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Chile's fresh fruit industry continues to focus resources in the United States to maintain growth in its most important market. Each year, about 40 percent of Chile's total fruit exports are shipped to the United States. Despite early harvest delays this season, forecasts project another strong year of U.S.- bound shipments exceeding 100 million cases. Table grapes will continue to dominate volume, but increased blueberry acreage and new varieties of other fruits are generating excitement in the industry.

"Last year saw the growth of the Chilean citrus sector, with the introductions of Navel oranges and grapefruit to the United States," Tom Tjerandsen, North American marketing manager for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, said in a press release. "Chile's growers, packers and exporters have developed a seamless supply chain with strict quality and phytosanitary controls to deliver world-class fruit to U.S. consumers."

Chile has invested heavily to market its fruit and increase sales during the winter, when consumption has long lagged behind that of summer fruit, the release said. The gap has closed in recent years, and with Chile producing 36 species and over 400 varieties for the U.S. market, retailers and consumers have plenty of choices. In addition to its long-running advertising and retail promotion programs, the CFFA has increased investment in public relations to generate positive coverage in the media.

For the coming season, Chile will continue its outreach with a series of press releases with kitchen-tested recipes and usage tips for fresh fruit. The CFFA will also be using television and in-store radio to get out its message that fresh, high-quality fruit is available throughout the winter. In February, the CFFA expects to reach over 10 million consumers nationally through a segment with Mr. Food airing Feb. 18, and a Health & Home Report that will run on network, cable and on-line channels throughout the month. Additional outreach to consumer affairs directors at retail chains will help reach consumers looking for healthy options to bring home to their families, the release said.

The foodservice industry continues to be a point of emphasis for increased fresh fruit usage. Foodservice distributor contests will take place again in January and February, and the CFFA will again exhibit at the CaterSource Conference in March, attended by over 8,000 caterers. Ongoing communication with foodservice media will highlight success stories in the industry and offer trend usage ideas. The CFFA will also be taking food writers, buyers and chefs to the fruit producing areas to see first-hand the care taken to grow and ship fresh fruit to the United States.

The CFFA continues to work with Lewis & Neale Inc. to carry out its public relations program. Jason Stemm, associate vice president for the CFFA activities, said, "With the increased focus on healthier eating to help curb the growth in chronic disease, Chile is poised to help offer consumers more options for fresh fruit when domestic production wanes."