North Carolina production helps keep blueberry volumes steady

From Fresh Plaza | 12 May 2023

Overview of blueberries from North Carolina in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on May 11, 2023. 

Supplies of blueberries in North America are strong. “Georgia is past its peak, wrapping up highbush varieties in the next week or so,” says Tim Crane, Category Manager of Blueberries for Oppy. “We are loading new crop from North Carolina next week for the first time. It’s slightly later than expected, but the timing worked out in our favor. With a particularly long season window, it has the potential to be the most extensive deal in the east.” Crane adds that in the past, it’s been challenging to provide blueberries year-round on both coasts, so the addition of North Carolina helps solve this issue.

For Oppy, blueberries are part of a larger four-berry program which includes strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. On blueberries, it has conventional and organic blueberries as well as jumbo berries, all of which are part of an exclusive partnership with Ocean Spray that, for Oppy, continues to grow annually.

The timing of the blueberry seasons is similar to last year. “Quality and sizing are off to a very strong start. The berries are evidently large, and we’re starting to see some vibrant color coming through now,” says Crane.

blueberry volumes by his 5

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Other growing regions

As Georgia wraps up, North Carolina will continue to supply the East Coast through mid-July, with production also starting in New Jersey in early June. On the West Coast, blueberries will come from Mexico through May, then California will have a strong season from June through the end of August. “These lead to perfect timing for our Washington and British Columbia deals, where we expect a very robust season compared to last year. These regions will supply both East and West with Peruvian products through the end of the year,” says Crane.

As for demand, it’s strong on the East Coast, particularly with the domestic production available. “We’re thrilled to give our retail partners exactly what they’ve been asking for with this new region added to our mix,” says Crane.

In terms of what consumers look for in blueberries, they continue to look for packaging solutions, and Crane says Oppy consistently seeks sustainable options for its products. In fact, it will bring a top seal option to its berry lineup soon as part of its efforts to reduce plastic consumption.

Standing out on the shelves

In its packaging, Oppy’s partnership with Ocean Spray also helps set itself apart in the category, one that’s typically hindered by label pollution. Crane says according to independent research, the Ocean Spray brand sees 96 percent brand awareness.

Looking ahead, North Carolina will ramp up over the next three weeks, with peak blueberry volume all through June. In addition to the year-round blueberry program, which also brings in berries from Chile, Mexico, Peru, Canada, and the U.S., it will start blackberries next month out of the San Joaquin Valley. That supply is currently transitioning from Mexico.

Oppy is also going into its third Haskap berry season. Haskaps are a unique berry that traditionally isn’t known outside of Canada’s West Coast farmers’ markets. “It was only available to customers in the greater Vancouver area in 2020 but has created quite the buzz across North America as national retailers, regional chains, and independents hoped to get a taste,” says Crane. “We’re excited to expand this crop with our customer base.”

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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