Courtesy U.S. Highbush Blueberry CouncilThe number of U.S. households saying they’ve purchased blueberries within the past month — 69% — has nearly doubled since 2008, according to research sponsored by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
Americans are also nearly twice as likely to buy blueberries now as nine years ago, Hebert Research found in its May survey of 3,765 primary household shoppers. A summary appears online.
“We do these surveys every five years to make sure we’re moving the needle, and this one shows an excellent return on our investment,” said John Shelford, a member of the council’s promotion committee. “We went from 39% awareness of health benefits in 2004 to 84% today, more than doubling awareness in 10 years. That’s remarkable.”
As in 2008, the typical blueberry consumer in 2013 was upscale, well educated and white — but more likely to be from a minority. Consumers, primarily ages 46 to 65 in 2008, have grown more likely to be 35 to 44.
“We really have been focusing our efforts on developing the future generation,” Shelford said. “In terms of market channel, fresh has a preference with customers. We work hard to bring fresh to them, but it’s challenging given the labor situation. The industry has a number of ready-to-eat providers today thanks to new sorting methods, so the consumer can have that fruit before it’s frozen.”
Shoppers are now likely to buy blueberries based solely on health benefits, the survey found.
Asked what they like most about the fruit, consumers cited health (84%), taste (81%), convenience (61%) and versatility (44%), among other attributes.
Nutritional benefits were widely acknowledged. For example:
- 99 % believe blueberries are a healthy food; and
- 68% mention specific health benefits, up 115% over 2004.
On restaurant menus:
- 58% associate blueberries with healthier dishes;
- 24% see blueberry items as a sign the restaurant offers healthy food; and
- nearly 20% say they order a blueberry menu item.
More than half — 57% — reported having seen news stories about the health value of blueberries. Nearly 60% are likely to purchase blueberries based on information they’ve seen on social media channels.
Use preferences included eating blueberries out of hand as a snack (60%), over yogurt (54%), in smoothies (49%) or in cereal (48%). The preferred use for frozen blueberries was in smoothies. Use of frozen in smoothies was 49% overall and 54% for women ages 25 to 44.
Blueberry grower-shippers, Shelford said, have the capacity to meet the growing demand reflected in the survey.
“We’ve had relatively modest advances in pricing, on frozen and fresh, which is always good news in the produce business,” he said. “Supply is keeping up with demand. There’s a lot more supply coming, so we need to keep demand growing as well.”