view current print edition




Fresh blueberries from Chile projected to set new record for U.S. imports

by Christina DiMartino | November 29, 2011

Indications are that the Chilean blueberry crop is continuing to grow in volume and is likely to set new records this season.

The Chilean Blueberry Committee, like its affiliate the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, is an independent committee operating under the umbrella of the Chilean Exporters Association A.G., or ASOEX. The committee is a trade group comprised of growers and exporters of fresh blueberries from Chile, and its goal is to raise the profile of fresh blueberries from Chile in major U.S. and Canadian markets.

Tom Tjerandsen, the North American managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, assists the Chilean Blueberry Committee with planning and fielding market promotions.

An Oct. 13 press release from Mr. Tjerandsen’s office in Sonoma, CA, stated that blueberries from Chile are projected to continue their upward momentum in the 2011-12 season, rising nearly 12 percent over the prior year to a forecasted 78,000 tons. More than three-quarters of the total volume is expected to ship to the United States based on data collected by the Chilean Blueberry Committee. Chile is a leading producer of fresh blueberries globally and is among the larger exporters of fresh blueberries to the United States.

The continued growth of exports to the United States is attributed to growing demand among American consumers for top-quality fresh blueberries combined with increased Chilean production. Winter consumption in the United States is still one-third of what is being consumed during peak summer months.

“North Americans recognize the many health benefits of fresh blueberries and appreciate the wonderful flavor and versatility they bring to the table,” Mr. Tjerandsen said in the press release. “Thanks to Chile’s counter-seasonal production cycle, consumers may enjoy these ‘Little Blue Dynamos’ year round.”

“Little Blue Dynamos” is a registered trademark of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. Mr. Tjerandsen noted that since Chile’s growing season is opposite the U.S. season, Chilean producers are able to provide a consistent supply of high-quality fresh blueberries during the winter months when U.S. producers are between their harvest seasons. This helps to build markets for both the domestic and Chilean blueberry farmers.

According to the Chilean Blueberry Committee, production will continue to increase in future years as Chile adds production capacity. Approximately 18 percent of Chile’s current planted area is not yet in full production, and 31 percent has not reached full maturity. Therefore, roughly half of all blueberry farmers will be increasing output in the next several years. Blueberry production in the country is expected to reach 110,000 to 120,000 tons by 2015-16.

To support all this production growth, the Chilean Blueberry Committee is undertaking an aggressive promotion campaign in major U.S. markets, positioning the product as “Little Blue Dynamos” by promoting the health and flavor message through trade and consumer marketing initiatives.

In October, the committee announced that it had retained MacKenzie Agency Public Relations for its North American promotional activities. The agency will focus on communicating the benefits of the year-round supply of fresh blueberries to food media, primarily through intensive media relations.

MacKenzie Agency won the account after a competitive review of several U.S. food and beverage public relations specialists. In addition to the agency’s success with branded foods and commodities, the MacKenzie group has deep experience with international clients, including Foods from Spain, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Wines of Sicily, Prosecco D.O.C.G. and South African Cape fruit.

“Chile is the world’s second-largest producer of cultivated blueberries and a leading grower in the southern hemisphere, where the fruit is available in our winter season,” said Karen MacKenzie, agency president and chief creative officer. “Our job is to communicate to U.S. consumers through the media [about] the consistent, nutritious and safe supply of high-quality fresh blueberries from Chile.”