Verloop said 18-ounce packs and larger are increasingly more popular when supply is strongest.
Consumer demand has been limited by supplies, particularly from September through March, he said.
“We feel this is a tremendous opportunity to build the business with consumers and for us to increase activities with key accounts,” Verloop said.
Tom Richardson, general manager in the Wenatchee, Wash., office of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos., said Giumarra was previously the largest U.S. receiver of Vital Berry product and has worked with Vital Berry in North American through a limited liability corporation partnership for about seven years.
However, in April this year Vital Berry and Giumarra made a mutual decision to dissolve the partnership. One reason for the separation was that Vital Berry had an interest in the European and Asian markets, while Giumarra focuses on North America, Richardson said.
Because Giumarra started developing a supply base in addition to Vital Berry three years ago, Richardson said the company remains in a strong position.
“Our Chilean blueberry supplies are actually going to be larger this year than in 2011-12,” he said.
Richardson declined to estimate volume, but said Giumarra would again be one of the larger blueberry importers in North America. Supplies will arrive from early December and continue through March and possibly early April.
“We will be fully supplied and taking care of our customer base, going forward with our year-round blueberry business,” he said.
Chilean blueberry production will be up about 15% this year, Richardson said.
The berry category is perhaps the hottest category in the fresh produce department, with per-capita retail availability in 2010 at 1 pound, double the levels in 2006.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports U.S. berry imports are increasing at a rapid pace from Mexico and Southern Hemisphere countries, with fresh blueberry imports from Chile rising from $92 million in 2007 to $220 million in 2011. Likewise, blueberry imports from Argentina have grown from $38 million in 2007 to $60 million in 2011, according to the USDA.
Mexico has seen the most impressive growth for raspberry exports to the U.S., rising from $58 million in 2007 to $140 million in 2011. Imports of Mexican blackberries from January to August 2012 totaled $75 million, up from $40 million in all of 2011.