Berry industry professionals continue to invest in research for the future of the category.
Research surrounding the health benefits of berries is popular for marketing efforts, while research about better varieties often tops the list of priorities for growers.
Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry CommissionTaste test and rating of IQF Oregon Blackberries with (from front) Michael Joy, Park 100 Foods, Jeff Cousminer, Stonewall Kitchen, and other attendees.Jim Grabowski, director of marketing for Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Berries, said the company views research for better varieties as an ongoing program.
“We constantly have new varieties in various stages of testing, always looking for the ‘perfect’ berry, one that meets all our needs for flavor, taste, color, shaping and yield,” Grabowski said.
Marcos Nuques, West Coast sales manager for Giumarra International Berry, Los Angeles, agreed planting new varieties as an ongoing process is vital.
“There are new and exciting varieties being planted and tested each year to continue to bring consumers a better-tasting, hardier berry,” he said.
Companies that grow only proprietary varieties also understand the challenge of communicating about their research-backed berries to the general public.
“We like to think that while the customer may not know that Well-Pict grows only its own proprietary varieties, they know that they prefer the taste of the Well-Pict berry and will continue to look for that brand in his or her store,” Grabowski said.
New varieties are also important to increasing the supply of fresh berries as demand continues to grow.
Eric Crawford, president of Fresh Results LLC, Sunrise, Fla., said he has seen a lot of success with using new blueberry varieties in the southern states.
“This year has been really interesting in terms of new varieties because we saw Georgia really developing those, such as emerald star, snow chaser, and other varieties that retailers really like a lot,” Crawford said.
Overall, new varieties may be a game changer to the market because it will allow for more volume and better quality out of regions that were unable to produce those results in the past.
The new production in Georgia rivals production in Florida.
“With Georgia getting involved in new varieties, they are able to participate in that high market window that Florida used to have pretty much to itself,” Crawford said.
New varieties also allow for other grower benefits, like decreased labor.
Caylan Gingerich, blueberry procurement director for Gourmet Trading Co., Redondo Beach, Calif., said the blueberry industry is moving toward an emphasis on varieties that can be machine-harvested, along with the always important traits of disease-resistance and an extended shelf life.