Consumers of California Giant Berry Farms’ blueberries like large pack sizes and perceive additional value in the higher-weight units.
Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for the Watsonville, CA-based firm, said that the company handles blueberries from Chile. “Our Chilean season is typically November through April — depending on the weather,” said Ms. Jewell. “We also handle blueberries out of Argentina. From Chile, we start the seasonal program with six-ounce containers, but then quickly shift to larger pack sizes like pints, 18-ounce and two-pound containers.
“Consumers today are really looking for value,” she continued. “And they see a greater value in purchasing blueberries for the family. The larger packs previously were seen only in clubstores, but now mainstream retailers are also offering large pack styles for their customers.”
Ms. Jewell said that the company remains in a growth pattern in its South American blueberry program and noted that volumes from the region will potentially double this season.
California Giant Berry Farms’ primary customers are major chain retailers, but it also services some foodservice operations. It imports its Chilean blueberries into distribution points on both the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States in order to supply its customers on a national basis.
Ms. Jewell said that there are not any new import issues related to Chilean blueberries other than the ongoing challenge of preserving shelf life due to extended freight times based on transportation by boat into the United States.
“We agree with those who say that the Chilean fruit growers and exporters are highly experienced,” said Ms. Jewell. “They have been in this industry for many years. They export to the U.S. and to Europe, and they do an excellent job. We are very pleased to be part of this segment of the industry and equally pleased to have the partners that we do in Chile.”
Blueberry consumption, she added, continues to increase every year, and consumers have proven that they will purchase them year-round if available.
“Consumers have also embraced Chilean-grown produce items in general,” she said. “And we are pleased at the continued growth. We are also pleasantly surprised to see that despite the increase in availability of fresh blueberries annually, consumer demand is definitely there for the increase. Consumers know that blueberries are a super food that is high in antioxidants and good for the whole family. Additionally, blueberries have a longer shelf life than some of the other berries. This enables moms to keep the larger packs in the fridge and add them to breakfast cereal in the mornings, to school lunches, snacks in the afternoon, salads and more. California Giant Berry Farms is trying to do our part in communicating with consumers about the tremendous versatility of fresh blueberries, and we look forward to continued increases in consumption.”
During the 2010-11 Chilean berry season, the company increased its staff to accommodate the growth of the category. Ms. Jewell said that the company looks forward to continued expansion of its infrastructure and staffing as it ramps up its volumes even more in coming seasons.
“We are also now in the process of revamping our web site and adding several new blueberry recipes during the holiday season,” she said. “We will also be adding some fun recipe contests with blueberries that will include a ‘kids recipe’ component since blueberries are definitely a kid-friendly fruit.”