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Promising Chilean season ahead

By
Keith Loria

The Chilean produce season is just getting into full swing with cherries, blueberries and stone fruit being imported into the United States, with grapes not too far behind.

“Harvests of nectarines and peaches continued to develop normally between the Valparaíso and O’Higgins regions, steadily increasing their yields,” said Karen Brux, managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association. “The main harvested varieties were Boreal in the case of nectarines and Early Majestic in the case of peaches, with low volumes. The quality of the fruit is good, with nice sizing, color, soluble solids, and firmness.”

Through Week 49, 1,854 tons of nectarines had been exported globally, with 829 tons shipped to North America. Additionally, 1,163 tons of peaches have been exported globally, with 727 tons to North America.  

“For each of these categories, the volume exported through Week 49 was less than 5 percent of the projected totals for the season, so we’re clearly just getting started,” Brux said.

When it comes to cherries, Chile remains the world’s largest exporter of the product, shipping more than 352,677 tons around the globe last year. The estimate for this year is 361,840 tons. The largest market by far is China, with the U.S. receiving 6 percent of the cherries shipped season to date.

“Week 49 was marked by high harvest volumes between the Valparaíso and Biobío regions, with more orchards beginning harvesting from the Maule region southward,” Brux said. “Harvested varieties were primarily Santina and Royal Dawn, followed by Bing.”

So far, there have been no problems — like lack of pickers or weather events — reported, so these factors have not affected the quality of the fruit. 

In the U.S., limited promotions started in mid-December. Promotional activity will ramp up significantly in early January and continue through February. 

“Our new campaign headline for this season — and hopefully beyond — is ‘Cherrish Every Moment,’” Brux said. “It’s a fun and playful line that reminds us to enjoy and hold dear the simple everyday moments in life, and that by adding cherries to the mix, they become even more special. We’re in the process of developing point of sale and social media assets to support this.”

This year, the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association undertook a very successful program with Shopkick for Chilean citrus, and Brux hopes to implement a similar campaign for cherries.  

“Shopkick is a shopping app that offers users rewards for shopping activities both online and in-store, such as watching product videos online, scanning product in-store, making in-store purchases and submitting receipts,” she said. “We love it, because shoppers are rewarded for both learning about products online and also going to the store and buying them.”

Additionally, the Association hopes to run in-store marketing programs for Lunar New Year with key Asian retail chains, as well as Weee!, the leading Asian e-grocer in the U.S.  

“Cherries are a huge gift item for Lunar New Year, and we will have a range of both Chinese and Korean point of sale available,” Brux said.

 The Chilean Blueberry Committee projects global export volumes of 117,000 tons, similar to the total exported the previous season. Total volume exported globally through Week 49 is 18,117 tons, 17 percent more than same time last season. Of the volume shipped year to date, 2,488 tons (13.7 percent) is organic.  

Looking at the U.S. specifically, 7,475 tons have been shipped through Week 48. Of this volume, 2,278 tons, representing 30.5 percent, was organic. 

“The U.S. is by far, the primary destination for organic blueberries from Chile,” Brux said. “To date, Chile has shipped 92 percent of its organic blueberries to the U.S. There have been some delays due to logistics and labor shortages, but we expect significant volumes to be reaching the U.S. in early January.”

In terms of exported varieties, Duke has taken the lead, with 44 percent of exported volume, followed by Star at 13 percent. The rest of the varieties contribute less than 10 percent each and are made up of more than 50 varieties. 

“Varietal replacement is a reality in Chile, with new varieties reaching 25 percent of total volume,” Brux said. “Organic blueberries are also growing in volume, with roughly 18 percent of total exports expected to be organic. The U.S. receives a greater allocation of organic, so organic volume shipped to this market could reach 28 percent of the total. 

The biggest challenges to this season in Chile are the availability of manpower and port logistics.

“Of course, the port issues in the U.S. will further complicate matters,” Brux said. “None of these problems are new, so the exporters and importers are continuing to work through them and take whatever steps possible to deliver the freshest, best tasting blueberries to shoppers.”

Still, the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association is excited about returning to in-store promotions this season and looks forward to showcasing the superior flavor of Chilean blueberries through in-store sampling.  

“While we will kick off our promotions in late December and continue into early March, we will run numerous in-store and online promotions during February for everything from Valentine’s Day to Heart Health Month to National Pancake Day,” Brux said. “Chilean Blueberries are heart-check certified, so we will be promoting than whenever and wherever possible.”

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