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.

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

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!


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!

Incredible — fresh blueberries a hit in India!

Incredible — fresh blueberries a hit in India!

More than 150 years ago, a exporters in the US Northeast successfully completed their first sea shipments of lake ice to Calcutta in India. The ship was specially insulated with straw to keep the ice from melting.  From a cargo of 100 tons, around 15 tons survived.  The wonder-ice was cherished in the expat enclave of this bustling English-colonial city.   This year marks the second year that fresh blueberries from the USA have been shipped to far away India.  The blueberries are picked in the morning and taken to the airport –while maintaining a “cold chain.”

Product is packed into air containers with cold gel packs and raced off over the poles to routes in Southeast Asia or Europe on the way to India.  Upon arrival, the fresh blueberries are loaded from planes to customs facilities at the Indian airports.  Since this is a new item, the Indian customs pay a lot of attention to the blueberries.  After clearance,the fresh blueberries are placed in refrigerated trucks with special care to keep the blueberries away from the high heat and humidity of India.

Within hours of landing, the fresh blueberries are delivered to hyperstores in the big cities such as Mumbai and Delhi and the other booming cities of the south including Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.  These cities now have huge tech centers and call centers in the suburbs that have generated dozens of mega-Malls with high-class western style supermarkets such as Hyperity, Big Bazaar and Food World.

Hundreds of thousands of Indians either work for western firms or have experience abroad in the USA and Europe.  When they return they often yearn for blueberries!   As unlikely as it may seem — fresh blueberries have become a prestige item. The market is small but steadily growing.  Day to day, articles are published in the Times of India on the health benefits of blueberries.   Look for India to become one of the leading markets for fresh blueberries in the world!

Kung Hay Fat Choy!

Kung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year or CNY as they say!  I wish all of our blueberry fans in China the best prosperity for the new year.  My #1 resolution is to see fresh blueberries from the USA allowed in China!  It is a win-win situation.  Chinese consumers love blueberries and hundreds of manufactured products contain blueberries including juices, jams, dairy and natural cosmetics.  Consumers, rarely have an opportunity to try fresh blueberries and when they do — they love them!

Yes, China does produce blueberries in regions as far north as Inner Mongolia to the South and Hainan Island.  Currently local production is limited and most blueberry is major cities close to the production.  I spent Thanksgiving day in Beijing at a fresh produce conference and jut about every major produce importer and distributor expressed showed immediate interest in importing fresh blueberries.  Discussions are underway between the USA and China and there does not seem to be any big objections or reasons.  It just takes time…  Think positive — promote blueberries — and the blueberries will come!