Foodservice continues to get more attention from importers of Chilean blueberries

Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Berry Farms doesn’t ship directly to foodservice customers, said Cindy Jewell, the company’s marketing director.

“We have a steady volume that goes through our distributors,” she said.

The company doesn’t know many of those foodservice end-users, as a result. That doesn’t mean Jewell, as a consumer like everyone else, isn’t aware of the inroads blueberries are making in restaurants, cafes and other foodservice channels.

“They’re so easy, added to parfaits, cereals, quick-service stuff,” she said. “There’s no cutting, no taking the stem off. You see them in Starbucks. It adds instant value to consumers.”

With the freezes in September in Chile, it might be harder to stake out significant foodservice category growth in Chilean blueberry programs, said Mike Bowe, vice president of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Springs, Fla.

“This season it’s going to get spread out quite a bit more,” he said.

In general, though, Bowe said he is optimistic about foodservice blueberry growth at Dave’s.

“It’s a growing category,” he said. “We went to the PMA foodservice show in Monterey this year, and there were a lot of chefs working with different items, doing different things.”

Fast food, white tablecloth, and everything in between — all sectors are seeing growth, he said.

And with an ever-increasing emphasis on nutrition and childhood obesity, schools are getting more interested in adding blueberries to their menus, Bowe said.

Foodservice isn’t the main focus of Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group’s Chilean blueberry program, but it does play an important and growing role, said Nolan Quinn, Oppy’s berry category director.

“Our program is heavily tilted toward retail, but we are seeing increases in foodservice,” he said.

Foodservice has proven a successful destination for more programs featuring ready-to-eat Chilean blueberries, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.

“Clearly retail still drives movement, but as blueberries become more popular, they’re getting on more and more menus.”