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Gourmet Trading filling demand for larger blueberry packs

Once the domain of club stores, larger retail packs of blueberries are finding favor in many different outlets, which has resulted in an increase in that pack size from Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading.

“We are offering more and more bigger packs, such as 18-ounce clamshells,” said Luciano Fiszman, blueberry category manager for the firm. “It used to be a format that only club stores were carrying, now most stores are looking into this pack.”

Untitled-2-copyRetailers should have promotional opportunities for organic Chilean blueberries in February.Gourmet Trading is a blueberry specialist, sourcing supplies from several different regions during the fall, winter and spring for this ever-increasingly popular crop. Fiszman said both Peru and Chile are currently sending the berry to the U.S. market with Peru’s volume expected to last until about Valentine’s Day in mid-February, with Chile in the deal well into March. Gourmet will add production from Mexico from mid-February to mid-May and Florida will be an additional source from March to mid-May.

Fiszman revealed that both Peru and Mexico are experiencing an uptick in production because of increased acreage for this 2018-19 winter and spring deal, while “Chile and Florida will probably be similar to the last campaign.”

Add all these areas together and the Gourmet Trading blueberry expert expects supply and demand to be in sync. However, he did add that the increase in the larger packs, obviously results in fewer units, which could have the impact of making the market “feel short” during some high-demand weeks.

As retailers plan their promotional calendars, Fiszman said January and February are expected to be good months to promote blueberries from Chile.

While Gourmet Trading is bullish on the prospects for increased blueberry demand in the United States and around the world, Fiszman said there are some factors that could limit supply. “Most of these regions are facing and will continue facing labor issues,” he said, adding that the availability of pickers and the rising cost of picking berries is limiting the expansion potential for many growers. “This is probably the most important challenge in the worldwide industry at the moment.”

Another area of growth for the company is in the organic sector. Fiszman said demand from retailers is increasing and Gourmet Trading is trying to keep up with it by adding new production, but he said there are issues. He said it is difficult for many growers to consistently produce a top notch product. Consequently, Gourmet Trading is souring from many different growers and locations so that it can cobble together a worthy program for its customers. “This product is top quality and it typically gets a premium,” he said. “We at Gourmet Trading won’t have issues with organic supply this next six months. We have organic supply in Peru, Chile, Mexico and Florida, so we feel good about the program.”

But industry-wide, he said there will be certain weeks when supply and demand are not in concert. “The organic deal is getting smoother but still not flat. I see this trend evolving though and more organic fruit available in the years to come from multiple locations to satisfy demand. We are getting closer and closer.”

He believes that organic blueberries from Chile should be in large enough supply in February to offer promotional opportunities for retailers.

Logistically, Gourmet Trading will bring more blueberries from South America to the United States via ocean than air this year, but it will use both modes of transportation. “This helps costs and also for planning purpose,” Fiszman said, adding that advanced transportation planning allows for a smoother program. “The market doesn’t do very well with surprising peaks.”

Gourmet Trading is also proud of its robust food-safety program, as it has a department devoted to that arena. “We spend lot of time and resources to make sure we deliver a safe box,” he added.