Much like cherries, blueberries out of the Pacific Northwest are about two weeks later than last year thanks to a cool spring that extended growing degree days. As Cat Gipe-Stewart with Superfresh Growers notes, this means promotional volumes began in early to mid-July rather than the late June time frame seen last year.
Overall, USDA data shows that blueberry shipments were down slightly--3 percent year over year (YoY) from the last four weeks, ending 8/6/22. “This is largely caused by delayed Northwest & B.C. starts, causing supply gaps,” says Gipe-Stewart.
Meanwhile, Superfresh’s organic volume of blueberries continues to grow and will remain strong throughout the rest of the season. (Superfresh has a significant focus on sustainability with the crop currently sitting at 50 percent organic and growing.) Consumers are meeting that growth. “Retailer key performance indicators (KPIs) show that organic and conventional units are split evenly--both 1.2 units per trip,” says Gipe-Stewart.
Superfresh’s blueberries are grown and hand harvested in southern Oregon, a region with a mild, dry climate conducive to producing large, high-quality berries. Gipe-Stewart also adds that Oregon production is up three percent YoY, looking at the last four weeks. In addition to Oregon, other current top producing regions are Michigan and Washington as well as Canada, Peru and Mexico.
Meanwhile, demand for blueberries remains steady. “The top three packages are pints, 18 oz, 6 oz,” says Gipe-Stewart. “Retailer KPIs show units per trip have slightly increased, by 0.02 from spring to summer months.” Overall U.S. shipments are up 7.5 percent and consumption looks to stay steady.
As for pricing, the average retail price is up for blueberries $0.85/lb YoY. In the week ending 7/11/22, average retail was $4.66/lb, with promotion at $4.23/lb. “This time last year, average retail was $3.81 and promotion was $3.68/lb. Retail hit its highest in April ($6.19/lb), but it’s been steady this summer, hovering around $4.75,” says Gipe-Stewart.
Looking ahead, both supplies and demand are anticipated to remain strong throughout August. “We expect the market to follow a similar pattern as we head to Labor Day, with demand increasing then,” adds Gipe-Stewart.