Big expectations, opportunities for berries
Data from the most recent report by the Nielsen Perishables Group revealed that the berry category (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries) made up 9 percent of overall produce sales for the past year. Experts cite berries’ health benefits and year-round availability for the category’s biggest numbers and best showing ever.
With berries being imported from Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Mexico, sales continue to rise year after year in the U.S. The expectations of customers are higher now than they’ve ever been, as more people are educated about berries. Along with that, shippers got better at delivering nicer fruit, which feeds the expectations of a greater product.
Industry insiders agree that consumption is growing in the U.S. for both fresh and frozen berries as domestic production and off-shore availability allow the market to expand.
Robert Von Rohr, director of marketing for Sunny Valley International, noted blueberry sales continue to grow each season with consumers looking for healthy eating options and finding the antioxidants blueberries offer to be important.
At Gourmet Trading Co., based in Redondo Beach, CA, the company likes what it’s seeing from the places it imports from and are doing a lot of preplanning (procurement and sales) as the company looks forward to a great season for its growers and customers.
“The crops in Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Chile look very good,” said Luciano Fiszman, blueberry category manager for the company. “We are expecting a great season with promotable volume and great quality. Logistics have been refined and the multiple pack-styles allow us to distribute fruit to very different needs.”
He added that new regions such as Peru and Mexico will lead the growth of the category in the next few years supplying the U.S. in windows that were typically short of fruit. The overall year-round business is twice the size it was 10 years ago, and that’s a change companies are excited about.
Matthew Giddings of Always Fresh Farms, based in Winter Haven, FL, noted a big buzz this year in imported berries revolves around the new food-safety regulations.
“Food-safety compliance has been an important issue, and our company works to stay as informed and up to date on every change as possible to provide the best for our customers,” he said.
Fiszman said Gourmet Trading Co. puts a lot of effort into its food-safety initiatives.
“We have a department that spends a lot of time and resources on this matter to guarantee it,” he said. “We make sure we do an extremely professional job securing fruit from the best growers to ensure the right fruit.”