Ten years ago, no one knew what a Haskap berry was,” says Samuel Côté with Haskap Producers in Canada. With more and more information becoming available about their health benefits, the popularity of Haskap berries has taken off and continues to grow. “In addition to terrific health benefits, Haskap berries are intriguing because of their unique shape and taste profile,” shared Côté. They are elongated and all shaped a bit differently with some being bumpier than others. Despite their high brix level, their flavor is tart. “All in all, it’s a unique berry that is hard to describe, but the image of the Haskap berry is worth 1,000 words.”
Haskap berries are grown across Canada, from Yukon to Prince Edward Island. However, with a share of about 50 percent of national production, the province of Quebec is one of the major players. British Columbia, and the Maritime provinces also have good production with a very structured berry industry. In Saskatchewan, a lot of new variety research is happening. “While production is not as big in Saskatchewan, it is consistent and the province is very creative in developing new product,” Côté said. Last year, Quebec’s production volume was 625,000 pounds and Canada’s total production amounted to 1.2 million pounds. This year, the expectation is for Quebec to come in around 650,000 to 700,000 pounds against Canada’s overall production of 1.3 - 1.4 million pounds.
While growing demand has spurred production growth in the past ten years, it has now slowed down. “I don’t expect exponential production growth anymore, but we will see linear growth for sure,” commented Côté. “This will mainly be driven by increasing yields as plants get older and growers become more knowledgeable about the berry variety and get better at growing them.”
Three generations of Haskap growers.
Processed versus fresh
Increasingly, Haskap berries are consumed fresh. However, they are also very trendy in processed format. “When we first started growing them, they were mainly used in jams, yogurts, and as an ingredient in beers. Almost every microbrewery in Quebec has used them as an ingredient,” Côté shared. Not much fruit is needed to add a lot of color to a product. Just recently, Haskap berries were introduced as freeze-dried. “They have a longer shelf-life and are easier to incorporate into diets.” While very popular in processed format, the interest in fresh Haskap berries got a boost during Covid as people enjoyed picking them at U-pick farms. “The restrictions of keeping distance were easier to follow at U-pick farms, which really helped promote fresh consumption. It is fair to say that fresh Haskap berry consumption has benefited from the pandemic. Before the pandemic, a lot of time and money was invested in promotions, but word of mouth during the pandemic worked at a faster speed.”