Blueberries are booming

The Dutch blueberry season has started again in early July. Special Fruit and the production companies of Harm Valckx and Leon Schrijnwerkers have formed a partnership, Berry Packing Services, in order to fulfil the growing demand for blueberries. “We are expecting to produce 2000 tonnes of blueberries this season,” the blueberry specialist says.



Year-round supply
Special Fruit is pleased with the new partnership. Purchase Manager Piet Meerkerk says a year-round supply of blueberries is thus secured. “Our main forte is the import of blueberries, particularly from South America. So the Dutch blueberries from our own production are a nice supplement to our product range, especially with more and more supermarkets offering the product year-round.” Special Fruit imports blueberries from countries including Argentina, Peru, Chile, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Most of the blueberries find their way to other countries, with the United Kingdom, Germany and Scandinavia being important markets. Piet explains that countries that grow their own blueberries but where consumption lags behind, are particularly interesting for the future.

Strong increase in consumption
Harm also confirms the strongly increasing demand for blueberries. This trend, he says, will continue in the next five to ten years. “Blueberries are booming. Consumption increases by 20 to 30% each year. While in 2004, Dutch consumption was still 4 grammes per capita, it’s now 130 grammes per capita. In the United Kingdom, consumption is 600 grammes per capita. Ireland is also among the top consumers, but the United States is the absolute leader with 1.1 kilogrammes per capita. So there are still plenty of opportunities for us.” The great attention for blueberries as a super healthy fruit has also definitely contributed to this. Store promotions and the many different available packagings are also influential. “Years ago, you’d only see 125-gram packagings. Now there are more and more larger packagings, and shakers, for instance. We will also be introducing various packagings.”



Challenges
Harm and Piet view the partnership with optimism. “The supermarkets want a reliable partner, who can supply a guaranteed volume. We are able to do that,” they says. There are also challenges, however. Production in Germany is further increasing, and Poland is a competitor for the Dutch supplies. Production in Poland is 15,000 tonnes this season. “The blueberry sector has seen a huge evolution here in recent years. Quality-wise, they simply supply a good product. Poland also exports a lot to Scandinavia. For now though, there is still enough room for sales from the various producing countries.” Finally, Harm notes that the United States and British Columbia in Canada are the world’s biggest producers. These markets are fully self-sufficient, and off-season they import blueberries from South America. Only a small percentage of the American and Canadian produce is exported, mostly to Asia. “Perhaps we will also export to Asian countries in the future.”

More information:
Special Fruit
Piet Meerkerk

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