Blueberry availability expanding globally – Rabobank
November 15, 2022

The blueberry industry has undergone a significant transformation, with the market shifting from regional to global, according to a report by Dutch company Rabobank. The analysis also states that availability is set to increase in key markets such as the U.S. and UK.

Blueberries are perceived as a ‘super fruit’ with a hard-to-match combination of product attributes, including healthful characteristics, outstanding convenience, and attractive flavor.

In line with this, its consumption has been growing fast in recent years in many regions around the globe.

“In the next five years, per capita availability in the U.S. is likely to surpass 1.5kg per person per year, while in the EU-27 and China is expected to show a cumulative growth of about 100% and 200%, respectively, by 2027 compared to 2021 levels,” the report said.

The report also said that availability in the global market will largely depend on production expansion in key producing countries, such as Peru, South Africa, China, and Morocco, among others. 

Despite inflationary, recessionary, and logistical challenges, Rabobank states that the U.S., the EU-27, and the UK will remain the most important destination markets. 

In the longer run, as these challenges subside, blueberry demand is expected to continue to grow. Industry sources consulted by Rabobank estimate that household penetration in the U.S. will increase from about 50% in 2021 to roughly 66% by the end of the current decade, potentially reaching 75% by 2035. 

Rising EU and UK imports despite logistics issues

EU and UK blueberry imports have grown sixfold in the past ten seasons, said Rabobank. Higher production in more diverse growing regions has helped ensure year-round supply and led to increased availability on the European market. 

Between July and May of the 2021-22 season, total EU-27 blueberry imports reached 341,000 metric tons, according to figures by Rabobank.

Supplies arriving mainly from Peru, Morocco, and South Africa have helped to extend the extra-EU season. The most active period of intra-EU shipments is May, at the peak of the Spanish and Moroccan seasons, the report said.

However, the report notes that logistics pressure remains. This was one of the main factors that led to quality-issue claims for Southern Hemisphere blueberries at wholesale markets in Europe in 2021-22. 

The global schedule reliability index remains low (40.5% in July 2022), but higher than in 2021, with the South America–Mediterranean trade route presenting the best index according to DHL. 

In addition, SeaIntelligence stated that the unbalance between demand and capacity experienced during 2020 and 2021 is moving toward normalization, which has been reflected in the drop of freight rate indices. 

However, Rabobank said that the shortage of truck drivers is still significant and may affect the development of the 2022-23 EU season.