Top leaders analyzed the global blueberry industry
April 29, 2013

The International Blueberry Organization hosted its third annual meeting recently in the Chilean capital of Santiago, providing a platform for discussion and analysis.

The International Blueberry Organization (IBO) hosted its third annual meeting, from April 22-23 in the Chilean capital of Santiago. The meeting brought together 160 people from the main blueberry producing countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, the U.K., South Africa and Uruguay.

The event provided a platform for discussion, including the release of production and export statistics; new varieties; trade markets; and new research into blueberry health benefits.

Global Highbush blueberry production reached 1,027.4 million pounds in 2012 – concentrated in North America (599.6 million pounds) and South America (272.4 million pounds) – compared to 752.9 million pounds in 2010.

The Americas are home to the majority of the world’s production and North America remains by far the largest market; approximately 80% of global crop is shipped within or to the region.

The blueberry industry is developing gradually in Europe and Africa while Asia contains the fastest growing markets. According to Cort Brazelton, manager at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Asia’s production is growing but not as rapidly as demand.

The executive emphasizes that the 2010-12 global production increase was significant with both the fresh and process categories growing rapidly. During his presentation he emphasized that this growth created a unique challenges and opportunities.

Health research and product development

During the event the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) announced it will be working with two renowned international scientists to investigate the effects of blueberries on metabolic health.

More than 100 health research manuscripts relating to blueberries and bilberries were published last year, but the USHBC wants to take health claim credibility to the next level.

“We want to be the trusted fruit, the fruit that we can rely on that has good science, so we’re careful in the claims we make and the things we say,” explained USHBC research committee chairman Dave Brazelton.

As more blueberries come online in the coming years, the industry will need to find new and innovative ways to raise consumption. As part of this, USHBC executive director Mark Villata told attendees about the rising opportunities for blueberries in cosmetics and pet food products.

“In the States a lot of people feed their dogs and cats better than they feed their children in some cases, and they want healthful products”. He explained that pet food is an area where the numbers were going up, and that USHBC was looking at unique areas where people could put their blueberries.

Regarding cosmetics, he added “there’s this whole trend of beauty from within and putting in good foods to produce a healthy glow, so blueberries fit right into that.”

Chinese market

Talking about the Chinese market, Joyvio managing director Chen Shaopeng explained the potential of Peru and Mexico to fill the window from early August until the first Chilean volumes arrive in late November.

“The Moon Festival is a very important season – people give gifts to all the customers and friends and relatives, but we don’t have supply then,” Chen explained.

He noted domestic demand for 12,000 metric tons (MT) of blueberries last year, with two thirds going to process and the rest sold as fresh. As big players educate consumers about the health benefits of the fruit and availability rises, Chen forecasts demand for 60,000MT of blueberries in 2016 with a 50-50 split between processed and fresh.

He added that half of that 60,000MT would likely come from abroad, expressing expectations that countries like the U.S., Mexico and others would gain access.

About the International Blueberry Organization: The IBO’s mission is to come together and share information with the industry, collaborating on the common objective to raise blueberry consumption and provide an international forum for understanding issues of common interest between growing and exporting countries. The ultimate objective is to develop an international platform that can help ensure the success of the global blueberry industry. For more information please visit