Return to Whitesbog

Whitesbog, New Jersey is the place where the highbush blueberry business began a century ago.   Elizabeth White, a cranberry farmer walked down a narrow road from her home to the cranberry bogs each day and dreamed about someday cultivating the “wild” highbush blueberries which grow abundently in the Jersey Pinelands.    Her dream came true and today you can still see the original experimental plantations at the Whitesbog Village.    The beautiful farm is located about one hr to the north of Hammonton, New Jersey which is touted to be the Blueberry Capital of the World!

Check out the website at:
http://www.whitesbog.org

Set your GPS to — 120 W Whites Bogs Rd #34, Browns Mills, NJ 08015


Beauty from Within in Vietnam

Vietnam is a country of vast natural beauty!   Now, it looks like blueberries are becomming the ingredient of choice for foods which are “good for the skin.”   All over Asia, manufacturers are producing products which contain ingredients which are associated with skin care.   They call the topical applications “Skin Food” and consumed foods: “Beauty from Within.”   Here are just a few new products with blueberries introduced in Vietnam which contain Blueberries!’

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Fresh Blueberries for Foodservice in Japan!

Japan is the largest offshore marketfor highbush blueberries fromm the USA.   Fresh blueberries are available year round and are found in supermarkets, convenience stores and hypermarkets.    Now, here is a new development.   Family restaurant chain: Johnathans features fresh blueberries on the daily menu!    The item uses fresh Hokkaido creme and fresh blueberries!    Will be featured all over Japan this summer and hopefully beyond!

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Fresh Blueberries to the Middle East

Five years ago, I visited Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and could not find a single blueberry in produce or products.   Things have changed.   Fresh blueberries are in all  of the larger hypermarkets throughout the region including Lu Lu, Spinneys, Carefour and Geant.

Check out some photos from grocery stores in Dubai.  (Sorry for the quality as I was in a rush and wanted to take before getting kicked out of the store.

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Typical berry display! Huge!
Check out the frozen polybags. All of the blue bags are blueberries!
Dubai grocery store entrance
Shopper choosing fresh blueberries

Great Value!

Great Value!

Our current message to the food industry: Supply + Demand = opportunity!  The message is catching on and more and more food processors are adding more blueberry to new and traditional items.   Check out this “Great Value” bar sold at WALMART.   Blueberries identification all over the pack.   Check out the ingredient statement and the filling is made from a blueberry puree concentrate as one of the top ingredients!  This product has a very nice flavor and blueberry aroma and will satisfy the consumer demand for real blueberries!


The Real Deal!

The Real Deal!

In my work with the Blueberry Council, I get to travel around the country meeting producers and food processors. We have strategic plans, focus groups, meetings… At a recent conference I ran into Rob Richert of Richert Blueberries in Spring Lake, Michigan. This is near Grand Haven, Michigan on the West Coast of Lake Michigan. His family has been growing blueberries for three generations.

Bob handed me a jar of his Blueberry Preserves. On the attractive label it says: “Fresh berries from our bushes to your table.” On the ingredient statement: Michigan Blueberries, pure cane sugar, pectin and fruit (Citric) acid. Blueberries are the primary ingredient and this is what you get when you open the jar. It has a great aroma and blueberry flavor. Rob — thank you and you got this one right!!!


TASTYKAKE

TASTYKAKE

I love travelling East to visit the growers in Jersey.   A first stop is a local supermarket to buy a bunch of  Tastykake, made by Tasty Baking in Philadelphia.  Check out the website:  http://www.tastykake.com and you will see that they have been in business for almost 100 years!  (About the same as the Jersey Blueberry Growers)  Still they are not available on the West Coast, although they are in Las Vegas! Check out the Tastykake Mini blueberry pie!

Here is what they say:

“Each personal-sized Tastykake pie is baked to perfection with a light, flaky crust and delicious filling.  My comment: it is a perfect individual size and comes in a nice tin which keeps the pie intact.   It has a lot of blueberry inside!

Blueberries are the second ingredient after flour and that will make the growers pretty happy.   The filling has a large percentage of blueberry and you can see and feel the the whole blueberries!   Note: the label says: “Fresh Baked Daily.”   You got to reach fast to get one of these blueberry pies.   On my visit to Walmart in Hammonton, NJ (30 min from Tastykake HQ) — only one blueberry pie was left from the days delivery!  The story manager says you got to come early to get the blueberry pie!


For years, I have been touting the potential for blueberries in non-foods — especially natural cosmetics. Some may think a crazy idea — but look! I just expanded my Global New Products Report from MINTEL to include non-food categories and was amazed! I expected a few blueberry-containing items in Korea where anything goes. But, the search revealed 6,000 new blueberry products in the last decade. Not just Asia, but North America as well.

I highlight some of these items in the next few days — but they are incredible! And most important — they do use real blueberries and tout the health benefits that mirror a lot of the health benefits backed up by science!

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Newtons Go Blueberry!

Just picked up a package of Nabisco’s “Made with Real Fruit”100% Whole Grain Newtons — with Real Blueberry!  On the pack: Another Newtonism — When life hands you some blueberries. Put them in a Newtons Cookie!   Good idea!   We love the fact that this product uses a significant amount of blueberry puree.  Yes, one of the top ingredients and blueberry images decorate the package!  You can bet that smart brand managers recognized the consumer attraction to blueberries.

Now–things just keep getting better.   Check out the Newton Fruit Thins which include real dried blueberries. Another Newtonism:  “In Every Dark Cloud Look for a Blueberry Lining!”   Great job Nabisco!

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Blueberry Wine!

Blueberry Wine!

Recently I researched the topic of blueberry wine for the Berry Latest newsletter. Ten years ago, I called all over the nation looking and found just a handful. I have always been a fan of Tomasello Winery (Hammonton, New Jersey) and their delicious 100 percent blueberry wines. Then came along Island Grove Winery in Florida with “Sorta Sweet” and “Kinda Dry.” Now, I searched and found more than 50 blueberry wines! The product is catching on, and I found blueberry wines produced in more thn 20 states. We have dry, sweet, dessert and even sparkling blueberry wines.

These are serious wines and not just grape wine flavored with blueberry juice. Ask any winemaker, and they will tell you it is not that easy to make a blueberry wine due to the high acidity of the blueberry. Same goes for most fruit wines. Blueberry winemakers have their own secret methods and formulas. Some seek very special cultivars that deliver desired flavors. One thing is sure, the business is booming and more and more wineries are getting into the blueberry business. With ample supplies of reasonably priced blueberries — we will see more and more. So “cheers” to real blueberry wine!


Blueberry Pet Foods Continue

Blueberry Pet Foods Continue

Blueberry guy has just returned from the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Florida. “GPE” to all of us pet food insiders! Ten years ago, I walked all over the huge show and saw a few signs of fruits and vegetables in pet foods. This year, I saw blueberries from the dog and cat food areas to the reptile section! Blueberries were everywhere. I wore my Little Blue Dynamo shirt and Blueberry Council ID and received “rock star” reactions from exhibitors who wanted to know more about blueberries.

USHBC provided a bibliography of health benefits, which is focused on human health. The pet food producers certainly do generalize the human benefits to pets. Anti-aging, urinary tract, and eyesight are the main topic of interest. But, health and beauty is also on the agenda. Met one company doing reptile foods, alligator foods and even large insects!

Well, look at the MINTEL Global new product database tracking of blueberry containing pet foods. 2012 was a big big year. Now look at 2014. Three months into the new year and almost 50 percent of the 2012 record year! Trends: Healthy bars for human and pet! Hot Oatmeal for dogs. Raw foods and pemmican with blueberry. We’ll keep watching this category, and thanks to GPE attendees for thinking of blueberries!


Our “Blueberry Ambassador” in Japan!

I attend a lot of trade shows around the world.  One routine on the first day is the official visit of the Ambassador or Consulate General.  This is typically a quick jaunt through the USA pavillion, meet-and-greets.  Then back to the Embassy.  Today, met Ambassador Caroline Kennedy — our new US Ambassador to Japan.  She attracts the rock star attention that comes with the Kennedy name.

She systematically made her way through the US exhibits and headed right to the US Blueberries stand!  Not only is she a blueberry fan, she grows them back in Martha’s Vineyard.  She mentioned that she had several varieties, understood the lingo of our business.  What a great surprise and a wonderful development to have a blueberry fan at the helm of the US Embassy in Tokyo!


“Legal” Blueberry Moonshine

“Legal” Blueberry Moonshine

Junior Johnston does it again!  The famous “fast car” driver from North Carolina features a 100 proof blueberry moonshine.  The slogan:  “Any more authentic and it would be illegal!” Uses real North Carolina Blueberries!  Thanks to Dr. Mike Mainland of North Carolina State University Extension for bringing this all the way to the recent USHBC meeting in Southern California.  I will update the blog after I try!

Here is the website for Junior Johnston.
http://www.juniorsmidnightmoon.com/


Salute to Those Who Sell

The US Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) represents more than 2,500 blueberry growers in the USA. We also represent the imports as well.  Around 60 percent of all blueberries produced go to the fresh channel and the remainder to “processed” which includes frozen and other forms.  Outside of in-season U-pick blueberries — most blueberries make it to market thanks to the unsung heroes of our industry.

Yes, the sales guys!

Fresh blueberries are shipped by growers, grower packers and regional and national shippers.  Sales reps spend countless hours on the phone, talking to growers, customers.  On the fresh side, produce professionals are up before dawn selling fresh blueberries to terminals, grocery chains and even export markets.  Many of the fresh produce companies have decades of experience with blueberries,some going back almost 100 years!  On the processed side, fresh blueberries are harvested in mid-season and delivered to packing plants, where the blueberries are frozen in a variety of methods including individually quick frozen, case frozen and straight pack.

Some packers also prepare puree, juice and other “Co-Products.”  The frozen berries  are in demand for use in the polybag markets for store sales.  Frozen blueberries are also shipped to food processors such as pie fillings, muffin manufacturers and  a whole range of uses. Frozen blueberry sales staffs, are knowledgeable of product specifications and the lingo of the food industry.  Sellers are connected with retail chains and food processors around the country.

They sell direct and also rely upon food brokers in regions of the country who represent their interest and keep connected with the users.  Blueberry Sellers and buyers are a small club,and each year they converge on important industry events such as the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and United Fresh Produce Association for fresh and the American Frozen Fruit Institute (AFFI).  Buyer meet sellers.  Information is exchanged, and deals are made.

Thank you to all of our blueberry sellers and buyers for making it all happen!


California’s “Mission Impossible” Guy!

Last June, Manuel Jiminez a long-time farm adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension Service  in Tulare, Central California retired.  We are always reading about the great ones i this business who retire or pass.  But this one hit home to me, as I am a Californian.  I met Manuel decades ago at the Parlier Research station where i wandered into his experiment area.  It was a wonderland of all sorts of fruits and nuts that were supposed to be commercially impossible in our Mediterranean-climate state.  He had bananas, mangos and yes blueberries.

Blueberries have been around for a long time in California, in far reaches of the Golden State  I had seen them in Sonoma, up in the foothills and always heard that “someone” was growing them “somewhere.”  In the spirit of the great blueberry researchers before him, Manuel was testing old varieties, soil types, and many other variables.  A few years later, I attended one of his field days.  A carload of strawberry growers from up the road showed up and started picking his test marked test plots.  There were a lot of comments from the growers in the area — “looks good…but…”

These early experiments and Manuel’s dedication brought together the critical mass that has sped the rapid growth of the California blueberry industry.  In 2013, the state produced more than 50 million lbs!  I have not seen Manuel for some time and am sure I will run into him on a sortie to the Central Valley.  I am sure he is up to something interesting–and impossible!