The manager for the Argentinean Blueberry Committee says emphasizing the nutritional benefits and multiple uses of blueberries is important.
Grocery Headquarters: Tell us about the Argentinean Blueberry Committee (ABC).
Inés Peláez: The Argentinean Blueberry Committee (ABC) is a nonprofit organization that was formally established in 2010 to promote a positive image for the Argentinean blueberry industry and to focus on communicating the quality, reliability and availability of Argentinean blueberries. The committee also works in collaboration with Chile and Uruguay to provide synchronized information on off-season volumes. The committee represents over 60% of Argentina’s key blueberry exporters, including Agroberries, Ayui, Berries del Plata, Blueberries, Extraberries, Gramm Agropecuaria, Hortifrut Argentina, Integrity Argentina, Nice Berry, Sun Belle Argentina, Sunny Valley Argentina and Tecnovital.
How does it benefit grocery retailers?
ABC provides a consistent line of communication regarding the status of Argentinean blueberry crops and anticipated shipments for U.S. retailers, which enables produce buyers to accurately plan their off-season blueberry purchases. Since blueberries are not on Argentina’s national menu, almost 95% of the fruit is available for export to the U.S. and other countries.
Retailers can rely on the committee for information on estimated volumes, anticipated departure and arrival dates and harvest and weather conditions broken out by week and by growing region. Pre-season information is published in two detailed crop reports released in late August and late September. During the season, weekly reports are issued with the actual exported volumes and estimated volumes for the next two weeks. These reports are published every Tuesday at www.argblueberry.com.
ABC also distributes other tips and information to help merchandise the fruit, including dates of peak shipments and promotional ideas.
How are blueberry sales in the U.S.?
The U.S. is Argentina’s largest customer, importing up to 68% of Argentina’s shipments during its “fall route,” which occurs from September through December. In the past five years, Argentina has tripled its exports to the U.S. Pre-season estimates indicate that Argentina will ship 11,110 metric tons of fruit to the U.S. in the 2011/2012 season, with exports due to begin in week 38-39, reaching a peak around week 44-45. Argentina’s total estimated export volume is 17,000 metric tons of fresh blueberries, and approximately 5,000 metric tons of frozen product, depending on fresh product pricing.
What can retailers do to build awareness of ABC and Argentinean blueberries?
Argentina fills a unique window in the U.S. blueberry market with its ability to provide the first off-season fruit from the Southern hemisphere, starting in September. ABC’s trade campaign theme, “Fall for Argentinean Blueberries” could be used effectively at the store level, in conjunction with fall recipes and imagery, to draw attention to the availability of fall blueberries. Retailers should also promote the speed to market of Argentinean blueberries. Shipped by air direct from field to retailer, the freshness and quality of the fruit is optimal.
The association stresses reliability and quality. Tell us what that means for retailers and suppliers. Regular and accurate estimates of volumes, shipments and arrival dates allow retailers and suppliers to make buying decisions and plan for display and promotional activities. The quality of the fruit is critical in ensuring consumer demand for off-season berries and to provide value for the elevated price of imported fruit. Because the majority of Argentinean blueberries are shipped by air, the transit time from field to fork is minimal, putting fresher product on store shelves.
What suggestions do you have for retailers to better merchandise the blueberry category?
It is important to start promoting Argentinean blueberries at week 43, as the volumes are increasing and fruit rotation is very important. ABC officials recommend promoting early and often through store circulars and advertising. ABC officials suggest that retailers build an association between blueberries and holiday recipes, including pies and desserts, relishes and sauces and salads and main dishes. Cross-promotions with pie shells and shortcakes, as well as other berries and fruits also help with menu suggestions.
It is beneficial to emphasize the key health benefits of blueberries—one of nature’s top superfoods. Healthy snacking can be highlighted as well as new and different ways to enjoy blueberries—as a topping for oatmeal or cereal, in a parfait or frozen in a punch or beverage.