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Huelva diversifies and turns to sustainability

Sustainability is the watchword for Spanish farmers and traders, concerned about water foot - print and committed to deliver good qua - lity berries.

Huelva province, the biggest producer of fresh berries in Europe, is consolidating the crop diversification initiated last year and thereby ensuring the presence of Huelva berries across European markets for almost nine months a year.

The province of Huelva planted 9,658 ha of berries this season, reducing the strawberry area by 9% compared to 2014/2015, but still compensated by an increase of 25% in the rest of the berries, announced Freshuelva.

The growth in the planted area of raspberries, blue berries and blackberries is the result of Huelva’s commitment to diversifying its production, a movement that started strongly last season with farmers seeking new alternatives to meet consumer trends in Europe.

The strawberry plantation area is now estimated at 5,860 hectares (6,400 ha last season, -8.7%), while raspberries account for 1,815 hectares (1,560 ha last year, +16%), blackberries for 130 hectares (90 ha last season, +44%) and blueberries for 1953 hectares (1,470 ha last season, +33%), although a significant number of the blueberry orchards are young and will not produce at their full potential.

The ‘new’ berries are mainly being planted along the western Coast of Huelva, where surface water is available for irrigation, stressed Freshuelva.


This article appeared on page 95 of edition 141, Jan/Feb 2016, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

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Argentina’s blueberry sector has its eyes on Asia

Although the US and the EU are the most valuable export destinations, the ABC (Argentinian Blueberry Committee) is currently working alongside national organisations to open up new Asian markets.

Prolonged rains and a cold spring, resulting from the El Niño current, led to a slow start to the 2015 season. In any case, the pace soon picked up again, closing the year with volumes only slightly lower than the previous campaign. Although original forecasts predicted roughly 18,000 tons, the campaign is likely to end up at around 14,600, reports Inés Peláez, general manager of the Argentine Blueberry Committee.

New horizons

Although the US and the EU are the most valuable export destinations, the ABC (Argentinian Blueberry Committee) is currently working alongside national organisations to open up new Asian markets. Among them is Japan, which closed in 2010. Since then, ongoing exchanges with the country have taken place in an attempt to move negotiations forward. China has also become a priority as a new strategic market.

One important breakthrough was the recent visit by the technical team from AQSIQ (General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine) from China. This was the first ever visit, made to carry out inspections in the producer provinces of Salta, Tucumán and Buenos Aires. This is the first stage of assessment of the fields, pests and plant health risks.

“All the signals are good and we think that we shall soon be able to open up this huge Asian market,” said Inés Pelaez from the Argentinian Blueberry Committee. The committee is currently working jointly with SENASA to draft the necessary reports, as a first step towards the future realisation of a protocol.

There will also be other exchanges between plant health agencies, in the hope that 2016 will be the year the Chinese market finally opens up to Argentine blueberries. “The volumes now being exported by our neighbours in Chile amount to scarcely 20% of Argentina’s output. This makes China an even more interesting market for us,” Peláez said.

Quality and good flavour

Despite the development of the sector in other Latin American countries such as Peru and the potential competition, Argentina has conditions that other countries lack and the biggest challenge is raising awareness and appreciation of the quality and good taste of Argentine blueberries. Thanks to this, as different production areas are producing and exporting, if any unforeseen climatic event occurs in Argentina, another area can cover the shortfall so that the market is not undersupplied. This is why supply from Argentina is very consistent, notwithstanding what might occur throughout the season. What customers value is the stable market, consolidated over the past 20 years, with consistency of supply and reliability of all the exporters and the country in general. 

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Ongoing growth in UK berry sales

International Strawberry Symposium 2020: programme for the IX edition published

There’s been strong growth in retail sales of berries in the UK in the past year.

Driven predominantly by shoppers buying berries more often, along with a slight increase in the number of shoppers buying berries, and price inflation, the berries and currants market was worth just over £1 billion from 170,220 tons for the 52 weeks to December 6, 2015, having grown 16.8% in value and 12.8% in volume on the previous year, according to Kantar Worldpanel. The frequency of berry purchasing among berry shoppers rose 10.4% to an average of 18.1 trips with an average of 400g per trip.

Kantar Worlpanel data on berries & currants market

The strawberry market

Strawberries accounted for nearly 71% of all the berries sold in the UK.

The strawberry marked gained 10.9% in value and 8.2% in volume for respective totals of £546.7 million and 119,792 tons. According to Kantar Worldpanel, this growth was predominantly driven by shoppers buying strawberries more often, along with new shoppers and price inflation.

Kantar Worlpanel data on strawberries market

Strong growth in sales of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries

Blueberries, with 28,140 tons sold, accounted for 16.6% of berries sold, with sales worth £257.5 million, value growth of 26.9% and volume growth of 30.5%. This was predominantly driven by more shoppers buying blueberries, along with shoppers buying them more frequently and more per trip, Kantar Worldpanel said.

Worth £197.9 million from 18,358 tons sold, the raspberry market clocked 21.5% in value growth and 23.2% in volume growth. This growth was attributed to new shoppers and shoppers buying raspberries more often.

The blackberry market remains the smallest of the four, with a spend of £30.6 million from 2,786 tons, but enjoyed 20.3% value growth and 6.7% volume growth. “New shoppers and price inflation were key to growth, whilst there was a decline in trip volume,” Kantar Worldpanel said.

I, Prathyush Thomas [GFDL 1.2 ( or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

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Early start to Huelva’s strawberry season


High temperatures in the province of Huelva over November and December have accelerated the ripening of strawberries, leading to an early start to the 2015/16 campaign and the first strawberries hitting the market over Christmas, according to the Freshuelva, the association representing Huelva’s strawberry growers and exporters.

Freshuelva president Alberto Garrocho said the weather in the province during November was like that typical of March, while that in December was akin to February- As a result, picking started nearly a month earlier than usual.

Garrocho said the weather has favoured fruit of optimum quality and taste and this, combined with the fact the strawberries have arrived a month earlier on the market, at a time of scarce supply, making Huelva’s strawberries much more competitive.

Huelva’s strawberry sector has 5,860 ha planted for the 2015/16 season, down 8.73% on the previous season. However, the planted area for other berries, such as raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, has increased 25%, with 1,815, 130 and 1,953 ha respectively.

source: Fepex

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Fresh cuts and berries among priorities for BAMA

The Oslo-based BAMA trading group is expanding its offering of organic produce and Norwegian-grown vegetables and is committed to helping people choose healthier foods.

The Norwegian market leader for sales of fresh fruit, vegetables, berries and potatoes, BAMA Group (BAMA Gruppen AS) last year posted consolidated sales of BNOK 13.5 (€1.45b). Through its five business areas – including Grocery and HoReCa – each year 500,000 tons of fresh fruit, vegetables, berries, drinks and flowers – from a network of more than 1,300 producers in Norway and abroad – pass through its terminals on their way to 15,000 customers in Norway. Berries are BAMA’s top fruit category in value and bananas in volume, while for vegetables it’s tomatoes in value and potatoes in volume.













Competition in the Nordic grocery market is razor-sharp, Oslo-based BAMA said in its 2014 annual report, but in its favour is the growing interest Norwegians have in healthy diets, natural foodstuffs and food of Norwegian origin. BAMA Group CEO Rune Flaen says it’s the health trend that’s fuelled significant growth in products such as berries, avocados, spinach, root vegetables and kale. (In the last three years, sales volumes have shot up 856% for sweet potatoes, 1386% for kale and 80% for spinach.) BAMA’s overall volume growth for fruit and vegetables in 2014 was 2.6%.

Also favourable is that fruit and vegetable consumption continues to rise in Norway, in marked contrast to the rest of Europe. However, despite climbing 35% in 20 years, consumption in Norway remains below official dietary recommendations. The growth potential for BAMA’s product groups is therefore significant, BAMA said in the report. With excess weight emerging as Norway’s main health challenge, it has adopted a strategy of actively working to improve public health through increased focus on healthy diets and exercise.

Berries: 15% annual growth target

BAMA has certain focus areas for which it sets yearly growth targets. Berries is one of these, with a target of 15%, and by late September sales were already up 13% in volume. BAMA is the Norwegian market leader for berry sales and over five years logged spectacular growth of 140% to reach about 18,000 tons last year.

Instead of taking big volumes from external suppliers, BAMA now sources berries through its Rotterdam-based partner Nature’s Berries. “We also work directly with major Netherlands-based strawberry producers, cutting out expensive middlemen.”

Aiming for 20% growth in fresh cuts

BAMA Industry is one of BAMA Group’s five divisions and produces freshly-processed products, including fresh ready to eat/heat food, for the group’s HoReCa and Grocery business customers. It generated strong sales growth in 2014, a third of which came from products launched in just the last four years. Among these, new vegetable wok mixes and salad products, including two organic salad mixes, showed the most growth.

BAMA sees great promise in such convenience foods. Some European countries have market shares of up to 30–40%, but in Norway it’s still under 5%. “We see a huge market there in the future,” Flaen said. BAMA plans to grow the category through high speed product development, reliable quality, space management and good marketing. “We already have about 15% growth in fresh cuts grocery this year (first 38 weeks of 2015). The target for the category is 20% yearly growth, so we are well on track,” he said.  

Demand for organic, short-travelled & Norwegian produce

  • BAMA’s organic offering includes carrots, potatoes, onions, broccoli, bananas, apples and citrus.
  • Organic produce represents about 3% of BAMA’s total fruit and vegetable sales volume.
  • Demand for Norwegian-grown organic products rose 29% in 2014.

BAMA reports that its consumers show increasing interest in organic, short-travelled and Norwegian produce. In 2014, 60% of products were locally produced, no more than two hours away from the sales outlet. BAMA is collaborating with Gartnerhallen, Norway’s largest farm cooperative, to increase its proportion of Norwegian produce.

Future focus on smaller formats

In terms of goals for BAMA in the next 12 months, Flaen said one is to work on obtaining even better quality across all products. In doing so it will be examining logistics and temperature control, and working a lot on product development. Acknowledging there’s more focus today on food waste, he sees a need for BAMA to develop more products in smaller formats, “so a single household can have their solutions.”

“There will be a lot of focus on smaller packs in years to come,” he said.

source: BAMA annual report 2014 and interview with BAMA CEO Rune Flaen


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Report on the benefits of berry imports in US

Off-season berry purchases in the US are still small relative to in-season domestic production, indicating the potential for off-season supply has only been partially tapped.

What is the value to US consumers of the recent increase in the availability of fresh berries in winter? And how large would the consumer benefits be if these berries were available at in-season (spring) prices during the off-season (winter) in the United States?

These were questions examined in the report ‘Measuring the Impacts of Off-Season Berry Imports’ published last month by the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

“Findings suggest that additional supplies of these fruits from domestic off-season and foreign producers are especially valuable to consumers because they occur in winter months, when domestic fruit production is relatively low, consumers’ choices are fewer than during spring, and prices are high,” the report says.

“Findings also suggest that consumers would benefit from further reductions in seasonal production cycles. However, consumers receive larger benefits from making off-season berries available (having some berries rather than none) than from increasing supplies to the extent that off-season prices fall to in-season levels.”

The report says that the factor driving these consumer benefits is prices falling over the winter months—the difference between choke prices and market prices in the weeks in which Chile exports fruit. “On average, these declines range from 49% (blackberries) to 69% (strawberries).” (Chile exports strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries during fall and winter. Mexico has also become a major supplier of berry crops to the US during winter but the study used Chile’s export season as a benchmark.)

The report says consumers would reap ever bigger ‘welfare’ gains should winter prices fall the level of spring ones, “which might occur if other countries began supplying the U.S. market or if there are advances in technology (either through improvements in domestic storage or shipping).”

Off-season berry purchases in the US are still small relative to in-season domestic production, indicating the potential for off-season supply has only been partially tapped. “Further advances in plant breeding or storage technology might make off-season supply quantitatively similar to in-season supply. Additionally, technological changes might reduce the cost of interhemispheric shipping, eliminating seasonality in the quantity of produce available.” the report also says.

Other interesting information in the report includes:

  • Per capita availability of fresh fruit is increasing in the US, rising from 106.50 pounds in 1980 to 131.04 pounds in 2012.
  • The berry share of fresh fruit availability increased 3.75 times (to 9.50 pounds by 2012).
  • Until the early 2000s, berries were unavailable to most U.S. consumers outside of their short domestic production seasons.
  • In 2012, fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries) accounted for 16% of the retail spend on fresh fruit.
  • Highest monthly shipment numbers occur in June for blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
  • Shipments of strawberries are highest in May each year.
  • Retail strawberry prices in late December have been twice that of prices in May in recent years.

source: ‘Measuring the Impacts of Off-Season Berry Imports‘ by Carlos Arnade and Fred Kuchler, Economic Research Report No. (ERR-197) 35 pp, October 2015

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Lower blueberry volumes in Argentina

The Argentine Blueberries Committee (ABC) therefore doubts that the auspicious estimates of week 37 will be fulfilled; in fact, everything points to a 12% decrease in fruit volume on 2014, which would mean a total of around 14,500 tons for Argentina.

The late spring frosts are the main focus of attention of Argentine producers; however, nobody expected such a low start of the 2015 season. In addition, the El Niño threat is still dormant, since the forecast is for a rainy season.
The Argentine Blueberries Committee (ABC) therefore doubts that the auspicious estimates of week 37 will be fulfilled; in fact, everything points to a 12% decrease in fruit volume on 2014, which would mean a total of around 14,500 tons for Argentina.
Nonetheless, production is expected to resume its normal rhythm as of week 43/44, bringing a breath of fresh air to Argentine blueberries producers and exporters.  

Early Crop expects a productive growth of 30%

During 2014, Early Crop exported around 1,400 tons of Fresh Blueberries and around 600 tons of IQF blueberries (frozen), a significant increase on the 2013 season. With about 450 ha of its own production, located in the best agro-ecological Argentinian regions for the development of this crop, this year it expects a volume of about 1,800-2,000 tons for fresh and 700 for IQF and by 2018 to reach about 3,000 and 1,000 tons respectively.
The commitment of supplying the unattended demand during the Northern Hemisphere counter-season, together with state-of-the-art technology, resulted in a significant 30-40% productive annual growth.
Around 60% of the production is marketed in the US. New strategic commercial partnerships in the UK (24% of exports) as well as in Northern European markets, together with a consolidation of its own organic production (60%) enabled the company to maximise results.
Manuela Leyba highlights the fact that, “airfreight costs definitely raise the price of the end product, causing restrictions when evaluating new destinations.”
Strictly committed to quality and sustainability, Early crop aims to create economic and social environmental value throughout its management, following international quality and production standards. “Fair trade is part of our mission. We aim at improving the wellbeing of our people and local community,” Leyba said.

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Hemköp on why berries matter so much to Scandinavia’s supermarkets

Scandinavian retailers are the frontrunners of the European berry market, as their fresh produce departments are responsible for no less than 13% of the total supermarket sales.

Scandinavian retailers are the frontrunners of the European berry market, as their fresh produce departments are responsible for no less than 13% of the total supermarket sales. So says a press release from berry giant Driscoll’s in which Hemköp sales manager Joakim Bäckstäde and Driscoll’s commercial director Wyard Stomp talk about why the high value berry shopper is here to stay and the potential of this promising market. Their interview is reproduced below.

What makes the berry category interesting?

Bäckstäde: “Berries are fresh, delicious and healthy. It’s fun to eat and share them with your family and friends. Furthermore they are impulse driven products. Buying berries can trigger other purchases, or as we like to say; berries have a lot of in-store ‘friends’, such as ice-cream, yoghurt and cake. By combining these products in the shelf, we stimulate cross-selling.”

Stomp: “Berries are a perfect match with recent consumer trends and can make any ordinary moment more special.”

Why is the berry shopper valuable?

Bäckstäde: “Next to berries they also love other premium products such as dairy and pastry, which makes them extra appealing for our supermarkets. I am positive that the berry shopper is the shopper of the future and will influence many other categories in a positive way.”

Stomp: “It’s our mission to gain the shopper’s trust by offering them delicious, fresh and beautiful berries all year round. This is something we can only do by working closely together with our retail partners.”

Hemkop Driscoll's.png

Why are berries Sweden’s favourites?

Bäckstäde: “That’s simple, because they are healthy and tasteful! Scandinavian people really care about health and the environment. Berries remind them of the warm summer months and they fit very well with other popular Swedish products such as soured milk, yoghurt, quark and cottage cheese.”

How do you tempt shoppers to buy more berries?

Bäckstäde: “Recently we have installed special coolers in almost all new and renewed stores. This way our berries stay fresh for a longer period of time. By placing the coolers in premium spots in our supermarkets, shoppers cannot miss out on these fruits while visiting the store.”

Stomp: “We want to do more for our customers than just offering berries. That is why we support our partners with shopper insights and advise them on how to create a successful in-store berry presentation.”

How do you promote berries outside the local season?

Bäckstäde: “We promote berries at least once a month. This is something we do through our flyers, in-store promotions and our own social media accounts. By offering tasty recipes to our shoppers and making them aware of the joy that berries can bring to the table, we have already seen an impressive sales growth outside the regular season.”

What are you expectations of this promising category?

Bäckstäde: “I expect a lot of the berry category; a growth in demand and more packaging diversity, that will seduce shoppers to buy more berries. My personal goal is to have berries on full focus in all our stores every single day, not only during promotion periods.”

Stomp: “I will be proud as people at every office location and at every school around the world will enjoy berries during their lunch break.”

Read an interview with Daniel Månsson, Axfood’s general manager of fruit and vegetables, which also covers berries: Inside Swedish retail giant Axfood

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Driscoll’s seeks patent protection for raspberry clamshell

Driscoll's says its clamshell pack is great for transporting raspberries – or other soft, fragile produce items – and its air-flow keeps them cool and fresh until reaching supermarkets and consumers.

California-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc. is seeking patent protection for a clamshell raspberry container.

The world’s biggest fresh berry company and a holder of patents in many countries for its berry plant varieties, Driscoll’s says the clamshell is designed to transport raspberries – or other soft, fragile produce items – while the air-flow in the container keeps them cool and fresh until reaching supermarkets and consumers.

In its international patent application, published by the World Intellectual Property Organization on October 29, it says while there are various patents for containers for the shipping of berries or other produce, “there is a need in the art for a new and improved container that can be used in containing, shipping, transporting and storing in a cooled environment produce items that display a notable vulnerability and fragility and a great potential of easily undergoing damage.”

“This is particularly sought by produce exporting facilities, that suffer tremendous financial loss due to poorly designed containers, consequently resulting in a damage to the produce items during transportation and storage. The present invention now satisfies this need by providing such improved containers,” Driscoll’s says.

Among the features of its container is a central divider, which besides providing extensive strength and rigidity to the container, keeps the produce items separated so they don’t “bounce” on each other during transport.

Other aspects of the design include:

  • it is suited to a range of produce items, such as berries, grapes and other fruits,
  • it is typically made of molded plastic, with the preferred plastic being polyethylene terephthalate (PET), either virgin or recycled from bottles or combinations thereof,
  • various configurations are possible but a preferred, rectangular design could contain a total net weight of raspberries of 18 oz,
  • the lid is preferably recessed to allow stacking of one closed container upon another,
  • a soaking pad may be provided in each compartment to absorb moisture from container contents,
  • various snap locks can be used to attach the lid to the tray,
  • the sidewalls of the container are curved to prevent bruising of the contents, and
  • the container generally has various air vents.

On its website, Driscoll’s says that its clamshell packages are stamped with the international recycling code, which is three chasing arrows within a triangle with a number inside to designate the level of recyclability of the package.” Currently our packaging is marked with the recycling code #1 which is the most acceptable recyclable packaging. Containers are PET, Polyethylene Terephthalate.”

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Cranberry production up slightly in US

The United States cranberry crop this year is forecast to come in at 8.41 million barrels, up slightly from 2014, but below that of 2013, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

The United States cranberry crop this year is forecast to come in at 8.41 million barrels, up slightly from 2014, but below that of 2013, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

In a publication on August 13, NASS said many growers in Wisconsin reported damage due to cold winter temperatures but even so, most had reported a normal to slightly better than normal season so far.

In Massachusetts, grower comments were mixed. “Some growers were optimistic, some were repairing bogs, and others reported problems with insects. Oregon and Washington producers expect 2015 to be a good year due to favorable weather conditions,” NASS said.

Image by Keith Weller, USDA-ARS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons