The United States is hungry for food products from India. While it exports blueberries to India, it imports basmati rice, mango, spices, and a few other products. This was stated by Jeanne F Bailey, minister counselor for agricultural affairs, US Department of Agriculture, US Embassy, New Delhi, at a seminar on blueberry processing, which took place in Mumbai on Tuesday.
She added that India was an incredible, vibrant and enormous market for the US, saying that the market for blueberries was small but growing. Bailey informed that blueberries, for which there is high demand in countries like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, were really good for health because they were high in fiber and low in sodium.
Tom Payne of the US Highbush Blueberry Council spoke about blueberry ingredient evolution and processing of blueberry for processed food. Giving a brief history of blueberries, he added that since the 1990s, blueberry production in the US had risen from 200 million lb to 800 million lb. He informed, “Blueberries have health benefits such as anti-aging properties, they are diabetic-friendly, good for eyesight and all around goodness. Blueberries are also used in cosmetics.”
The event featured a panel discussion on the regulatory requirements for the import and processing of blueberries. Gunjan Jain, director, VKC Nuts Pvt Ltd, Ghaziabad; Tarun Arora, director, IG International, Dinesh Shinde, director, Anusaya FreshIndia Pvt Ltd, and Kshitiji Dhedia, Food Hall, Future Group, were the panelists.
They opined that there were changes in consumer behavior. They want natural products, and the challenges include the lack of awareness, the high prices, the non-tariff barriers, transportation and the death of cold chain facilities. Moreover, India does not have the climate to grow blueberries.
The panelists stated that the focus should be on the availability of fresh blueberries, adding it should be marketed properly. Chefs should try to use blueberries as ingredients in other food items, apart from sweets. They added that there was a need for awareness about blueberries in India.
Chef Mohit Sondhi of Assocom Institute of Bakery Technology and Management (AIBTM) demonstrated products made using frozen blueberries. These included frozen Blueberry muffins, frozen Blueberry tea cake (gluten-free) and Charlotte Royal with blueberry.
Anusaya Fresh India Pvt Ltd launched blueberry-infused tea. The flavors available were blueberry lemongrass green tea, blueberry spice black tea, blueberry ginger basil green tea and blueberry mint green tea.
There was a panel discussion on blueberry products as well. It was moderated by celebrity chef Varun Inamdar. The panelists comprised Sondhi; Harpawan Singh Kapoor, chef, research and development (R&D), product development, specialty foods, food business division, ITC Foods Ltd, celebrity chef Harpal Singh Sokhi, and Salil Fandis, chef and manager, Hotel Sahara Star.
If blueberries are available at the right price, it can be used in various processed foods. Applications of blueberries can be good at food if the fruits are fresh and in good condition. It can be used in Indian sweets. As of now, blueberries are mostly associated with bakery and pastries.