The figures, taken from Rabobank's latest report, Newcomers Reshaping the US Fresh Blueberry Market: What to Expect in 2019/20 and Beyond, show that fresh blueberries are one of the most dynamic fruits in terms of consumption growth, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at over 12%.
Consumer demand is outstripping domestic production, which has a CAGR of 7%, meaning imports to the US have increased at a CAGR of almost 15% for the same period.
According to senior Rabobank analyst and report author David Magaña, this three-fold rise in domestic demand is down to the health halo that fresh blueberries enjoy.
Berries are also seen as a healthy stand-alone snack that do not require peeling or preparation or as a quick and convenient way to add fruit to a meal or drink, such as breakfast cereal, pancakes or an addition to smoothies.
The majority of Americans fall short of meeting the recommended daily intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, however, a recent 2019 Power of Produce report found that 97% of American households are trying to eat more fresh produce.
US consumers are also benefitting from steady supplies, meaning off-season price hikes are a thing of the past, according to the Rabobank report.
During the offseason in the US, imports from South American countries such as Mexico, Peru and Chile help reduce price fluctuations while more states in the US are beginning to grow blueberries. Rabobank expects prices to be about 20% lower for the rest of this year compared to average prices during the same period in 2014-18.
“Blueberries are not just a summertime fruit,” confirmed Victoria de Bruin, marketing manager at the US Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC).
‘Right at home in processed foods’
Manufacturers are also adding dried, freeze-dried or pureed blueberry to processed food products with both small start-ups and manufacturing giants using the fruit in cross-categories from dairy to bakery to beverages.
Last year, for example, saw Muuna launch blueberry flavored high-protein cottage cheese while artisan beverage brand Bambucha launched a blueberry kombucha with an acidic taste profile. This year, General Mills launched wholegrain, blueberry Cheerios, made using natural flavors and blueberry puree.
According to de Bruin, the superfruit works well in ‘snackfection’ products - a hybrid food category that combines sweets and snacks, blending sweetness, saltiness and texture using ingredients such as chocolate, fruit, nuts and seeds.
“Blueberries are right at home in processed foods, adding a natural health halo effect to products like snack foods and baked goods,” de Bruin told FoodNavigator-USA. “[They] help bridge the gap between health and indulgence, providing consumers with a smart and accessible snack fix that still feels like a treat.
“A great product example is barkTHINS’ bite-sized premium snacking chocolate that combines dark chocolate with dried blueberries and crunchy quinoa,” she added.