A friendly blueberry grower down in Mississippi, called me the other day and asked me what I thought about ‘dem blueberry smoothies. Everywhere you look — there are blueberry smoothies, different combinations of blue this and that. What I think about blueberry smoothies is that a smoothie that is called a blueberry smoothie should use a lot of blueberries! I checked the content of many commercial smoothies and was shocked. Some have minimal blueberry and maximum blueberry image on the package and signage at the local smoothie shop. We are on a quest now to raise the use of real frozen blueberries in smoothies. With the supply, reasonable pricing of blueberries, this isa great opportunity to enhance a product. The first thing we leaned is that commercial manufacturers and outlets are not necessarily experts on blueberries. We informed one commercial smoothie company in the South that they are surrounded by locally produced blueberries available all year round. Different techniques can be used to deepen the blue color and keep it that way. We hired a super chef at a major resort in California, who is also a smoothie and gelato expert. Chef John took frozen blueberries to his kitchen and concocted allsorts of great recipes. They all used optimal amounts of blueberry and taste great! We samples this at the recent International Deli Dairy and Baking Epo (IDDBE) in Denver and it was a hit! Now spread the word! Get ‘dem blueberries into your smoothies for health and happiness.
All of us in North America are lucky to have fresh and frozen blueberries available year round! What do you do when you live in a country with high heat and humidity and a refrigerator fit for a dorm room? Check out preserved blueberries! Blueberry preserves have been around for a long time. In fact they were canned for as a ration for the Union Army in the Civil War. Blueberries have always made a great jam and jelly and good ones are over 50 percent in fruit content. Now a new generation of “jarred” blueberries are popular in Asia. The concept: take fresh or frozen blueberries and suspend them in a syrup, water or honey. This preserves the blueberry and the syrup is a delicious treat as well. The shelf life is over a year. Most important — it helps us spread the great taste and nutrition of blueberries around the globe! (note this photo from rural Japan where the jarred blueberries are sold right above the fresh blueberries!
When I first vvisited Japan long ago, I had to search all over town for fresh or frozen blueberries. Normally would end up at the Kinokuniya grocery store near all of the embassies and expat commnnity. Now– they are everywhere! Check out the blueberry promotions at Mami-Mart out in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo. Consumers love their local Seibu Lions and blueberries! Japan is already the leading offshore market for fresh blueberries, and this exposure ouside of Tokyo and Osaka will only drive sales to new heights! Go go go Lions! Go go blueberries!
Each month, i get messages from consumers asking about “artificial blueberries.” As you can imagine, they are not happy that the product they just purchased with big-beautiful blueberry photos on the package — do not contain blueberries in the product.
This is an old problem, and thankfully it becomes less and less of a problem each year.
In the beginning, there were fresh blueberries, then frozen — and most blueberries went in these two directions. With the development of processed foods,more and more products were developed as “Shelf stable” and with “intermediate moisture.” Ingredients for these products must match specific moisture and water activity requirements. Quite simply, if the available blueberry ingredients did not match, some manufacturers would choose blueberry “analogs.” These included blue dyed dehydrated apples, blue colored grain bits and formed gum and fat bits. These products must be labeled properly and will be described in the legal manner in line with US Food and Drug Administration rules.
USHBC takes a positive approach to the artificial blueberries. First, we work to “gently” inform the manufacturers of the overwhelming consumer preference for real blueberries. Also, we learned that consumers react very badly when they learn that a blueberry-identified product does not contain real blueberries. Second, we explain the technical reasons why real blueberries do work in specific food product categories. For example manufacturers can source blueberries in different moisture content.
Blueberries are sized and cut to specifications.
They work just about everywhere.
One big reason that companies have claimed to use artificial blueberries in the past is price. In the past the further processed blueberries were on the pricey side, but with the dawn of the current supply and win-win sales proposition in the blueberry business — most of the products are in the same price range as the artificial. We think the real product is an advantage in itself!
With all of the buzz about fiber in foods, a new product has entered the food ingredient market: Blueberry Fiber. When blueberry puree is made, the skins are normally removed in the process. These skins are air dried down to a moisture content of around 15%. From there the product can be milled down to various sizes. How is it used: Blueberry fiber has a neutral flavor and not a lot of sweetness and has been used in extruded snacks and pet foods.
It is also used in breakfast cereals and breads. The star performance category has been the pet food category which has been covered regularly in this blog. “Add blueberry fiber in the formula and post big beautiful blueberry photos on the package that appeal to the per owner. What is in the blueberry fiber:
Here it is!
USHBC has been studying the Brazil market for several years, and it is beginning to look promising!
First of all, Brazilians love fruit and all sorts of exotic local and imports.
Second, Brazilians are extremely health conscious and have a “food as medicine” philosophy. USHBC initial efforts have been to support the fresh market. Local production is centered in the south part of the country and the season is the exact opposite of the USA.
What really got me interested in Brazil was seeing the Brazilians visiting Miami and Orlando on holiday stocking up on fresh blueberries for the return home! Brazil imports fresh blueberries from neighboring South American countries such as Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Currently fresh blueberries from the USA are air freighted to Sao Paulo, Brazil during the North American Summer. Most are sold at very high-end grocery stores. Our first efforts in Brazil have been exhibitions such as the SIAL Brazil show. Year one: we instructed visitors on “what is a blueberry.” Year two: we met enthusiastic blueberry converts. Year three: our booth was mobbed by visitors in search of blueberries.
This year,Brazil will continue imports of fresh blueberries. Now, food processors are also looking for frozen and further processed blueberries. The future looks bright.
In the pic: blueberry promotion at grocery store in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
It is a long ways from Seoul Korea to Hattiesburg, Mississippi — but 14 Korean food industry professionals made the trek! Led by Mrs. Young Sook Oh of the USDA-Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) the group headed north from New Orleans to Hattiesburg, Mississippi which is the center of the local blueberry production region. Ethan Goggans, a Mississippi State University student and blueberry farmer, led the tour which included stops at Sandy Run Farm where the Korean visitors picked fresh blueberries and even got a chance to ride a harvester. Afterwards, the crew tasted Southern cuisine including catfish and crayfish and of course local hot sauces which were a hit or the Koreans!
Each year, USHBC exhibits at the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). The meetings are rotated from areas of food processing, such as Chicago and Minneapolis to destinations such as Las Vegas, Orlando. This year the meeting was held in New Orleans, Lousiana.
Did you know that blueberries are grown in the South, not far from the Crescent City. Drive north towards Poplarville, Mississippi and you will drive right through the growing region. Most of the blueberries produced in the area are from a Southern native species called Vaccinium Ashei. This member of the highbush blueberry family is native to the south and is found in East Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Louisiana and Alabama.
The blueberry is commonly called the “rabbiteye” because the unique look of the calyx. For the IFT meeting, we had the pleasure of working with the local growers and Mr. Ethan Goggans of Sandy Run Farm in Purvis, Mississippi helped out with the booth and did an excellent job. He brought several blueberry plants from the farm which were on display and this was a big hit — especially with foreign visitors.
Note: the Mississippi State University cowbell on display at the booth.
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:
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!’
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!
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.
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!
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!!!
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!