Blueberries benefit from increasing consumer health interest

05/28/2010 09:24:00 AM
Abraham Mahshie

New Jersey blueberries remain in strong demand and growers expect good quality and high volumes.

“So far, so good,” said Tim Wetherbee, sales manager for Diamond Blueberry Inc., Hammonton, N.J., in mid-May.

“It looks like a very good crop. The weather is cooperating. They are in bloom now, we have bees in the field ... and we expect they will pollinate.”

Wetherbee, who grows 850 acres of blueberries, said demand is constant thanks to consumers’ increased health consciousness and interest in healthy eating habits.

Wetherbee said the Folsom, Calif.-based U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, the national organization for growers, has done a lot of work to promote wellness through eating berries, including disseminating research and articles, that has helped promote a rise in purchases.

Nonetheless, he said that because of an increase in acreage and production, competition has also increased.

“Blueberry volumes have been increasing every year,” said Vince Consalo, president of Wm. Consalo & Sons Farms Inc., Vineland, N.J.

“Interest remains very, very strong and we’re looking for a heavy season, big movement.”

Art Galletta, president and co-owner of Atlantic Blueberry Co. Inc., Hammonton, N.J., said other than the national organization, blueberry growers in the state rely on promotion from the state Department of Agriculture’s Jersey Fresh program, which has seen heavy cuts in recent years.

“We were trying to get more money for Jersey Fresh, but money is tight in New Jersey. Everybody is suffering in that regard,” he said.

“The blueberry industry, we would like to see more money go into the Jersey Fresh program — a very successful program. A lot of states are copying that program.”

Galletta said a lot of the success of the program was hard to measure in dollar values, but it is seen in recognition of the Jersey Fresh logo and associated quality.

“People are really starting to recognize it and look for it,” he said. “Between quality and consistent supply, that’s what the buyers need and what they look for.”



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