Chilean blueberry suppliers have agreed that the pint will be the standard clamshell from the country this year as the marketplace readies for an unprecedented winter volume.
“The way we’ve planned it out, the Chilean blueberry committee agreed on a standard pack that we feel the market will absorb as long as the pricing is right,” said Joe Barsi, director of business development at California Giant Inc., Watsonville, who likened Chile’s development in the blueberry market to that of strawberries in California.
“Chile has been around a while but we don’t have the mature pack, but I believe that pints will be like the 1-pound for strawberries. I believe it will help immensely,” he said.
Phil Neary, director of operations and grower relations at Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J., predicts a diversification of packages with a trend toward larger packs, similar to those offered at many club stores.
“I don’t think you’re going to see any 4.4s except maybe fly in. There will be more 6-ounce and pints,” Neary said of the smaller 4.4-ounce pack and last year’s standard 6-ounce clamshell. “Then, the true special packs, 18-ouncers, specifically club store-type of packs, and 24 ounces,” he said. “You can’t continue to have a small, small package and price real high at retail.”
Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C., said Sun Belle also will offer a diversity of pack sizes, starting at 6-ounce and including 12-ounce, 11-ounce for California, 14-ounce, pints, 18-ounce and 24-ounce.
“All sizes will be available all season,” she said, adding that Sun Belle experienced a 46% growth last year propelling it to a top five Chile exporter. “In Chile, there is a large move toward pints toward the peak of the season. I think the market can become quite robust … with the large participation in all of these larger packs.”
The right price
Suppliers say moving up to 123 million pounds of fresh blueberries can’t simply be done with larger packs.
Retail pricing also will play a key role in perceived value.
“It’s volume, price and promotion,” said Bobby Stokes, berry sales manager at Curry & Co. LLC, Brooks, Ore. “It’s got to be that balance between what’s acceptable to consumers to buy — with the economy being in the tank like it’s been — but, there’s still value in fresh blueberries.”
Barsi said with a price point anywhere from $2.99-3.99 consumers will see value in the purchase.
Mario Flores, blueberry product manager for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., described this year’s Chilean blueberry deal as an “evolution.”