Marketers say berries are plentiful, flavorful, nutritious and versatile, and those factors are what drives sales in the largest fresh produce category.

Year-round availability means consumers can put berries on their routine shopping lists.

Consumers demand berries throughout the year and they rely on them being available at any time, said Matt Curry, president, Curry & Co., Brooks, Ore.

Curry, who said his company is known primarily for its blueberry program, said he thinks the main reason blueberries are popular with consumers is that they have great flavor.

Michelle Deleissegues, marketing director, Red Blossom Farms, Los Olivos, Calif., said she thinks the number one reason strawberries are so popular is that they’re delicious.

“It’s one of our favorite fruits in the U.S. and around the world,” she said. “It’s deliciousness paired with health benefits and it’s unbeatable.”

“Research shows that strawberry is kids’ favorite flavor,” said Cindy Jewell, marketing director, California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, Calif. “Anything that kids are excited about, parents get excited about.”

Berries appeal to all ages, said Janice Honigberg, president, Sun Belle Inc., Chicago.

“People genuinely enjoy eating good quality berries with good taste,” she said.

Doug Perkins, managing director, HBF International LLC, McMinnville, Ore., said berries’ flavor is the big factor, but health benefits and convenience are important too.

Roberto Castaneda Jr., vice president, Pure Fresh LLC, Miami, said berries’ antioxidant content makes them a nutritional “powerhouse,” and consumers recognize the benefits of eating berries.

“They are so healthy, and they taste good,” said Julia Inestroza, marketing director, Gourmet Trading Co., Los Angeles. “What could be better?”

Another selling point for berries is their versatility. They can be used in many types of recipes, including bruschetta, soup, green salad, smoothies, and even in spinach dip, all of which are recipes listed on the California Giant website, Honigberg said berries can be incorporated into sophisticated dishes or simply eaten out of hand.

Consumers like the convenience of berries, Curry said. They don’t require preparation other than rinsing, they aren’t messy, and they don’t have pits.

Berries’ versatility as ingredients and their health attributes keep them in the media, Curry said. That puts them front and center in consumers’ minds and makes berry programs successful.

People also like strawberries because they feel emotionally connected to them, Jewell said. Many people remember their grandparents growing strawberries in their backyards, or eating strawberry shortcakes at family celebrations.

Berries also are a sign of spring, Jewell said. Once strawberry season hits the U.S., spring and summer are right around the corner.

“It’s (the strawberry is) a positive, happy fruit,” Jewell said.

As with strawberries, many people fondly remember picking blueberries when they were children, Curry said. The taste of a blueberry can evoke those good memories.

Strawberries and blueberries are undeniably popular, but what about blackberries?

“As growers, we have worked hard to improve the taste profile for blackberries and we feel this has an impact on demand and consumption,” Castaneda said.

Pure Fresh’s growing operations are Guatemala-based Planesa S.A. and Pure Fresh Chile. Castaneda said the company works closely with the University of Arkansas to develop new blackberry varieties. Its newest variety, Stella, is a supersweet and firm blackberry that Planesa grows in Guatemala.

Blackberry varieties have improved and availability of the fruit has increased. Retailers and consumers can be more confident when buying them now, Jewell said.

Curry said that as blackberry production grows, so does demand for the fruit. It’s popular for the same reasons other berries are: convenience, nutrition, flavor, versatility and availability, he said.

Year-round availability of blackberries strengthens demand, Castaneda said. Consumers can buy blackberries anytime. He also said he credits retailers for building demand by promoting fresh blackberries.

“When you look at the consumption curve, blackberry consumption is increasing more than any other berry,” Jewell said.

She said there have been double-digit increases in consumption over the past few years.

“People are finding all different ways to use them and incorporate them into recipes,” Jewell said. “That’s my favorite berry.”