The berry category, including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, is enjoying the attention of retailers and consumers across the country.
“All four berries continue to gain each year with double-digit growth in consumption and usage and sales at retail,” said Cindy Jewell, marketing director for Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Berry Farms.
Brooks, Ore.-based Curry & Co. president Matt Curry said blueberries and strawberries are the largest commodities in the berry category.
“Blueberries and strawberries are still the big performers in berries, but growing commercial volumes of blackberries and raspberries are certainly having a positive impact at retail as well,” Curry said.
Specialty berries, such as gooseberries or mulberries, help round out the growing category.
Nolan Quinn, berry category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said the entire berry category is certainly growing strong, although strawberries are still on top.
Strawberries rank as the fourth-most popular fruit and blueberries fall on the chart at No. 8, according to The Packer’s Fresh Trends 2014.
“Our strawberries are the most popular but are also the most well established. People have purchased strawberries routinely for years but are only more recently adding blackberries, raspberries and blueberries to their regular berry purchases,” Quinn said.
Blueberries, especially, are seeing growth, according to Chloe Varennes, marketing manager for Gourmet Trading Co., Redondo Beach, Calif.
“While blueberry consumption is lower than strawberry, the consumption rate of blueberries has grown at twice the rate of strawberries over the past 10 years,” she said.
“Blueberries are now available year-round with aggressive promotions during peak production,” Varennes said.
“Blueberries are getting an exciting amount of attention due to their convenience, flavor, nutrition, and perhaps most importantly availability,” Quinn said.
Overall, there are lots of more blueberries available, according to several suppliers.
“Total world blueberry acreage has grown 22% since 2005, including new regions like Peru and Mexico, while Chile remains a very important, high-volume country of origin,” Quinn said.
Eric Crawford, president of Fresh Results LLC, Sunrise, Fla., said there is still potential for blueberry growth.
“In more cases than not, the demand still exceeds the supply. We still have a lot of untapped demand,” he said.
In addition, Crawford said the growth of the blueberry category does affect the strawberry sales.
“I think as the demand for blueberries increases, it takes more from the strawberries,” he said.
Strawberries are still the leader in terms of volume, he said, although he’s not sure if they are still the leader in revenue.
“I think blueberries are on target to surpass strawberries,” he said.
Blackberries aren’t as popular as blueberries, but Gregory Atkinson, West Coast manager and domestic grower relations for Giumarra International Berry, Los Angeles, said that could simply be because they haven’t had the publicity.
“There is definitely a demand for them,” he said. “There’s not as much information on the health benefits and antioxidants of blackberries, but they are supposedly just as good for you, if not better, than blueberries,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson said blackberries are growing in their share of the market.
“They aren’t as highly demanded, but they are gaining ground on them,” he said.
In some cases, bush berries are already encroaching slightly on the strawberry display space, inching up from 50% to 60% of the display. Blueberries, especially, are more in demand.
“Before, the bush berries, especially blueberries, were always kind of regional while being strong in the northeast. Now they are all over, evenly spread across the U.S.,” Jewell said.