Retailers and consumers who like big packs of Chilean blueberries will have to wait a little longer for them this season.
Because of the severe September freezes that put a dent in early season volumes, prices will likely be higher than usual, and as a result Chilean blueberries will ship in smaller packs for longer than they typically do, said Nolan Quinn, berry category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
Typically, packaging options will lean towards 4.4- and 6-ounce containers until early December, Quinn.
This season, though, with early volumes down possibly by 20%, the small containers will likely be on shelves through Christmas, he said.
Pints should take over after Christmas, and there also will be larger club store packs in the New Year — though not at the price point some consumers might be used to.
“We’ll still have volumes, but the price will be a little higher than usual,” Quinn said.
It would be safe to say that the tiny 4.4-ounce container is not the preferred Chilean blueberry package of choice for Cindy Jewell, marketing director for Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Berry Farms.
Still, Jewell recognizes the pack’s vital role at the beginning of the deal, as long as it’s not the pack of preference for too long.
“Prices are really high initially — it’s why they pack in 4.4,” she said. “But after a few weeks, it switches to 6-ounces and pints.”
And going up even from there. California Giant has noticed increased demand in recent years for 18-ounce and 2-pound club store packs, Jewell said.
“They’re more affordable for consumers,” she said.
The September freezes could delay the traditional shift from 4.4-ounce and 6-ounce packs for Chilean blueberries by a month, said Mike Bowe, vice president of Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Springs, Fla.
“Normally we see pints in the first part of December,” Bowe said. “This season it probably won’t be until the first part of January.”
In terms of overall trends, bigger is where it’s at when it comes to packaging Chilean blueberries, said Karen Brux, North American managing director of the San Carlos, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association.
“As blueberry consumption increases, so does packaging size,” Brux said. “We’re still seeing 4.4- and 6-ounce containers, along with pints, but there’s a growing percentage of blueberries now being sold in 18-ounce and even 2-pound packages.”