GBC PART 3: BLUEBERRIES - THE PERFORMING STAR
When looking at the top producing countries, we learned that the top 10 countries produce 90% of the whole world production. USA comes first with a total production of 256,600 MT, followed by Chile with 125,300 MT and Canada with 72,600 MT, Spain – 30,000 MT, China – 28,000 MT, Argentina – 17,900 MT, Poland – 16,000 MT, Peru – 15,800 MT, Mexico with 17,100 MT and Morocco with 11,700 MT.
BUT WHERE ARE THE FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES HIDING?
When looking at the global highbush planting growth, the number of hectares from 2008 has doubled by 2016 (from 65,696 ha, to 135,338 ha). A very interesting graph shared by Cort Brazelton is illustrating the regions with the largest growth in highbush planting:
We can see that Asia and Pacific have registered an impressive planting growth over the past 10 years and we expect this growth to continue, and establish Asia as a strong player on the blueberry market. If looking closer to Asia, China has the biggest jump in terms of planting surfaces in 2016. China’s market for fresh produce is world’s largest (USD 4.2 trillion in 2016) - and growing and as Peter McPherson noted, the Chinese market is the ultimate opportunity with its 1.5 billion people who love berries.
Cort Brazelton has looked into one more, very interesting indicator: utilization growth. This is an indicator which can show true market opportunities for both producers and processors. When comparing the utilization rate of blueberries from 2008 to 2016 we can see that it doubled in North America, it quadrupled in Europe and increased 5 times in Asia and Pacific.
As the hottest regions in terms of planting growth, IBO mentions China, Poland, Morocco, Spain, South Africa, Korea, Peru and Mexico.
All in all, the demand of fresh blueberries outstrips supply at varying times seasonally, the genetics are improving – delighting consumers and the new, best genetics will deliver a premium taste and flavours. Per capita consumption continues to rise globally and it heavily driven by the health benefits heavily promoted.
WHY IS THE PROCESSED BLUEBERRY MARKET IMPORTANT?
John Shelford from Naturipe Added Value Foods has stated that the processed blueberry market is extremely important for many reasons, and not just for offering an alternative market to the “not-good-enough-for-fresh” products but also because the frozen price establishes floor/minimum price expectation for fresh market. John said that, at the moment the frozen market growth can be seen as growing equally or even faster than the fresh one. The growth is driven by the increasing diversity of applications for frozen blueberries, such as bakery, dairy fillings, beverages and of course direct consumption.
When it comes to highbush processed production, North America is the absolute leader in the world accounting for 78% of total processed highbush blueberries in the world in 2016, second coming South America with 17% and followed by Asia&Pacific with 3.5% and Europe with 1.9%. More than that, North America processes 65% of all of its highbush and lowbush blueberries in 2016.
The situation is different when looking at the processing of highbush and lowbush altogether. South America accounts for 42% with its mostly lowbush, North America accounts for 40% with its mostly highbush, and the rest is taken by Europe with 2.6% wild and 1.6% highbush and Asia&Pacific with 2.4% highbush.
At the moment, around one third of all the blueberries in the world are frozen while two thirds are sold fresh. As a forecast, John believes that by 2025 the frozen blueberry market will grow at a 5% rate annually. As the Food Safety and Regulatory requirements are much more challenging than in the Fresh Market, John expects some kind of consolidation of growers to take place with the exit of the high-cost growers.
The main challenge but also the opportunity of the frozen blueberry market is to help the consumer perceive the frozen as an alternative to fresh, and this can be done by enhancing the flavour and eating experience.
The blueberry is the performing star indeed, and we are yet to see the scale it can grow to. With new, tastier varieties, new ways of consuming, new origins and new markets, both producers and processors must be alert and keep pace with the market and the turns it takes.