What will be the future of blueberry cultivation in Europe?
Blueberries are becoming more and more a standard product in European Supermarkets as consumers want to buy it, retailers want to sell it and growers want to grow it. It all sounds simple.
If you look to other successful categories such as Kiwi and Avocado the key to success is constant consumer experience so never disappointed consumers. We are not there yet with Blueberries. Too often you still find soft fruit in supermarkets and this will slow down the rapid consumption growth ( +23% in Europe ( 2020 vs 2019)! One truck of bad quality blueberries is enough to disappoint 150.000 consumers. These consumers will stop buying for 6 weeks if they know blueberries and for 10 weeks if it is the first time they buy blueberries. So the best way to grow the category is to offer better quality fruit to the consumers, state Hans Liekens, Commercial director Fall Creek EMEnA.
From Italian research we know Croccante” (crunchy) is the main attribute mentioned on labels of food sold in Italy, based on a just published Nielsen research on 70.000+ SKU’s.
Crunchy is becoming a very important purchase criteria and the positive characteristics of the blueberry.
Key to success is to choose the right varieties: most of the old varieties such as Chandler, BlueCrop, Eliott,… are good ‘in the field’ but a modern fresh fruit supply chain to deliver the European, Russian or Azian consumer needs more than taste on the bush: today you need a firm berry after 30 days shipping/transport to arrive in good conditions to sell to the consumers. On top we see the consumers prefer a good tasting berry ( no surprise) and preferably uniform size so like in other fresh categories: uniform constant quality.
Like in other categories, Supermarkets will develop in the future ( like in the UK today) more SKU’s for Blueberries ( eg Good/better/best or a premium line sided by side with a ‘ value for money line’ and in the German speaking countries there will be soon a permanent ‘ organic’ line. If the Permium line and Organic line are meeting the criteria they can be sold like in other categories with a premium price of +10-20%. The big volume will be the ‘value for Money category’ which is better than we find often today in the supermarket. Fruit that is too soft or sour will be refused more and more and end up in allow price sales for IQF (deep freeze) applications for a 1- 2Euro sales price
In Chili, where they suffer with their quality image and having in general the same varieties ( Nothrn High Bush) as in Poland. Interesting interview with Andres Armstong, executive director of the Chilean Blueberry Committee in Blueberry Consulting – 25/11/2020: The Chilean blueberry industry with these measures is adapting to the new world scenario, where the increase in supply from different origins is already a reality, and also adapting to the new market conditions, in which quality, consistency and productivity have new minimum requirements.
The focus is on quality and productivity, not on volumes. As for varieties, there is a revolution of renovations. A lot of surface has been renovated and we are beginning to see more and more varieties that are more productive, have good postharvest and the good flavor that characterizes Chilean blueberries. The industry already understood that there are varieties that simply do not have space in the current competitive scenario – comments the executive director of the Committee. Chili banned 50 varieties to export of which ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Chandler’ and ‘Eliott’ are the most known.
New varieties like Valor, Cargo, Bluer Ribbon, Top Shelf and Cargo are planted now to replace older genetics because of the better mix between shelflife/firmness, flavour and yield.
Covid had a dramatic impact on our lives both in the health and economic aspects. Looking to Blueberries, Covid should affect the industry, although most analysts and experts conclude that the blueberry industry, globally, is better prepared to face this or other crises due to the healthy demand for its product ( Recently new health research ( the Circles study – US – 2020) was published and it is scientific proven that Blueberries will lower the Risk of Alzheimer Disease and/or Dementia as well as on Type 2 Diabetes.) and the solid structure of its industry.