More berries are showing up in foodservice applications, according to suppliers. Blueberries especially are popular items on restaurant menus.
“The industry has seen a huge increase in foodservice demand. More people are putting them on menus and in different items,” said Doug Perkins, managing director for Hurst’s Berry Farm, Sheridan, Ore.
“White-tablecloth foodservice is always strong for berries, but we’re seeing growth of the berry category as a whole in the other tiers of foodservice as well,” Julia Inestroza, marketing director for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co., said in an e-mail.
The foodservice arena could help balance out the additional supply some grower-shippers are expecting.
“This increased demand should match up well (with) the increased supply we’re seeing in some regions,” Inestroza said.
This success in the foodservice arena affects retail sales as well, as consumer trends tend to be driven for restaurant and professional use.
“When customers enjoy blueberries, perhaps in a salad with strawberries and grilled chicken, it inspires them to buy more blueberries at retail as well,” said Kathy Blake, spokeswoman for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
“We work with foodservice distributors on a year-round basis and really rely on the foodservice market to help communicate the availability of fresh berries,” said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, Calif.
Jewell also believes foodservice trends make a difference in retail sales, sometimes simply because it helps keep them fresh in consumers’ minds.
“We think consumers tend to buy more berries at retail when they see them on the menu at their favorite restaurant,” she said in an e-mail.
The blueberry council invests heavily in growing the foodservice use of blueberries through chef outreach programs and teaching opportunities.
“Part of our job is to give people more ways to use blueberries, not just in muffins and pancakes, but in a lot of new and different ways,” Blake said.