“Fast food seems to be, just by the sheer number of outlets they have, making the biggest impression up there or the biggest change in our business,” he said. “The other ones are all supporting it, trying to get into the business by getting all their restaurants to move them.”
Retail continues to dominate the Chilean blueberry business, but foodservice is worth exploring, said Janice Honigberg, president of Washington, D.C.-based Sun Belle Inc.
“I think foodservice still represents a small part of consumption, but it’s growing,” she said.
So are opportunities for profits in the field, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management for Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.
“Foodservice is huge opportunities,” he said. “I’ll bet you 2% of the total fresh blueberries sold in the U.S. go to foodservice, so there’s a lot of room for growth, and it will grow there.
“(Quick-service restaurants) are very much interested as they market healthier items. Certainly, white-tablecloth restaurants offer opportunities. But you have institutions and public schools. It’s a huge opportunity across the board.”
Those opportunities will grow as quick-service outlets look to blueberries to bolster the nutritional punch on their menus, said Tom Richardson, general manager of Giumarra Cos., Wenatchee, Wash.
“We think that the entire foodservice industry is looking for ways to provide more and more healthy choices,” Richardson said.
“Blueberries certainly offer this opportunity, so we feel that going forward there will be more blueberries on the menus of both fast-food and traditional restaurants.”
Nolan Quinn, berry category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group, agreed.
“The popularity of blueberries is surging among consumers, in part due to their increased availability and the high awareness that exists about the berry’s antioxidant capacity,” he said.
“Restaurants will take advantage of the popularity of the fruit, and Oppenheimer will seek out opportunities to help fill the demand.”