When it comes to surging blueberries versus long time leader strawberries, the object in the  rear view mirror is farther away than it appears.

The British newspaper Telegraph excitedly published a story this morning that implies that strawberries have been flat out passed by the blueberry. Here is the story.

Blueberries outsell strawberries

The most quintessentially of English summer fruits has been knocked off its perch by an American interloper. Blueberries are outselling strawberries.

For the first time ever, shoppers have spent more money on blueberries than on strawberries. So far this year the total spend on blueberries has outstripped the spend on strawberries by 20 per cent at Waitrose, with "hundreds of thousands of pounds" more spent on the small dark blue fruit than on the soft red fruit.

Twenty years ago blueberries were considered an exotic import, usually shipped in from the US or South America, and as rare on a supermarket shelf as a guava or Sharon fruit. Thanks to a concerted effort to grow them in Britain, and a variety of nutritionists trumpeting their health benefits, blueberries have become increasingly mainstream.

Though the bulk of the strawberries are sold during the British summer, Waitrose insisted the surge in sales of blueberries – double the sales of last year – were more than a quirk of the weather. Last week's sunny spell saw sales of blueberries jump 181 per cent on last year, while strawberry sales increased by just 16 per cent.

Last year, thanks to a perfect growing season and an increasing number of farmers embracing the fruit, Britain's blueberry crop surged by 305 per cent. It the trend continues Britain will produce more blueberries than raspberries within a year or two.

And, according to British Summer Fruits, the trade body, British consumers are already eating more blueberries than raspberries, with 11,000 tonnes of blueberries sold last year, up from 1,000 a decade ago. Laurence Olins, the chairman, said: "It's been a revelation over the last ten years, let alone the last twenty. Children love them, they are good for you and consumers have embraced the health message."

A Waitrose spokesman said: "There is a deeper trend going on here. People are buying them for their health benefits and because they require no preparation whatsoever." So-called lazy fruits, have shot up in popularity in recent years as commuters in a rush and fussy eaters embrace foods that don't get the eaters' hands dirty.

Blueberries are often hailed as a superfood, with its high levels of Vitamin C. Some nutritionists claim that dark-coloured berries help protect against cancer, heart disease and even ageing.  

The "small dark blue fruit," lazy though it is, is on a roll. In Europe, as the article suggests, the American interloper had made great strides at the supermarket and on farms.

I would surmise, that in the consumer's mind,  the perceived health benefits of blueberries exceed the strawberry. But the question, "Who is number one?" is really no contest.

U.S. fresh strawberry shipments last season, from domestic and imported sources racked up 1.42 billion pounds. That compares with 295.5 million pounds for blueberries. U.S. per capita consumption of blueberries was rated at 0.8 pounds in 2008, double compared with 2003 but still far behind the strawberry per capita of 6.5 pounds. And per capita consumption of strawberries is also growing, up from about 5 pounds in 2003.

Like I said, the object in the rear view mirror is farther than it appears. For now.