The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council has invested heavily in expanding the foodservice use of blueberries, council spokeswoman Kathy Blake says.
“It’s been about 10 years that the USHBC has been putting an emphasis on foodservice, and part of that is because those outlets are large-volume purchases, which is good for the industry,” Blake said.
However, perhaps the most important benefit of the increased use of blueberries in foodservice is the increased exposure to consumers.
“Through a lot of ways, we see the circle completed. When people enjoy blueberries in an unexpected way — say, blueberry salsa with chicken or salmon — it opens up their curiosity in the way they can use blueberries at home,” she said.
The council has enjoyed success through its foodservice expansion efforts, but that success can be difficult to measure, Blake said.
“At this point in the blueberry story, it’s hard to quantify the success because it’s just so huge,” she said.
In an effort to continue the growth pattern, the council has several foodservice-based events planned this year.
One event the council plans to host for the second year in a row is the Culinary Institute of America Blueberry Boot Camp.
The event invites chefs who work in recipe development for causal or fast-casual restaurants to have two and a half days of blueberry inspiration.
“We provide a lot of background on varieties and the different formats, such as fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, and pureed, and then we get them in the kitchen to create and share ideas,” Blake said.
Last year, the event was held at the Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park campus in New York.
This year, the event is scheduled for June 17-19 at the Greystone Culinary Institute of America campus in Napa Valley, Calif..
The council is excited about this event for the second year, Blake said.
“It’s a really exciting, active way to get blueberries into the hands and heads of chefs so they can go back to work really thinking about blueberries and the ways they can incorporate them into menus,” she said.
The council also has a visiting chef program planned for the summer.
Michael Vignapiano, culinary instructor in the School of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts, Monroe College, New Rochelle, N.Y., has partnered with the council and prepared a seminar he plans to bring to various college campuses across the U.S.
“The entire foodservice staff is invited, and he will teach them how to use blueberries in various applications,” Blake said.
The demonstration also should include a question-and-answer session and sampling, which is flexible depending on the time allotted for the event and who attends.
This is the first year for this program, and Blake said the council has high hopes for its success.
“We hope that by giving kitchen staff the background information, it will encourage them to use blueberries more,” Blake said.