The berry category is growing with strawberries still at the top, though blueberries, raspberries and blackberries enjoy major success as well.
“Strawberries are still the largest overall berry category, but the continued growth of blueberry and blackberry volumes has led to huge increases in sales dollars nationwide,” said Bruce Turner, director of sales and business development for berries at Curry & Co., Brooks, Ore.
“Both of these berries are available year round, and consumers expect to find them in the stores year round,” Turner said.
Others agree that strawberries remain king, despite the growth of other berry categories.
“All of the berries are loved by consumers, but strawberries do rank highest in household penetration,” said Kyla Garnett, marketing manager at Naturipe Farms LLC, Estero, Fla.
This trend likely is because strawberries have been popular longer and the crops are more established, so supply is greater.
“They are the most plentiful and most versatile of all the berries,” said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing at California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, Calif.
Still, with the increased interest in all types of berries, especially blueberries, even lesser-eaten varieties are important to category growth.
“While strawberries remain the most popular with consumers, the assortment of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries drive the category as a whole,” said Nolan Quinn, berry category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Doug Perkins, managing director at Hurst’s Berry Farm, Sheridan, Ore., agrees.
The company’s biggest area of production is blueberries, but they also offer other products, including blackberries, raspberries, kiwi berries, cranberries and gooseberries.
“It used to be that just strawberries were dominant in supermarkets, and they still are, but blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and others are demanding big space as consumers are catching on. They are becoming more of a staple in people’s diet,” Perkins said.
Still, strawberries don’t seem to be seeing any decrease in sales just because the other categories are growing.
“Strawberries aren’t taking a hit,” said Brad Peterson, organic category manager at Well-Pict Berries Inc., Watsonville, Calif.
“Before, strawberries were served alone, and now the mixed berry bowl is getting more desirable,” he said.
In general, the category is enjoying extreme success right now.
“Fresh berries, in retail grocery, generated over $4 billion in the 52 weeks ending on March 24. Berries are the No. 1 category in dollar sales in fruit,” said Garnett, referencing Fresh Look Marketing data.
This category growth isn’t likely to slow down as companies increase production to meet rising consumer demand.
“We are optimistic on the continued growth of the berry category, with blueberries and blackberries leading the way,” Turner said in an e-mail.
It isn’t just the big-name items such as blueberries and strawberries that have potential.
“Just as blueberry and blackberry volumes have continued to grow commercially, we also feel you’ll see the continued growth of local items such as marionberries and huckleberries as consumers look for the ‘next item’ in berries,” Turner said.