“It seems like every restaurant chain is implementing blueberries more and more into their menus,” said Eric Crawford, president, Fresh Results LLC, Sunrise, Fla.
As interest in berries has increased, the industry has responded by providing opportunities to learn more about berries.
In 2014, the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission, Corvallis, Ore., was awarded a specialty crop block grant from the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This grant brought ten product and menu item developers to Oregon to learn about the caneberry breeding program and to offer feedback on what the foodservice industry is looking for in berries. They attended seminars on berry nutrition, marketing the health benefits of berries and food technology. They also attended hands-on workshops at the Oregon Culinary Institute, Portland, Ore.
As a result of this program, eight new berry products have been created and are in the marketplace. In 2016, the commission plans to put on another program based on this model.
The Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission is also doing outreach to Hong Kong’s bakery professionals in May as part of another grant. “The (commission) will hold three workshops for bakery professionals in Hong Kong that discuss the best uses of caneberries in Western baked goods and how to incorporate them into large and small bakery operations,” said Cat McKenzie, commission marketing director.
The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council is also staying connected with the foodservice industry in order to promote blueberries. For three years, the council has put on a three-day Blueberry Boot Camp for executive chefs at the Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, Calif.
This summer, the program will be bringing school foodservice chefs to the Boot Camp to learn more about using blueberries.
“The foodservice industry in general is looking for more opportunities to utilize blueberries in any way that they possibly can,” said Crawford, “and it is going to be a huge growth area in the industry.”