The main two fruits imported from Chile in December are blueberries and cherries. The key months for Chilean grapes are January through April, and stone fruit from Chile is available from February through April.
Karen Brux, managing director for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, with U.S. headquarters in San Carlos, CA, said people are currently hyped, especially over the start of the blueberry and cherry movements.
“The Chilean blueberry season is still in its early stages, with January and February being our main promotion months,” Brux explained. “Through Nov. 6, 744 tons of fresh Chilean blueberries had been shipped to North America. The crop estimate for Chilean blueberries is around 94,000 tons, with North America expected to receive close to 70 percent of the total.”
Chile exported 32.7 million boxes — about 91,038 tons — of fresh blueberries during the 2015-16 season, with North America continuing to be the principal market. Volume shipped to the N.A. market continues to grow every year.
In 2015-16, N.A. received 69 percent of all blueberry exports, an increase of three percent over the previous season.
“This market went up in a down year, which demonstrates the strong demand that exists for blueberries during the wintertime,” Brux pointed out. “For the 2016-17 season we’re expecting total exports of around 94,000 tons, with North America to receive close to 70 percent of the total.”
She added that as soon as Chilean blueberries are available in promotable volumes, retailers are on-board with promotional support, building large displays and putting blueberries up front and center in the produce department.
The CFFA focuses on trade promotions, providing retailers with the tools needed to drive sales of fresh Chilean blueberries.
“Instead of having one large program that is offered to everyone, the Chilean Blueberry Committee has three merchandisers who work hand-in-hand with retail and wholesale customers throughout the U.S. and Canada to create the most effective promotions for their customer base,” said Brux. There are numerous effective merchandising and marketing tactics that can be employed by the trade. Our retail partners are most successful when they run integrated campaigns with online and offline components.”
This year, the Chilean Blueberry Committee is partnering with U.S. Marketing Services to monitor blueberries at the retail level from November through March. The initiative has already begun as representatives are visiting key regional and national retail chains in N.A. and gathering details of every kind related to retail sales.
Brux said the timing of the Chilean cherry season is really special.
“We have a short window between mid-December and late January, so there are numerous opportunities for retailers to incorporate gorgeous red Chilean cherries into holiday promotions,” she said. “Cherries are also a popular Chinese New Year item, so depending on when Chinese New Year falls, there are opportunities to work with retailers in high Asian population areas on special festive packaging.”
The CFFA does not have projections on cherry volumes destined for North America this season, but Brux said if weather conditions in Chile remain favorable the total crop export would be around 20 million boxes.
“We have point-of-sale materials that are available to retailers, but we are also very happy to work with retailers on custom materials,” she said. “We support retailers with in-store demos and sales contests. Our season is very short, so we focus on seasonal, holiday and New Year’s promotions. Our POS cards have messages like Sweet Cherries: One Resolution That’s Easy to Keep, and Warm Up Winter With Summertime Sweetness.”
For the past few years, the Chilean Cherry Committee has partnered with Bing Juice on demos in select retail chains. Bing has a cherry flavored variety that is very popular around the holidays, so it’s a perfect tie-in with fresh Chilean cherries.
“We’ve also developed holiday usage ideas that have been a big hit with retailers across the U.S. who use them on their social media platforms,” said Brux.
“Our new recipe videos have been very popular. They can be viewed by entering Fruits from Chile on the YouTube search engine.”
In addition to the aforementioned, the primary Chilean imports to the U.S. include citrus fruits, pears, kiwifruit, apples and avocados.