As the Florida blueberry season winds down, other regions in the United States are ramping up. Kasey Cronquist, president of the US Highbush Blueberry Council, says: “Georgia, California and Mexico are in full swing right now. North Carolina is preparing to start soon, and then production will move north throughout the US and Canada as we head into the summer months.”
This season, so far, the volumes have been good says Cronquist. “We’ve seen an increase in total volume compared to last year and the quality has been great too. The supply side is strong for the blueberries right now and we’re putting in every possible effort to maintain momentum despite the challenges that the pandemic has created on the supply chain.”
Frozen blueberry demand spikes
Before the pandemic hit, demand for the blueberries was at normal levels. “It was about average before everything happened,” Cronquist says. “During the last six to eight weeks, though, like everyone else experienced, we saw some significant changes in consumer behavior. Fresh blueberries have enjoyed some increase in demand due to the current circumstances, though it’s softened after the initial spike. But for the frozen blueberries we have seen the demand rise and remain strong, much higher than before the outbreak.”
“Fortunately, on the frozen side we were ready for the moment, and we were prepared to supply this increased demand. Here and there a few adjustments were made, for example some processors started operating an extra day a week,” he adds. “There were many blueberries in cold storage which were easily and quickly moved into the frozen retail market. That demand has grown and many of the processors who have been supplying foodservice have really been able to make up for their losses by redirecting these blueberries into retail.”
New campaign to highlight health benefits of blueberries
While the demand for frozen blueberries is particularly high right now, the fresh product is also enjoying good movement. “We have seen a resurgence of the ‘health halo’ of the blueberries due to the situation. People are pivoting towards healthy items, and it’s been encouraging to the industry to see that consumer behavior is gearing more towards these products with a high nutritional value. Blueberries are in a good position to meet these preferences.”
To highlight the health benefits of blueberries, the Council has launched a new marketing campaign called The Blueberry Method. The campaign launched on April 15th and works to highlight that blueberries are a good source of antioxidants and vitamin C. Blueberry ads will also be served up specifically to shoppers to drive impulse and repeat purchase.
“The campaign has a lot of great messages and there are fun, whimsical aspects to it that people will really enjoy and relate to in light of the current circumstances we are all facing today. We’re excited to have that campaign out there and have already seen a great response,” Cronquist concludes.
The Blueberry Method Industry Toolkit is available here, and includes a collection of brand assets and resources for marketers, growers and other stakeholders to use to grow the value of blueberries.