Organic berry sales show staying power

05/09/2014 10:21:00 AM
Melissa Shipman

Organic berries are seeing category growth, according to grower-shippers.

Charlie Staka, sales director for CBS Farms, Watsonville, Calif., said the company has increased its organic strawberry acreage by nearly 15%.

“Our customers are looking for more organic strawberries, so we’re getting into more acreage to meet those needs,” Staka said.

He said the entire organic category is growing, with a buzz of activity and interest around it.

“I think the organic category as a whole has been growing by more of a percentage than the conventional category,” Staka said.

Chloe Varennes, marketing manager for Gourmet Trading Co., Redondo Beach, Calif., said the demand for organic berries is rising quickly based on consumers’ perceptions of chemical residue on conventional fruit.

“Consumers are aware that berries have a lot of pesticide residue on them. That is why, at Gourmet Trading Co., we are expanding our organic blueberry offerings,” she said.

Gourmet Trading Co. offers organic blueberries from Chile.

Blueberries

Blueberries, specifically, have seen increased organic demand, according to Gregory Atkinson, West Coast manager and domestic grower relations for Giumarra International Berry, Los Angeles, who said the trend is related to their availability.

“The organic availability in the world market is much better for blueberries than blackberries,” Atkinson said.

Jim Grabowski, director of marketing for Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Berries said the overall organic berry category is growing.

He said that in addition to strawberries and blueberries, organic raspberries and blackberries are also increasing.

Matt Curry, president of Curry & Co., Brooks, Ore., agreed.

“Demand for organic berries continues to grow at a rapid rate, and there is still room for growth in this category as there isn’t a consistent year-round supply of organic berries yet,” he said.

Grower-shippers are aware that the demand, while growing, will likely hit an eventual plateau, although no one is exactly sure where that level will be.

“Our organic blueberries out of Mexico and Chile are doing well. I think the category continues to grow every year, although it is a finite amount of demand,” said Eric Crawford, president of Fresh Results LLC, Sunrise, Fla.

A third of consumers

According to The Packer’s Fresh Trends 2014, about one-third of blueberry, blackberry and raspberry shoppers reported buying organic berries at least some of the time.

Blackberries came in on top of that scale, with 35% of shoppers choosing organic at least part of the time.

The likelihood of organic strawberry purchases are lower, at just 26%.

Organic berries bring a premium at retail.

According to the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service, a 6-ounce package of organic blueberries averaged $3.52 for 2013, while the average price of conventional blueberries was $2.77.



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