countries. But all that focus on appearance has come at the expense of flavor. Next up for Driscoll's scientists is figuring out how to make their strawberries taste like what Americans think strawberries taste like: red Popsicles and strawberry syrup. Read the full story here.