Blogger Event Brings Opinion Influencers to the Table

New media is evolving daily into groups of bloggers and followers who share specific interests.  In Japan, USHBC is capitalizing on interactions with influential bloggers to spread the word of the health and beauty benefits of high bush blueberries.  Check out this recent event in the trendy Harajuku district of Tokyo where our blueberry blogger invited key followers to a cooking event!   Attendees in turn will post messages and perpetuate the message on and on and on!


Interacting with the target audience:

Yuka Presents Blueberry Basics

We love blueberries — but how do we use them!  So say Japanese consumers… Now our Youtube spokesperson Yuko shows the basics in her zany style which garners thousands of visitors each day!  You do not understand Japanese — no worry it is self-explanatory!

Trendy Japan Fashion Magazine Features Blueberries

Frozen blueberries used in the kitchen of Japanese Celebrity Chef Mario Higucchi was the topic of a full page advertorial and web/blog activity in trendy Marie Claire Style!   This is a magazine read by our target audience.  (Women 30’s, active, stylish…)

Chef Higucchi is a well known chef with a huge following in his regular blog and column in Marie Claire.   Notice the items featured are on the hearty side — like bacon, stews etc!    This is the trend for the trendy and already we have had a great reaction.

Mmmmmm Bacon!   Mmmmmm Blueberries!  Home and professional chefs all over Japan are trying out the combination!


Japanese Cosmetic Action!

USHBC has ventured into the multi-billion dollar cosmetic market.    For the past years, we have seen Asian cosmetics produced with all sorts of blueberry co-products.   (skins, fiber, seed oil, extracts and even frozen and freeze dried blueberries).

Blueberry Guy recently visited the center of Natural Cosmetic innovation with a visit to the Cosme-Tech Exhibition in Tokyo Japan.

Cosmaceuticals.  This is no longer a upstart trend — it is a multi billion dollar category.   Although most companies in the exhibition were medium and small firms from all over Asia — the big multi national companies were on the prowl for new cosmaeeutical ideas.   The category is now well over $15 billion annually and growing!

Beauty from Within.  This is the fast-rising cagegory of digested foods that are good for skin, hair and nails.    Smoothie mixes were everywhere and some were very specific with cosmaceutical claims.

Drugstore offerings.
Fusion of Food and Cosmetics: Check out this "gelato counter." It is actually an ice cream looking cart that dispenses face creams made with blueberries and other botanicals.
Face Masks: Blueberry Face Masks were the hot item for the exhibition. This included designer masks and dozens of styles, colors and infusions.
Ingredients: Several companies featured further processed blueberry ingredients such as powders and extracts for face creams, soaps, and topical applications.

Oregon Growers Honor Judy Macias of USDA APHIS

Judy Macias, Assistant Trade Director for USDA-APHIS has done a tremendous job over the past decade working on behalf of the US blueberry growers for market access.    She did the work that got market access for fresh Oregon blueberries into South Korea and is working on at least nine market access requests for blueberries.

The Oregon Blueberry Commission honored Judy with a special award at their meeting in Portland January 25.   It is well deserved and thank you Judy for all you do!

South Korea Frozen Blueberry Frenzy!

It’s official — South Korea is the # 1 destination for frozen blueberries. 2014 and now 2015! Thank you South Korea!

Value! $13.73 million dollars.

Volume! 4.2 million KG = 9.25 million lbs!

Food Processing Use Soars!

Much of the frozen blueberries supplied to South Korea is utilized in the food processing sector.   This includes, dairy, baking, snacks and beverages among others.   We have seen dramatic increases in innovative blueberry products that are influencing the rest of the region.

Just a few examples from December 2015.

USA highbush dominates the food industry sector because of specific characteristics which make our blueberries desirable for use in this sector.   This includes sweetness, flavor, texture and size.

Polybag Market

Until recently, fresh imported blueberries have been restricted into the Korean market.    Today, Oregon/USA, Chile and now Canada are allowed.  While Korean local production is found in the produce sections of the markets during summer months — frozen polybag blueberries are available year round in special freezers inside of the produce section.  Frozen polybag is also available in home shopping and internet sales.

Initially, USA product dominated these sectors, but due to a zero duty on frozen blueberries from Chile as a result of a previous Free Trade Agreement — some retailers switched origins due to price.

While frozen shipments continue, USHBC has initiated activities to solidify and grow our position in poly bag sales.  The results have been promising.

(To be continued!)

World’s Best Blueberry Ice Cream Bar!

World’s Best Blueberry Ice Cream Bar!

How often has the Blueberry Guy purchased a “blueberry” ice cream bar a foreign country and found little or no satisfaction.  Now here in Japan I have found the Sierra Madre of Blueberry Ice Cream bars at my neighborhood 7-11 store.

This bar has whole blueberries packed inside, blueberry ice cream surrounding that tastes like real blueberries.  (No artificial flavors).  On the outside is a blueberry yogurt jacket with bits of blueberry and blueberry powder for more flavor!   This is the best!

The Blueberry Cafe – Seoul Korea

My friends from the USDA-Agricultural trade office in Seoul took me around the corner to this amazing Blueberry Cafe.  The photos speak for itself.   They serve blueberry teas and all sorts of innovative blueberry concoctions!


USHBC Tests Frozen Polybag Market in China

We all know that China will eventually become our largest market for fresh and frozen blueberries.   We also know it is the toughest market to succeed with import difficulties, an ever changing trade structure and competition from countries with zero duties due to Free Trade Agreements.

USHBC took the a big leap forward and conducted market sampling and feedback with thousands of online consumers through the country’s leading online retailer.

The promotion is described below in the USDA-China Newsletter.   Prime consumers of T-Mall who purchased frozen products received samples of frozen blueberries and were asked for feedback.   The feedback we have received has been positive and this has proven to T-mall that frozen blueberries are a viable addition to their billion dollar sales promotions!  In addition to working out the kinks of importing, wide spread sampling nationwide — we also included a detailed online survey to gain consumer feedback on frozen polybag blueberries.    And — “if this isn’t enough” –as they say in the direct-sales business  (No Ginzu!) — we also have a supply of frozen blueberries in-market to tap for sampling to food industry accounts.

As they say on the Ronco broadcasts — “That’s Amazing!”


USHBC Reaches North China Foodservice Market

USHBC is an active participant and sponsor of the USDA-Agricultural Trade Office Asian Chef Challenge.   (Also known locally as the United Tastes of America).   This culinary competition is in progress all over Asia including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and China.    China is such a large country that regional competitions are being held,regionally.   Here is some updated action from the competition in Shenyang in Liaoning Province in the far north.  USHBC provided blueberries for the event and our Julia Zhu (Blueberry Julia) attended all activities and encouraged blueberry innovation!

Shenyang the major city of the Chinese north.
Population 8 million.

Blueberry booth at the event! Distributors from throughout the region stopped in for a look at the competition and to have a chat with Blueberry Julia.
Julia and Master Chef! Now a good blueberry friend!
And the winner is: A wonderful traditional Chinese Pork Pot with lots of blueberry! Blueberries were used heartily in almost all of the dozens of entries for desserts, starters and main courses! These chefs will return to their hotels and restaurants with new blueberry recipes and concepts.

Taiwan meets Vegas to Create Exciting Blueberry Concepts

Day two at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Chef John Hui, Executive Pastry Chef from the Lodge at Pebble Beach held an intensive one day training session with Culinary Team Taiwan.   Here are some of the results!

Besides being part of Team Taiwan the visiting chefs are all culinary educators in their home country and have great influence in the restaurant businesses.  Our goal: train the trainers!

Chef John Evaluates and gives tips on culinary competition.
Chef John shows how to make a wonderful blueberry topping.
Team Taiwan.
This dish is a winner!
Ingredient debriefing.

Snow in Vegas!

Our visiting chef team are from a tropical Island in Asia and this morning they woke to a wonderful treat that even long-time Vegas aficionados rarely see!   Bring in the frozen blueberries today!

Taiwan chef team trains in Vegas

Team Taiwan, the winner of the United Tastes of America regional competition in Taipei last month are spending this week in Las Vegas training for the final competition and learning how to integrate highbush blueberries into dishes.  Taiwan is a major market for fresh and now processed blueberries.

Our concept: train the trainers who will return home and continue to spread the blueberry message to peers.  (Members of Team Taiwan are culinary educators with years of experience in the Taiwan foodservice trade including trendsetting restaurants and hotels.

The venue is South Point, a major Las Vegas hotel Casino and spa who kindly allowed use of their state of the art kitchens for use by the team.

Here are some photos from the day one of training.  Special thanks to Executive Chef Christopher Johns H.G.T. who has been a gracious host to Team Taiwan and the Blueberry Guy.

Chef John Hui (Lodge at Pebble Beach) and Chef Christopher Johns show off their favorite berry!
Training Session.

Hitting the BRICS with Blueberries

In 2014 USHBC announced a marketing initiative to drive highbush blueberry exports to the top five economies and population centers of the world.   Export marketing consultant Thomas J. Payne (Me) — called it “big game hunting,” and going after the “high value targets!”

Ending year two of the Blueberry BRICS — here is how we are doing:

Brazil.   This country of 200 Million is struggling financially — at the same time has been a bright star for blueberry exports.  Fresh sales have risen — big surprise has been process.   Frozen blueberry sales have topped 200,000 kg and almost half million lbs!   USHBC has been systematically approaching Brazilian food processors.   Blueberries fit into the food as medicine and health food obsession of the massive Brazilian food industry.   What are the prospects.   Even in uncertain economic conditions, the Brazilian food industry is  doing well with domestic products and exports.    Products such as dried blueberries for snacks and juice concentrate are also in demand.

Russia.  You can’t win them all…We are still restricted from the Russian Federation due to the current political situation.    At the same time we are seeing more blueberry containing products in Russia in the last two years.

India.   This sub-continent of 1.3 billion population has been a prime target for blueberry market development.   A small segment of this huge population has the wealth to purchase expensive items like blueberries.    And the middle class is on the rise.    USHBC started promoting blueberries in online media and PR and all of a sudden articles have been appearing in publications such as the Times of India –the largest English language newspaper in the world — touting the benefits of blueberries.    USHBC conducted retail promotions in supermarkets featuring a hugely popular Master Chef Ranveer Brar.   With rising consumer demand, USHBC approached food manufacturers with frozen and dried blueberries — and tings started to click!   India now imports more than a 100,000 kg of blueberries yearly.   (220,000 lbs)  This is a good start and note than one of the fastest growing categories is ultra-high value dried blueberries.   It takes 3.5 kg of frozen blueberries to make 1 kg of dried!

China.   We all know that China will someday become the top export market for highbush blueberries.   This massive country of 1.4 billion has proven a tough market to crack — but well worth the effort.   Fresh blueberries from the USA are currently not allowed.   This may change in the near future and negotiations are underway between our two governments.    Processed blueberries are also a challenge with high duties and difficulties at ports with imports.   USHBC is working with the Chinese food industry to prime the pump for frozen imports.    We are meeting one on one, providing samples and providing technical assistance.    Little by little we are making progress.   We see some big advances in the near future and will keep pushing this market!

South Africa:  This is a long range market for US blueberries.  Currently we are restricted for fresh blueberries, and we currently have a request for market access.    Once we can get some exposure in the fresh business, we believe that the process market will also open up.    It is not a priority market, but definitely on our radar screen!

So, that is what is up on the BRICS!