Interest in organic blueberries has remained strong despite the down economy, and Chilean blueberry suppliers are eager to increase their intake to keep up with a rise in winter consumption.
“It’s been a growing part of our program. A lot of consumers out there are looking for organic blueberries, and we’re working to increase that number over the wintertime,” said Mario Flores, blueberry product manager for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.
Flores said the company is seeing “good acceptance” and he considers Naturipe to be a leader in terms of the organic blueberry deal from Chile, with the category representing upwards of 25% of total imports.
Flores noted that despite the economic downturn, organics demand has remained stable.
“The difference is maybe the premiums that we’ve seen in the past are not going to be there in the future as more organics come into the marketplace,” he said. “There are consumers that still want the organic products but we (probably will not) get the price premium that we used to in the past.”
Joe Barsi, director of business development at California Giant Inc., Watsonville, said his company also plans to import some organic blueberries from Chile this year.
“Organics have gone through the roof on blueberries,” he said. “Less than 10% of the fruit we bring in is organic, but there are still heavy uses of organics.”
Barsi said demand for organic blueberries — like that of strawberries and other berries — remains strong and there is not a significant spread between organic and conventional price points.
“Organic sales have been hurt a little bit due to the economic times, but I think if the price points are good, there is a huge upside on organic blueberries,” he said. “I think if there is conventional and organic, consumers will mostly likely buy organic if the price points are similar, but if they are too far out overpriced, you’ve got problems.”