Blueberry category enjoys growth

05/14/2013 10:13:00 AM
Melissa Shipman

Blueberries continue to be a hot item as consumers can’t seem to get enough of the little blue “super fruit.”

“We really track the blueberry boom to the late 1990s, when the ORAC scale came out, but continued research shows how good they are for you,” said Kathy Blake, spokeswoman for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

The council has championed the use of blueberries at home and in foodservice applications for years with extensive success, according to retail sales and others in the industry.

“The USHBC has done a very nice job of working with retailers, magazines, and national news organizations, putting blueberries at the forefront and getting that message out there,” said Doug Perkins, managing director at Hurst’s Berry Farm, Sheridan, Ore.

Perkins said Hurst’s Berry Farm is seeing extensive blueberry growth, some of which he attributes to new, better-eating blueberry varieties.

“It comes back to taste. The health benefits are there, but with the new varieties out there, compared to even five years ago, the fruit is eating much better,” Perkins said.

Other companies are also seeing extensive blueberry growth.

“Consumers seem to respond very favorably to blueberry promotions, I expect, largely due to the strong awareness of their nutrition composition and unparalleled convenience,” Nolan Quinn, berry category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said in an e-mail.

Oppenheimer markets domestic blueberries from North Carolina, New Jersey and British Columbia, and anticipates high quality from its growing partners this season, Quinn said.

Convenience and nutrition lead blueberries to the top in terms of snacking trends, grower-shippers say.

“Consumers love the easy snackability of blueberries. They love the flavor of blueberries and the versatility. Blueberries are also fun, and during the summer months, they fit the mantra of fun in the sun,” said Bruce Turner, director of sales and business development for berries, Curry & Co., Brooks, Ore.

“When people bring blueberries to a picnic or summer party, people always gather round and start snacking on them,” Turner said.

Kyla Garnett, marketing manager at Naturipe Farms LLC, Estero, Fla., believes that the snacking trend is a good way to incorporate cross-promotions with other items.

“Cross-merchandise and display berries in the dairy case with yogurts and other snacking items,” she said in an e-mail.

Despite the rapid success, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the growth of the blueberry category.

“We feel there is a lot of opportunity for continued growth in the blueberry category driven by increased production, new varieties, great flavor, a positive health message, and availability of quality product,” Turner said.



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