In an increasingly competitive environment for retailers in certain countries, one food trend expert believes blueberries are well positioned to come out on top.
Dr. David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of food marketing at Imperial College London, said in developed markets like the U.K., which has seen 32 successive months of declining food prices, there was a ‘real battle’ between traditional supermarkets and discounters.
“We’re seeing unprecedented competition at retail,” he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
“This has wreaked havoc in the U.K., where over last decade the hard discounters have gone from nothing to over 10% grocery market share, and in Australia in a shorter period from nothing to 11% market share.
Hughes, who will speak at the International Blueberry Organization (IBO) Summit 2016 to be held in Argentina and Uruguay from Sept. 20-22, said consumer habits were also evolving.
“Look at mega trends like that change in shopper behavior and clearly there are implications here for fresh produce,” he said.
“Shoppers are going to big box retailers less and buying less when they do go.”
He said all this meant it was getting increasingly harder for growers and suppliers to deal with supermarkets, as they would be increasingly leaking market share and looking for margins.
“What does this mean for the berry industry? It won’t get easier dealing with major supermarkets, and you do have to be clever with them and more knowledgable about their retail market environment so you can give them a product offer that helps them rather than hinders them,” he said.
“In the past we would send them a pallet of blueberries anyway and think ‘that’s none of our business’, but that won’t do now. It’s important to work with them, thinking ‘how can we grow your business in this increasingly competitive market?’
He said that a silver lining for the industry was nowadays there were many more routes to market than before, and blueberries could easily take advantage of these.
“It’s particularly good for blueberries because of the snackability, they’ve got decent shelf life by berry standards and they hold up well in various formats,” he said.
“If I think to my experience with the fresh berry firm I was involved with in the past, our focus was almost exclusively on supermarkets, because in the U.K. 92% of retail volume went through supermarkets.
“Now that is changing and an increasing amount will go through other routes, which will be things like direct, food service, discount retailers or fresh prepared, and these have got to be taken more seriously.”
At the IBO Summit 2016, Hughes will give a talk entitled ‘Differentiation. How to escape from the commoditization of blueberries’, and will head a panel discussion on the role of supermarkets and consumption trends in Europe.