Polish Blueberry Cooperative takes Asian expansion to new horizons
August 29, 2017

The Polish blueberry sector has sent container shipments to Asian markets for the first time this year, while industry and government continue to push for new market openings in the region. 

This Asian expansion has been led by the Polish Blueberry Cooperative (PBC), a group that ships to 25 countries across four continents.

“The market in Asia is exceptionally competitive this year. The good trade relations, our presence in those countries and the new products are paying off,” says Mariusz Kędzia of BerryGroup, one of PBC’s members.

“In 2013 we sent the first blueberries from Poland to Japan. Now we are present in five Asian markets and looking to enter several more,” adds his BerryGroup colleague Mateusz Pilch.

“We give our blueberries the strongest promotion in Singapore and Malaysia. Our strategy of dealing with strong competition is branding and differentiation – we are introducing a new premium line (+18mm) under our ‘Berry Good’ brand, the strongest berry brand in Poland,” he says.

Pilch tells Fresh Fruit Portal the formal process has started for opening the Chinese and Vietnamese markets, and logistics will be key to development.

“In the case of Vietnam, we hope it to be finished before next season. With China, it will take longer – probably until late 2018,” he says.

“This year we also started our ‘BerryGood from Poland’ Facebook fanpage for international consumers. In addition to annual presence at Asia Fruit Logistica, we also recently took part in Vietfood 2017,” adds Kędzia.

“We are now working on opening the Vietnamese market for Polish blueberries. Vietnam is the second largest importer of Polish foodstuffs in Asia and Poland’s biggest trade partner among ASEAN countries.”

Kędzia says Polish blueberries are well received in Asia due to their sweet taste and large size. 

“Asian consumers are very demanding in terms of fruit appearance. Our success was easier because of the good reputation and the quality of Polish food,” he says.

“We use air transport to deliver to Asia, but this season we are sending our first container shipments there. We will also be presenting our offer – fresh blueberry fruit as well as freeze dried blueberries and 100% blueberry juice at Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong.”

Pilch highlights the cooperative and BerryGood only deliver fruit to the Asian market that has been harvested according to its ’30-minute standard’, meaning the freshness and flavor of the fruit are locked in by pre-cooling within 30 minutes after picking.

“We have also introduced the ‘7 Rules of Good Harvest’, which are still instrumental in the training of pickers and raising even further the quality and shelf life of our fruit,” he says. 

“The high production standards became more recognizable after we started promoting them. Over 800 growers were provided with special promotional materials,” adds Kędzia.

“In Poland, we have generally dedicated this year to the quality of production and harvest.”

Season wrap, raising domestic awareness in Poland

Pilch says the Polish blueberry season usually starts in early July, but weather conditions this year meant farmers in northern Poland didn’t start picking until the end of July.

“Therefore, we have not had a clear production peak this year,” he says. 

“Some regions in Poland have been experiencing heavy rainfalls throughout summer, and once again the geographical diversification we have at the Polish Berry Cooperative has paid off.

“So weather is far from ideal, but we are doing our best to provide top quality fruit, also with the help of tunnels and rain sheds in which we have been heavily investing over the years.”

The PBC has also highlighted the fact blueberries were named a “national treasure” in Poland this year by the National Food Education Center of the renowned Institute of Food and Nutrition. 

The fruit has been recognized as part of a healthy lifestyle in Poland by leading portals promoting health and fitness, and Pilch draws attention to a range of articles in the local press that have presented the berry as the “fruit of the 21st century”.

“It is becoming increasingly common for people to realize that the best blueberries are those that have been hand-picked, very gently, and chilled within 30 minutes of picking,” he adds.

“Polish growers are committed to educating consumers. During the weeks of preparation before the season they work to raise the awareness of blueberry farming and the qualities of the fruit.

“A festive opening of the season is becoming an increasingly important event on July 1, known as the Polish Blueberry Day. This year, the event was also covered abroad for the first time with the hashtag #WorldDayofPolishBlueberries.

“The Foundation for the Promotion of Polish Blueberry was founded In 2017. Its main task is to promote the status of blueberry as Poland’s flagship product and to help growers.”

Fresh Fruit Portal