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Oppenheimer and Ocean Spray launch imported blueberry program

by | October 12, 2009
VANCOUVER, BC -- For the first time ever, imported fresh blueberries will come to market in the "Ocean Spray" label this fall.

Ocean Spray in Lakeville, MA, and its marketing partner, The Oppenheimer Group, will offer fresh blueberries from Argentina beginning in mid-October, followed by fruit from Chile in mid-December. The berries will be available through early March.

This program follows a successful New Jersey and British Columbia fresh blueberry trial program the two companies executed last summer, and builds logically on their shared annual cranberry marketing initiative, according to John Anderson, Oppenheimer's chairman, president and chief executive officer.

"Oppenheimer and Ocean Spray have marketed cranberries together in Canada for decades, and exclusively in the U.S. since 2003," Mr. Anderson said in an Oct. 13 press release. "Ocean Spray is a powerful brand that consumers trust. Extending it to fresh blueberries makes a great deal of sense, especially at a time when blueberries are gaining popularity and their health benefits are widely known."

With blueberry volumes from both Chile and Argentina growing, consumers are looking for the fruit year round, Mr. Anderson said. According to Copexeu, the committee of Argentine producers and exporters of fresh fruits and vegetables to the United States, Argentine exports alone have increased from around 100,000 flats to just under 3.4 million in the last seven years, representing about just under one quarter of South America's total production. Chile is the continent's largest blueberry producer by far, at 74 percent of the volume.

Oppenheimer will offer Ocean Spray fresh blueberries in the standard 4.4- ounce clamshells from Argentina to start the program, transitioning into 6- ounce and pint clamshells as demand increases in late December and larger packs are preferred. Early fruit will travel by air to Miami, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and will be followed by vessel shipments to Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

"The fresh blueberry program complements the launch of our new Ocean Spray blueberry juice in December," Scott Simmons, general manager of fresh fruit for Ocean Spray, said in the release. "This past summer, we marketed the fresh New Jersey blueberries alongside the juice in select retailers, cross promoting with a neck tag on the juice that discounted the fresh fruit. It was received very favorably."

Mr. Simmons said that a similar promotional approach will be used with the imported fruit.

"While blueberries and cranberries deliver different benefits, they share a similar health appeal," Mr. Simmons said. "We believe consumers will respond well to both the juice and fresh products."

The Ocean Spray blueberry program builds on a modest imported and domestic blueberry program that Oppenheimer has crafted strategically over the last half decade.

"We see a great deal of potential for blueberries," Mr. Anderson summed up. "We are happy to see our Southern Hemisphere volume grow this fall and winter through the Ocean Spray program, complementing the Northern Hemisphere program we bring to market in the summer."