This summer has been good for the berry industry, with increased production of some types of berries, strong demand across the category, and promotional pushes from councils and grower-shippers.
California strawberry growers have seen record shipments and strong demand for conventional and organic berries. Raspberry and blackberry grower-shippers said they’ve added more growing areas and better varieties to support the growth of year-round consumer demand.
Overall U.S. blueberry volume is expected to be about the same as last year’s volume. The Oregon crop was delayed by about a week, but it was in full production for some growers by early July. The blueberry season in southern Michigan got off to an early start.
Shippers are adding more large retail pack sizes to accommodate demand. Some added new 3-pound clamshells for strawberries, while another added a 4.5-pound clamshell for blueberries. And although it’s not new, shippers said the 2-pound clamshell of blueberries is in greater demand this summer.
Retailers can move more berries by building large displays of multiple types of berries in various pack sizes. The more visible a display is, the more likely shoppers are to buy berries, shippers said. Berries often are impulse buys.
Berry councils and grower-shippers are promoting berries and hoping to take advantage of growing demand. For example, the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council’s promotions include working with school food service managers, restaurant chains and dining services companies to add blueberries to menus, placing online advertisements, communicating via social media, and distributing traditional media press kits.
The California Strawberry Commission released an iPhone and iPod Touch application to promote berries earlier in the year. It plans to upgrade it and to release an Android version in September. It’s working on a consumer-oriented website and uses Facebook to communicate with strawberry fans.
Grower-shippers are looking for creative ways to sell more berries. For example, California Giant Inc., Watsonville, Calif., uses sponsorships to tie berries to health and fitness, and Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, partnered with Weber in a contest that promotes berries for summer entertaining.