It is amazing to see the “walls of berries” in high end grocery stores in Dubai! Although many of the customers are expat workers from Europe — the locals also shop here! Welcome to Choithram’s a major chain in the region. You will see the same type of cases in most other store chains including Spinneys and Giant. Blueberries are now carried by most middle rang stores too.
Gulfoods is the largest food industry exposition in the region. When we say region, this includes all of the countries around Dubai including Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and even Iran. Many of the visitors are from India which is close and dominant in trade with the region. Some of our best new blueberry friends stopped in to visit and are very proud of their blueberry products!
No visit to Guylfood would be complete without a visit from Gunjan Jain of VK nuts. Gunjan is a fourth generation dried fruit and nut grower, processor and seller from Jammu Kashmire. He was an early importer of dried fruits and proudly displays his new Diwali Pack for the wonderful Indian holiday.
Here is the crew from Green Tea, one of the other major Indian packs which are sold throughout India and now in the Gulf. They have continually evolved their pack and are now becoming major players in South India.
Here is a wonderful bakery filling produced in India and marketed around the Gulf. Malas received blueberry samples and technical assistance from USHBC to develop this product and it is selling well. Malas has a booth at the Gulfoods in the India pavilion and generated a lot of interest!
Our directive from the blueberry industry has been to seek out new, long-term markets for highbush blueberries. Ten years ago, we made our first mission to the Middle East, starting with Dubai which is one of the United Arab Emirates. I spent a week in Dubai as well as Abu Dhabi and Sharjah which are also part of the UAE. It was depressing, I walked the public markets, local stores and upscale stores and only could find a few bottles of jam. At the show, we spent most time explaining what a blueberry was.
Leap forward to February 25, 2017
Fresh blueberries 365 days a year. Note this is at a local supermarket and the customers are Middle Eastern and Indian and not Western Expats.
Dried Blueberries. Dried fruit is part of Middle Eastern culture and consumers will pay the price for the finest product. Below is a consumer pack of dried, non-sugar infused blueberries and a bulk bin in the produce section of the market. In this part of the world, consumers like to buy fruits in the bazaar or “souk” which is the tradition.
Frozen. I never thought I would see polybag blueberries in Dubai. Young consumers are now making their own smoothies at home.
Food Products with Blueberries. The Middle East is an import-oriented food society — yet there is a booming food industry as well. Regional companies are producing dairy, baking and snacks for the region as well as Africa and Central Asia. More and More blueberries are showing up in yogurts, ice creams and snacks. Blueberry-Containing products from Europe abound and lead to local development.
Well — here is another.
Recently, a food importer in Manila asked me about blueberries for fighting chickens. Cock fighting is a tradition in the Philippines and you will find a ring in just about every small town and village. Major competitions are held in sports arenas and the cocks out draw even the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and Pinoy Wrestling. Billions and billions of Pesos are bet on these bouts. (legal in the Philippines and much of Southeast Asia)
Next day at the trade fair I fielded questions again and again from visitors looking for blueberry fiber and powder for “slasher” diets!
What’s up — the fighting cock business — is an ultra competitive sport. It involves training birds from the start, conditioning, practice and diet. Any little edge from diet could mean a big prize for the owner.
I checked up some of the social networks for cock fighters and there is the answer. Discussion groups tout various diets and — there it is — blueberries!
Right now the feed companies are investigating addition of blueberries to fighting cock feeds. Look at the pack above — they are looking for stamina, sharpness and quick and fast strength. We do not have research indicating documented results of blueberries in these areas.
But — several cock owners offered me cash for my sample bags of blueberry powder and fiber on the spot.
Who knows — maybe there is something to it.
Question: When is an import not an import?
Answer: When it is a returning cargo!
Welcome to the world of the Balikbayan trade.
Balikbayan literally means Returning Filipino. With millions of Filipinos living and working outside of the country the diaspora is a major power — especially the huge amount of overseas remittances sent back from abroad.
The Balikbayan system is designed to reward returning “Pinoy” by allowing them duty free allowances for goods coming back from abroad. If you have ever boarded a homebound Philippine Airlines flight you remember the towers of “Balikbayan Boxes” on their way home. These goods can arrive unchecked and are not duties by customs. This does not mean that they are not scanned for illegal substances — and that is another story.
Initially the Balikbayan system was designed to cover personal goods for workers on the return home. It has evolved into a major import system for all sorts of goods — especially foodstuffs. And, yes even blueberries. Filipinos love sweet foods and the dried blueberry has become a prestige item and a prime “Balikbayan good.” The system has evolved into an elaborate parallel freight channel for larger goods with huge Balikbayan boxes used to transport goods by sea. Specialized Balikbayan express companies will move just about any cargo into the country and fast.
What does this mean for blueberries. First of all a good amount of the blueberries entering the Philippines are not picked up in government statistics on the Philippine side. In fact the current statistics are about a year old. Here is a look at the current statistics from US Customs.
Note the fresh imports!
USHBC exhibited at the India Bakery Expo, held in Chennai (Formerly Madras) February 17-19, 2017. The economy of South India is strong and cities such as Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore are home to the icons of high technology.
USHBC booth was shared with local blueberry product processors such as fillings and dried blueberries. This gave us the opportunity to link bakeries immediately with blueberries. Full container load customers are routed back the USA for supply.
Here are some action shots from the show!
I visited the SM (Shoe Mark) Mall in Pasay Metro Manila in search of blueberry. A lot of good signs!
Nice to see the largest baking company in the region on the blueberry bandwagon. Note the halal certification. The Philippines has a substantial Muslim population in the South.
Baby formula is a huge category in the supermarket. Like all over Asia — nothing is too good for baby and imported products are preferred including this berry blend.
Wondering if berries can be produced in the tropical islands. Here are strawberries from Bagio, a higher elevation region of Northern Luzon.
The objective of our presence at the Filipino Bakery Fair is meet face to face with bakers of today and tomorrow. We raise awareness, interest and facilitate trial and evaluation which leads to acceptance. A picture says a hundred words, and here are some random photos from day one of our booth. You can see the enthusiasm of the Filipino for blueberries. Several of the bakery suppliers, importers and distributors have taken note of the wonderful reception and want to talk blueberries.
The Philippines are a young country on the move! The median age of the Filipino is 23 years old — Mabuhay!
Our bakery booth an hour before the show.
Here are my new buddies from the booth across the aisle — a milling company. They love blueberries and pledged allegiance to our mascot “Blue Me.” They are out working the crowd and talking up their new favorite fruit!
Tomorrow’s bakers from the Don Bosco Institute. They had never seen blueberries before this day and plan to include blueberry muffins in their studies at school and in their careers. There is a big demand for trained bakers in the Philippines.
More new members of the Blue Me” fan club. They work together at a local bakery and went home to bring muffins from their shop to show off. They are using frozen blueberries and were really excited to grab mascot fans to proudly display at the shop.
Filipino — and Filapina bakers want recipes! These young bakers are interested in frozen blueberries for baked goods. Now they are using fillings and the frozen berries are a great solution.
You know it is going to be a good day when you are met with a 50 foot tall inflatable baker! Welcome to the Filipino Chinese Bakers Association (FCBI) 9th Annual Bakery Fair — Manila Philippines.
Noto to be outdone by the gargantuan baker — Gardenia hoisted the giant inflatable bread tower overnight. This chain which was initially owned by the Sultan of Brunei — later sold — is now all over Southeast Asia and doing well. Sort of like the Bimbo of Asia.
Just to refresh. The FCBI is a coop of Chinese bakers from throughout the Philippines. Did you know that Chinese account for 25 percent of the total population of this land of more than 100 million. Some of the Chinese families have been in the country since the 9th century.
Throughout history, the Chinese have run most of the important businesses including travel, agriculture, retail and just about all. One secret to the Chinese success — is collaboration. The FCBI is a good example of this. The bakers in this organization cooperatively purchase the essentials of baking including purchases of flour, sugar and other ingredients. For some this business is a mainstay but for most this is just one of many businesses — a cash one at that. (very important in life in developing countries).
USHBC has designs on market development in the Philippines and we want a place for blueberries in the booming Philippine bakery industry. We took the opportunity to exhibit at the FCBI Bakery Fair in Manila. Here is day one!
Oh shucks — I forgot my mascot! Anyway there were plenty to go around including this cute group of bread mascots from Gardenia bakery.
To be continued!
The Philippines are on a roll. Booming economy, young-well educated population. With their Spanish heritage — they love bakery products. USHBC is working with Philippine bakers to build awareness and interest in new baked goods with blueberries. This week we are participating in the 9th annual Bakery Fair which is sponsored by the Chinese Filipino Bakers Assn. in Manila. Stay tuned to see the in-the-field action!
Note the AK-47 strapped on the security guard.
My favorite Eatery — Jollybee. Chicken-joy and Yum Burgers with a side of Halo Halo. This Filipino chain is all over the world including all of Asia, Middle East and the West Coast of the USA.
Hong Kong and South China’s leading bakery chain has launched a line of blueberry cakes — made with real and lots of blueberries! According to our in-country “blueberry ambassador” Heidi Chui, (aka: Blueberry-Heidi) the chain has been showing interest in blueberries for the past three years. The latest launch includes fresh blueberries in season and frozen in the winter months. Although Maxim’s produces dozens of cake categories — blueberries are the only fruit with its own collection!
Above: Advertising in HK MTR Subway. Maxims has 200 outlets in Hong Kong and has expanded into South China with 100 shops in Shenzhen, Foshan, and Guangzhou.
Blue Dynamo Awards Seoul.
The weather in Seoul was well below zero with additional wind chill! But the USHBC industry event developed warm feelings between the industry and trade.
Here is a rapid-fire view of the event on November 3, 2016. These types of events are essential to gain trade support for our activities and to listen to needs. See you again next year!