The Santiago-based Chilean Blueberry Committee, formed just this summer, is wasting no time.
The group of Chilean exporters plans to discuss its goals at a news conference on the first day of the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit, Oct. 2, at Anaheim, Calif, Marriott.

“We’ll be revealing some very interesting findings,” said Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, Calif.

The committee’s mission is to increase U.S. sales of blueberries during Chile’s traditional November-April season, he said. In each of the past two seasons, Chilean exporters contributed $100,000 to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Auburn, Calif., to help boost sales.

“The results from the investments were amazing,” Tjerandsen said. “The Chileans figured that if a little is good, then a great amount has to be spectacular.”

The committee was able to generate $1 million to be used in Europe and the U.S., with the majority of the money targeted at building retail business, he said. To that end, the committee purchased retail data from International Resources Inc., Chicago.

From the data, the committee was able to determine, among other findings, the hot fall-winter markets for blueberries and the key retailers who are driving blueberry sales and why. The findings will be released at the news conference, Tjerandsen said.

“There are a lot of myths out there that will be debunked by this research,” he said.

Other information to be released will include the projected size of the 2009-10 Chilean blueberry harvest, its timing and quality.

By mid-October, U.S. retail and foodservice can anticipate ramped up volume from Chile, Tjerandsen said. The harvest will run well into the first quarter of 2010, he said.