As the season for imported blueberries begins winding down, supplies out of Chile are tightening up.
“Compared with the same period last year, supplies out of Chile are tighter which has resulted in strong market demand for blueberries in recent weeks,” says Tom Beaver of Glassboro, N.J.-based Sunny Valley International. “With volumes out of Mexico increasing and Florida entering the market, this may shift, though the Chilean import season is nearing completion for this year.”
Beaver notes that as tapering continues from Chile, Mexican supplies will be building and the Southern U.S. states—particularly Florida—will come in strong into the market. “We’re already starting to plan ahead for our domestic program. We anticipate having steady supplies out of the Southeast before transitioning to our New Jersey deal in early-June,” says Beaver.
Demand continues to be strong for blueberries, a berry known for its health benefits. “This has been the key to increasing consumption in recent years and will continue to be a feature of blueberry promotions going forward,” says Beaver. “The industry is also focused on developing varieties that maximize consumer experience. Specifically, varieties that are firmer, exhibit excellent overall color and bloom and most importantly, eat better than ever before.”
Variety and packaging work
Along with variety development, the range of pack sizes and styles has also grown to meet demand from both consumers and retailers. “We’re also engaged in industry-wide discussions about solutions for reducing plastics, incorporating biodegradable packaging features and so forth,” adds Beaver.
Meanwhile demand remains strong for blueberries and Beaver anticipates strong demand to continue throughout the balance of imports.
That strong demand has also added stability to pricing. “Given the volatility every shipper experienced in November and December, this late season rebound in pricing is welcome news for us and, more importantly, for the South American growers we market on behalf of,” says Beaver.
While packaging development remains one area of focus for the industry, so does the focus on growing regions. “The biggest challenge we observe is the increasing overlap from one growing region to another, both for imports and domestic supplies,” says Beaver. “With so much investment in new production, regional marketing windows are starting to shrink.”