Wild blueberries are native to Quebec and the Maritime provinces in Canada, but they also grow in the state Maine in the US. “We don’t have to plant the bushes, they just appear in this unique soil type,” says Jean-Pierre Senneville, President/CEO of Quebec Wild Blueberries. In Quebec, the wild blueberries grow in a very typical geography, a former forest. It’s located in the northern part of the province where harsh winters make it a tough environment for insects to survive. In addition, the humidity is low.
“These benefits make this part of the province an ideal place to grow wild blueberries naturally and organically.” Although the plants grow in the wild, they are farm managed. “We manage the land, and the fields are being mowed every two years,” shared Senneville. Altogether, the different farms in Quebec manage more than 50,000 acres of wild blueberries.
Exported around the globe
Harvest of wild blueberries lasts about six weeks and takes place in August and early September. “This year’s harvest will be finished in a few days,” commented Senneville. It’s all done mechanically, with machines that are called grasshoppers. After harvest, the wild blueberries are trucked to one of four processing plants in the area where they are frozen or turned into concentrate. From the processing plants, products are shipped to more than 30 countries around the globe. The United States is a strong partner, but other significant buyers of wild blueberries include Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Australia.
Demand for wild blueberries is strong. “Health-conscious people who have a preference for natural, organic foods are the largest consumers of wild blueberries. “They are often well informed about the health benefits and know wild blueberries contain twice as many antioxidants as cultivated blueberries. We put the Quebec Wild Blueberries logo on our bags with frozen product. When consumers see the logo, they know the product is 100 percent organic, grown in the Boreal forest of Quebec. It’s a great trademark.”
While the territory of wild blueberries is well occupied, Senneville shares there is still some potential new territory to develop. However, this is a process that takes at least six to seven years as the forest will first need to be cleared.