Chilean blueberry marketers say the nutritional story behind their product makes it an easy sell.
“Blueberry nutrition continues to be one of the most compelling nutrition stories in the produce section, as it has for nearly a decade,” said Nolan Quinn, berry category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group.
“Blueberries have been linked to everything from healthy aging to reducing fat cells to inhibiting breast cancer tumor growth. Conventional wisdom among consumers seems to be that blueberries are particularly good for them, and a wise choice for their families. With year-round availability, retailers can capitalize on this without interruption.”
Tom Richardson, general manager of Giumarra Cos., Wenatchee, Wash., agreed.
“There is no question that the nutritional value of this fruit has been key in growing the blueberry business, but more consistent supply and better-eating varieties are now taking it to another level,” he said.
Marketers just need to keep telling that story, said Mike Bowe, vice president of Coral Springs, Fla.-based Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc.
“I think it’s very valuable,” Bowe said. “The thing of it is, you want to make sure the nutritional information is on the package. It’s a home run for the category.”
The industry has long recognized the value of getting the product’s nutritional information to the consuming public, said Bob Von Rohr, marketing and customer relations manager for Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J.
“I think it’s extremely important, and I think the blueberry industry has done an outstanding job getting that information out to consumers,” he said.
The work has paid off, but growers have to be vigilant about maintaining quality standards, said Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America with the Sonoma, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association.
“People are conscious of the exceptional nutrition contribution of blueberries, but it needs to be coupled with great taste to make the sale,” he said.
Flavor comes first, agreed Andres Armstrong, general manager of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, Las Condes.
“Research carried out in the U.S. has shown that people buy blueberries mostly because of their great taste and then because of its health benefits,” Armstrong said.
The product combines more attributes the consumer finds compelling than perhaps any other item, said Keith Mixon, president of Sunnyridge Farm Inc., Winter Haven, Fla.
“It’s the first step in people eating ready-to-eat fruit right out of the clamshell,” Mixon said. “That’s a big advantage to blueberries. There’s no peeling. It’s all good.”
California Giant is working messages about the product’s nutritional benefits into its marketing plans, said Cindy Jewell, marketing director.
“It’s huge, the whole antioxidant message,” she said. “We’re doing the whole social media plan.”
Janice Honigberg, president of Washington, D.C.-based grower-shipper Sun Belle Inc. and member of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, said the nutritional findings have been an “incredible” value to the product.
“I think slowly but surely, the public is connecting with that message, but first and foremost I think the people are buying all berries for the flavor,” she said.
The nutritional value certainly doesn’t hurt, though, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.
“The health message, the taste and looks are a good combination,” he said. “When it comes to the nitty-gritty, people will pay the price. For the rest, you have to have a value proposition. You offer them a larger pack where it makes more sense to them.”