EU: “2018 sales increase of 20 percent recorded in blueberries”
January 4, 2019

Munich berry specialist Herbert Widmann GmbH is satisfied taking stock

2018 was a very successful year for the Western European berry trade, and specifically for German traders. Regarding blueberries, an interesting increase in sales of about 20 percent was recorded, explains Christian Stoll, sourcing manager of Herbert Widmann GmbH based in Munich. "After this successful year, we are looking to the future again, because thanks to the steadily growing consumption in Germany and abroad, we expect all berry sales to continue to rise."

Cultivation area in Chile

Prices dropping a little
When the Christmas season is over, Chile always determines events within the blueberry trade. Overseas shipments from Chile are arriving a week earlier this year than last year, but in terms of volume about the same volumes are expected. At the time these Chilean goods are arriving, Peruvian goods are still on the market, probably until the end of the month. From February onward, Morocco will slowly arrive on the scene as well. "In terms of pricing, blueberry prices will drop a little in conjuncture with the great arrivals of Chilean goods. Purchasing prices are currently around € 6 per kg or between € 7-8 per kg on the market.

Around Christmas, prices were a bit higher at well over € 8 per kg. Overall, sales volumes were satisfactory and, due to the increased availability of Peruvian goods, things were much easier than last year, which was characterized by a shortage of goods. "Demand could be covered without restrictions and largely without flying in any goods."

Mexico and Colombia are on the rise
In addition to all this, there are some new long-term tendencies, Stoll explains: "We have been observing a clear trend towards larger packagings for about a year now. Until last year, standard units of 12x125 grams had priority loading. This year, retailers are increasingly asking for 12x 300 grams. This is mainly due to the increase in sales: supply and demand are rising, and so is the trend towards larger units.

Although Chile and Peru are by far the largest suppliers from the southern hemisphere, some growing areas are developing at a rapid pace. "A brand new player is Colombia: The first hectares there have already been planted, but large quantities will only be available in a few years. The developments in Mexico are also interesting for importers. The lion's share of their products is traditionally taken up by the US, but in 2018 we received the first shipments in Europe. If Morocco and Spain were to have a bad blueberry harvest due to the weather, Mexican shipments could be an interesting alternative. Because of the large number of producers, there are certainly enough growers who can meet European standards."

Regarding strawberries, Egypt is currently dominating events (about 80% of the current volume). Supply is completed through Greek and, as of this week, Spanish products. As expected, shipments from Spain will multiply in the next few weeks. With regard to blackberries, Mexican airfreight supplies dominate the current ranges, while European goods (from Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium) are only available in small quantities. Stoll: "We are currently marketing stocks from the Netherlands and Belgium at relatively high prices of around €12 per kg."

Over the last few years there are some interesting niche products, particularly regarding soft fruits, that are gradually establishing themselves. According to Stoll, there is still room for new products in this segment as well: "Physalis -or golden berries- could, in my opinion, be a product that will continue to establish itself in 2019. In the US, these are already being offered more often. What we are also offering more and more are mixed berries or mixed packaging in all kinds of different forms."

Cultivated blueberries in environmentally friendly packaging

Promising future for the industry
With the introduction of the new packaging law, the question arises as to whether the classic plastic berry punnet will be accepted in the long run. "In the berry trade, people are currently looking for new, environmentally friendly packaging options such as open or cardboard trays. The problem is that it is hardly possible to pack berries in a cardboard tray during the overseas season. Unfortunately, no good solution has yet been found." Despite this challenge, the importer believes that the demand for soft fruits will continue to increase in general. "If you look at the US, checking out the per capita consumption of all berry fruits, then you see the consumption there is significantly higher than in Europe. So there is still potential for us to continue to grow."

Fruit wholesaler with decades of tradition
Herbert Widmann GmbH is a traditional company which has its offices in Ottobrunn and trades directly from the Munich Wholesale Market. Every day, tropical fruits, berries, mushrooms and stone fruit are sold to wholesale customers and food retail traders. For decades now, Widmann has stood for top quality with its broad range of products and services. For this purpose, the goods are checked for quality, freshness and temperature every time they are received. In addition to this, random samples are constantly submitted for laboratory analysis.