Chile: Constant renovation and creative marketing key for blueberry industry to maintain global leadership
May 31, 2019

Only a couple of weeks ago Chile finalized its blueberry export season. To better understand the performance, challenges and marketing strategies that have positioned the South American country as one of the most important suppliers in the world, we spoke with Andrés Armstrong, executive director of the Chilean Blueberry Committee.

Giving an overview of the 2018 19 season, Armstrong commented that the total volume of fresh blueberries exported slightly surpassed the previous season’s record figure, exceeding 111,000 tons.

"If we add what is expected to be exported from frozen products, we should reach more than 150,000 tons exported," he said. In terms of destinations, North America continues to receive most of the shipments of fresh blueberries, with a 58% share.

"We saw a 9% decline in our shipments to North America. However, in Europe we grew by 24% compared to the previous season, reaching a 30% share. In Asia, things remained stable with growth of 2.3%, maintaining a 12% share of our shipments".

Regarding organic production, the representative of the Chilean Blueberry Committee commented that the shipments showed a significant increase, in line with the worldwide trend that increasingly demands this type of products.

"We reached 13,340 tons, which represented 12% of the total exported and an increase over the previous season of 34%. The main market for our fresh organics was the United States with 78% of the total, although the highest growth was in Canada and Europe, where the volume of organic grew 106% and 92% respectively,” he said.

Armstrong firmly believes that the diversification of the markets is key, especially when considering that other regional players, such as Peru and Mexico, are growing their presence in each season.

"Since the creation of the Chilean Blueberry Committee 10 years ago, we have systematically invested in finding new and better alternatives for our blueberries, through the search and development of new markets. This has been a contribution, since we have influenced in the increase of the consumption of the blueberry in all the world,” said Armstrong.

He added that "the growing supply of fruit from countries that until recently were not in the market has significantly changed the competitive scenario. Initially, they had more strength with lower supply in the market before and after the peak of supply from Chile, but now they are also present in those weeks ".

In his opinion, this creates new challenges for the South American country, as producers need to be in line with new trends of more productive varieties demanded by consumers.

"Chile's supply needs to adapt quickly. Many are already doing it and keep moving forward. Others, if they do not renew some varieties and modify the way of cultivating and harvesting their fruit, will continue to find difficulties to make good business, "he said.

To maintain Chile as one of the industry's leading suppliers, Armstrong points out that as a representative organization of more than 78% of fresh blueberry exports in Chile, the Blueberry Committee is still working on evaluating and investigating the best techniques for producing, packing and transporting the fruit.

"This season we are implementing a ‘comprehensive quality system’ for production, harvest and packaging, renewing our minimum quality standards of final fruit. We are transferring and verifying best practices in all these areas to supply fruit that meets these standards and arrives in the conditions that customers expect," he said.

Blueberries on the billboard

But in this business, we all know that without a good marketing strategy, it does not matter how good your fruit is if consumers do not know it. In this area, Chile has been known to stand out with innovative and creative promotional campaigns.

An example of this was the intervention that the Chilean blueberries had in the cinemas of China, where the public could enjoy not only a good movie but also delicious "Blue Pops" as an alternative to the traditional popcorn that is consumed in an almost mandatory way in these places.

"The idea came up in France with one of our important receivers. We sought to highlight two differentiating aspects of blueberries, their health benefits and ease of consumption, which make them an ideal snack to share with family, either in theaters or at home. The "Blue Pop", referring to the popcorn of the cinemas, caught the attention of consumers.  

"The Blue Pops had a very prominent presence in the media and drew a lot of attention. Even in Chile this activity generated a report of several minutes on the main television news program of the country in prime time"  

Armstrong points out that this intervention was also made in cinemas in England, and that for this next season they hope to replicate it in France and Germany.  

"With this type of action, we are looking not only to position Chilean blueberries in the world, but we also want to look for alternatives that increase the global consumption of this fruit".

As Armstrong points out, increasing the consumption of blueberries in the world continues to be the goal of the Chilean Blueberry Committee and of all the members of the International Blueberry Organization (IBO), which is why being part of this organization is so important for the growth of the industry and producer countries.  

"We consider it very important for us and for the new players to have a global organization that contributes with building a better industry. The role of the IBO in generating information has been very important, and the Summits held in different parts of the world have proven to be the best place to catch up with what is happening in our industry and help us make better decisions. "  

"I think the IBO has an important challenge, we have to make progress in contributing to the development of consumption, gradually moving more towards consumers. The consumption of blueberries is still in the development stage and there is a lot of room to grow. "  

Because of these challenges and the importance of the blueberry industry today, we hope to see you on June 24-26 at the IBO Summit that we will hold in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

IBO Original Interview