Berries in focus: Roberta Cook to unveil in-depth data dive at Amsterdam Produce Show

Berries in focus: Roberta Cook to unveil in-depth data dive at Amsterdam Produce Show



From the pages of Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit


What do you do when you have a superstar who both brings in the box office and wins critical acclaim each film that gets made? You sign her up for the sequel of course!

So, when we had the chance to get Roberta Cook to do an in-depth research project on fresh berries and reveal a European Perspective in Amsterdam and an American twist at The Global Trade Symposium in New York, we committed quickly.

Roberta has given incisive data-rich presentations that not only wowed the attendees but turned out to be deeply useful. We chronicled these presentations in pieces such as these:

Superstar Roberta Cook Guides London Produce Show Attendees On NAFTA, The Impact Of Trade And The Perils That Lie Ahead

Will Amazon Outgrow Tesco And Carrefour? Dr. Roberta Cook Will Present Comprehensive Data And Analyze Worldwide Retail And Produce Trends All At The London Produce Show And Conference

The Intersection Of Technology And Trade: At Global Trade Symposium Roberta Cook Of UC Davis Talks About Mexico’s Broadening Role In A Diversified Global Market

Dr. Roberta Cook Will Talk About Increasing Produce Consumption At Global Trade Symposium

Riding The Roller Coaster: Roberta Cook Of UC Davis Explains How Economic Fluctuations Create Marketing Opportunities.

We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out what Roberta had in store for us in Amsterdam:

Roberta Cook, PhD
Founder, Fresh Produce Marketing Consulting,
Dixon, California,
Cooperative Extension Marketing Economist Emerita
Department of Agricultural and
Resource Economics
University of California, Davis

Q: At the Amsterdam Produce Show, you will be presenting a powerful assessment of the international berry market, and, in particular, how new emerging sources for blueberries will significantly disrupt traditional market supply, and in turn, retail shelves.

As global competition heats up, will you be steering retailers to realign buying strategies to maximise opportunities and returns in their produce departments? How will this rile production/supply channels? What changes could occur in product availability, quality, and varietal options to satisfy consumer demand of this popular category?  

A: I am excited about this topic for all these points and questions you raise. As we all know, berry consumption is growing globally, and there’s a lot of interest in it. Since I’ve worked on the topic in the past (just not with respect to the European market), I’ve been able to work up a good story that probably hasn’t been summarised before.

I’m preparing my talk targeted to European retail buyers and suppliers to the European Market in attendance at the Show. A few weeks ago, I got the latest IRI scanner data for the berry category in the Netherlands. It shows rapid growth, which is helpful to demonstrate the trend that is happening throughout Europe.

Q: Familiar with your intense research and information-packed talks, as well as our pre-Show interviews for our New York and London venues, I know there will much to absorb.

So let’s dive right in…You have chosen to hone in on the global dynamics of a specific commodity  — Highbush fresh blueberries, and within that, potential impacts to the European market. I imagine the domino effects that ripple across the entire supply chain create a phenomenon that is not unique to blueberries, and attendees will have many lessons to glean from your talk as always…

A: I am providing some topline highlights of berry category trends in key production regions like Spain, Chile, Morocco, Peru, South Africa, Argentina, Mexico and the US At the same time, I am excluding countries with large production but who are not servicing Europe; for example, Turkey, which is a huge player in strawberries, but sends the product mainly to Russia.

Blueberries will be a main focus, since they are the most internationally traded berry, and new sources of supply are emerging, such as in Peru and Mexico. But I decided to start my initial work on this from the broader berry perspective and see where it would take me.

Q: Where did it take you?

A: Right away, I reached out to industry experts seeking data to try to firm up the story. It is very challenging because the various data systems can be quirky, and the numbers are not always consistent when comparing different sources or the codes don’t match up. The trends are there, but trying to put the data into the charts like I normally do has been extra challenging.

Q: So, this information you’ll be revealing in your talk has never been presented in this way before? This exemplifies why you bring such exceptional value to the industry…

A: Through my extensive research, I’ve learned a lot about looking at the global berry market, and I think it will be useful to people. There are four main berries with all different markets and sources of supply around the world. Berries are challenging from a data perspective, because they are relatively new in many countries, and so therefore, there have not been official data sources.

Even in the US, the data we have for blackberries and raspberries has never been very good, while the data for strawberries is much better. The Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) of the USDA produces these annual GAIN reports for crops important in exports to US markets, looking in detail at what is going on in that country. Recently it started one for Peru, which shows how new the market is, and a year ago FAS did the first one for Spain, but I’m not very confident in the data because it hasn’t been updated since…

The general point is that it shows the newness of some of these export industries because it’s only recently that people have started to take a look at them.

Q: Are there reports you can point to with confidence on the data sets?

A: On blueberries, there is a big exception because there is this powerful international blueberry organisation, IBO. IBO really respects the understanding that many blueberry industry players have on so many continents that this is an expanding market, and supply is increasing very rapidly because of large plantings in areas like Peru. Therefore, they have to get a handle on what is happening with the rate of expansion of supply relative to demand. The IBO is a great example to cite. It would be wonderful if something similar existed for strawberries and blackberries and raspberries.

Q: So the IBO conducts its own research?

A: It’s called the Global Blueberries Statistics and Intelligence Report and comes out annually, most recently in April 2017, with data for 2016. Cort Brazelton does the report, and there are two other authors. Cort and his brother run Fall Creek Farm & Nursery in Eugene, Oregon, and they are producing many of the blueberry plants that are planted internationally. They are developing many of the plant materials people need to put all this new acreage in the ground.

They have tremendous knowledge on production and contacts with grower organisations that are being created. Their report is true market intelligence, from people on the ground, as opposed to just relying on some third party data source you can’t verify.  IBO funds the report. The board of the organisation made the decision to make the investment a few years ago.  

However, production statistics are often unreliable and not accurate for blueberries because production is still relatively small. It’s not a perfect process, even on the ground. It is good to highlight that this report involves a tremendous investment; I’m sure it costs a lot to produce it, but it is really important to producers and marketers.

It makes sense now that raspberries and blackberries are more internationally traded to make a similar investment to monitor the evolution of their industries.

Q: What has come out of your investigative digging that will be of most interest to Amsterdam Produce Show attendees?

A: I want to give an overview of the US fresh berry industry, because it’s one of the biggest in the world in terms of bulk production and consumption. Consumption of berries in Europe is lagging compared to the US and also consumption in Asia and other parts of the world is lagging compared to the US.

Q: Will the US gain more of a stake in the European berry market?

A: The US tends to focus more on the domestic market than exports for berries. Because demand is increasing in other parts of the world, you would think there might be opportunity for US exporters. European retail chains are interested in US berries, and I have gotten inquiries on that as they’ve tried to increase their supply. I’m not sure how much opportunity the US will have in the expanding market in the EU because of the positions of their regions, but I’ll go into more detail on that later.

Europe is supplied much more within its own hemisphere. Obviously, Spain is the leader in supplying the European market, and then Morocco and South Africa are developing markets as well.

The good news is berry demand is increasing fast globally for all the berries. Since most attendees will be European retailers, I will be focusing on what will be of most interest to them, highlighting the fact that berries are growing very rapidly in the EU, but this is happening not just in Europe but in Asia and other global regions as well.

European production of blueberries and blackberries is still small relative to what we produce in the US market, but blueberries and blackberries are not an important supply currently to Europe. In terms of North America, Mexico is becoming a much more important player in all berries, including in blueberries, which is very recent. And it is also starting to export higher volumes of strawberries to the US, whereas previously Mexico was focused on exports of raspberries and blackberries. The change is Mexico has always had strawberries for domestic consumption, but now we’re seeing more investment by California farms for the export markets.

Q: How could this impact Europe?

A: To date, Mexico has been almost entirely focused on the US market. With regard to the European market, one has to ask the question, will Mexico become a more significant player to the European market in various berries.

Q: Doesn’t that answer depend on a plethora of variables…

A: That leads me to changes occurring in other parts of the world with blueberries. Rapid expansion in the global highbush fresh blueberry market means abundant supply for the EU. The supply situation is such that a lot of investments are going into a lot of expensive plantings in various countries.

Then there’s the question of who is supplying and the seasonality. It is expensive to put in blueberries as a permanent crop. One country in addition to Mexico is Peru, which is quickly becoming a powerhouse. Three years ago, Peru had almost no blueberry exports. It’s an amazing development how Peru will challenge both Argentina and Chile for both markets in the US and Europe. The other emerging country important to blueberries is South Africa, and that’s developing extremely rapidly as well.

I won’t have time in my presentation, but China is growing extremely rapidly in all berries, although so far it seems to be focused on domestic demand because there is so much potential in terms of consumption. It’s a massive development, but I want to focus this presentation on what’s important to the European buyers.

Q: Excellent plan. It seems there is never enough time for you to get through the wealth of data and invaluable analyses you’ve amassed…

A: I always feel that way! I want to discuss the Peruvian industry today, but it’s useful to take you through what the blueberry industry looks like globally.

The first thing important to understand is terminology. There are wild blueberries and highbush blueberries. I’m excluding the wild industry, which is almost exclusively for processed, and North America is a major producer of wild. It is important to make that distinction when people discuss statistics. The numbers will look totally wrong if you don’t.

Q: Do the statistics sometimes conflate wild and highbush?

A: Fortunately, the IBO does a good job on that distinction. It’s amazing… you really have to give tremendous credit to the Brazeltons for their vision in sharing with the blueberry industry what’s happening around the globe.

Let’s look at where fresh Highbush blueberries are produced; 41 percent are grown in North America, mainly the US; and 29 percent in South America, led by Chile. The second most important player there is Argentina. Now you have Peru and most of the rapid growth is coming from Peru. That 41 percent share in North America is changing because Mexico is playing a role, and now Peru is a real game-changer and disrupter.

Q: This fluid, fast-changing dynamic, and who will gain the upper hand, will be intriguing to watch as it plays out. I feel like I’m listening to a brilliant commentator during the playoffs of a well-matched world sports tournament. Leave it to you, Roberta, to make charts and statistics exciting…

A: It is intriguing. Then you have 17 percent production in Europe of Highbush blueberries. And within Europe, leading is Spain, and then the next most important player is Poland. The expectation is that expansion will continue in Spain. This is because of the fact the fresh produce industry in southern Spain, which is most important for greenhouse and protected agriculture of tomatoes, green peppers and other vegetables to the European Union, is facing saturated markets.

So, there is interest by southern Spain producers to expand to other products that are less mature and offer higher margin potential. Within berries, strawberries really dominated southern Spain, which they still do, but producers are shifting to blueberries and more profitable crops.

Asia Pacific, China, Australia, and a little New Zealand represent 9 percent, with the big growth in China but that’s primarily domestic market.

Two segments are really small, the Mediterranean/North Africa (Morocco is included in that), and then sub-Saharan Africa is under 1 percent. And that reflects how new the industry is in Africa, which, other than Morocco, is almost entirely South Africa, and a little in Zimbabwe, but expansion is rapid.

European buyers are looking at South Africa as a more important source for fall buying. South Africa has primarily private genetics versus public varieties. Part are from Australia, with a few exporter marketers that control the genetics. That means the industry should evolve there in a relatively consolidated fashion and will be very market-driven based on European preferences.

Even though it is a tiny player, and the US is a huge player in blueberries, you would expect more blueberry export opportunity in Europe, but we’re producing at the same time of year as Spain produces, and there is this fall supply developing in South Africa with very close ties to retailers.

Q: I recently did an interview at Ahold Delhaize headquarters with Michiel van Zanten, senior sourcing manager, strategic sourcing fresh for Albert Heijn, and he was pointing out the chain’s strong programs and connections with South African growers.

A: Yes, European retailers are well connected. They should delve in quickly for fall supply.

Now, a point about the US market for blueberries as it relates to Europe. One of the things I learned talking to someone in a major blueberry firm, when exporting from the US to Europe, you have to be global-GAP certified with different requirements and maximum residue levels have to be considered, so firms in the blueberry industry wanting to export to Europe need to think about it with a more long-term approach, setting up operations so they have dedicated relationship with buyers, because now it’s in and out. They need to make commitments and think long-term opportunity. That’s the way the US could potentially develop more exports to Europe to capitalise on the demand.

Now that we’ve looked at how production is currently of Highbush blueberries for fresh markets, the top 10 producers are the US, Chile, British Columbia, Spain, China, Argentina, Poland, Mexico, Peru, and Morocco.

I’m getting different numbers for production from Mexico, which I’m trying to verify, so Mexico might be bigger than Poland, but they are similar in size. Peru by next year is supposed to be bigger than Mexico. We’re seeing shifts in relative importance of these players.

Argentina is currently bigger than Poland, but that may change very quickly. Argentina has had a long-time role in exports to both the US and Europe, and Argentina has been the leader in the fall window. We have said competition is evolving from South Africa in the fall window. Competition is also evolving from Peru and Mexico in the fall window. The big point here is that the fall window will become much more competitive in even the next two years. It’s happening really quickly.

Q: Who is best positioned in this competitive battle and why?

A: Argentina typically has focused on air shipments, because of the fact they had a window between when the Northern Hemisphere ended and Chile started, and they needed to get to market quickly, and that’s expensive. Argentina has focused 65 percent of its exports typically going to the US and then a combined 30 percent going into Continental Europe and the UK. That’s significant.

Mexico has the great advantage of shipping overland. The question is, where is that product going to go? Argentina will have a challenge keeping market share in the US and in Europe. Fortunately, if there’s growth in the overall market, it might be OK.

Q: What about quality issues?

A: Argentina hasn’t had to focus as much on quality as would be desired in these competitive markets because they had the market. Berries can require fumigation which can reduce quality, and the fact Argentina ships by air, it has had to fumigate.

Whereas Chile ships by boat and there’s a cold treatment, if berries are held for a certain number of days at a certain temperature, they will meet APHIS requirements, controlled atmosphere, post-harvest practices for good arrival quality for the US.

Mexico doesn’t have to fumigate.

You see that Argentina is one of the countries most challenged by the new competitors and their impact on its window.

I want to make a couple of comments on Mexico, and then go to Peru. Mexico’s industry originally evolved for the fall market; however, it has the ability to prune plants to produce in the winter time and into the early spring. And Mexico can hit those high prices when there is not a lot of Chilean fruit left in the market and before the major production has started in the US.

That is something that makes Mexico an important player for the US. The question is how it will fair in the EU. Its exports currently go almost entirely to the US — 94 percent of Mexican exports go to the US.

Q: What would be the incentive to change that percentage?

A: That’s a good question. We have the biggest import market in the world. And Mexico is adjacent with an overland border. I’m sure the US market will remain the primary market. But I saw some data on the higher prices they receive when they go into these other markets. If the US market becomes saturated, that may be an incentive.

Q: And then there are unknowns with possible renegotiation of NAFTA…

A: Who knows what will happen with NAFTA. It isn’t clear if NAFTA will be renegotiated and if that happens how that will affect incentive for Mexico to diversify some of those exports. Would there be a tariff or duty high enough to slow US import demand?

What I would assume barring anything negative with NAFTA, as the Mexican blueberry industry grows, it will be a more and more important supplier to US market, and Mexico will be the most important fall and spring supplier to the US market, more important than Peru. It has already taken sizeable market share away from Argentina. And I would expect expanding volume from Mexico to continue to erode Argentina.

That leaves us with Peru. There is a feeling that Peru will be an impact because it’s such a formidable player.

Q: Why is Peru such a formidable player? Does it avoid some of the issues you brought up earlier with Argentina?

A: I want to talk about that, but first, I’ve been tracking numbers to demonstrate the shift. Already, I’ve observed we now import more berries from Mexico than Argentina for all our berry supply. The numbers equalised in about 2014, and just barely surpassed in 2015, and now imports to the US are definitely growing from Mexico and no longer growing from Argentina.

And, of course, Chile is the most important supplier to the US, followed by Canada. But the battle is taking place between Mexico and Argentina, and Peru is just starting to make its presence known. In 2016, we imported 14,626 metric tonnes of blueberries from Peru, and one year earlier, only 5,274 in 2015.

Q: That’s a dramatic increase.

A: An almost three-fold difference. In my slide, Peru is included in the “other” category, because three years ago there was almost nothing. It’s that quick of a change.

It’s already surpassed Argentina, and about equal to Mexico. It’s unbelievable. Here you would think, you have this expanding export industry in Mexico and already Peru is about equal. If you combine Mexico and Peru, they are way bigger than Argentina.

Q: How notable is this turn of events?

A: In looking at changing market shares in various commodities over the years, I very rarely see such important shifts in sources of supply in a two-to-three-year timeframe.

Now we’re going to talk about Peru. It’s one of the few countries where we see it impacting markets quickly. Peru developed a sizeable asparagus export industry, and a mango export industry, and a very important avocado industry; what we’ve seen with avocados is Peru has displaced Chile in the US market in a relatively short time frame. Although Mexico is still the dominate avocado player in the US.

To answer your question, one of the reasons Peru is such a formidable player is that it does have the climate that it can produce any fresh produce crop efficiently. They have abundant water, land, a government supportive of agriculture, large export farms, capital, large growers, and are able to manage the production process for those corps to produce over time, depending on the amount of demand. For asparagus, they could essentially produce all year-round but it wouldn’t be profitable. For blueberries, it could essentially produce year-round, like in several produce commodities.

When you get so many crops where you have organised histories  — and they are very organised with their trade associations, with each crop having their own  — and they keep a handle on production areas and how they are developing… when you have producers growing more than one of these crops, they become knowledgeable of export markets and can negotiate better freight rates. It just makes them a very attractive source of supply.

Q: It will be fascinating to stay on top of what happens…

A: You asked about quality. On quality with Peru, because it is just developing, they haven’t had to have as much of a quality focus, because they are getting plants in the ground and getting production growing, now using open varieties, but the learning curve is happening quickly. This is over the past five years. Within a couple years they have significant production and they are already getting a payback.

That’s why they are expanding so quickly. What I understand is that if the plants were available, they’d be putting them into the ground, so the delay is on the materials side, and what it takes to produce the proper genetics. That’s true for many crops I’ve run across in my research.

Q: Earlier you referenced strategising based on European preferences. Is that related to taste?

A: Some varieties may have better flavour than others. That leads us to how Chile is trying to position itself in light of these changes in Peru. One of the things Chile is doing is focusing on private genetics like South Africa has, and flavour attributes that premium buyers desire.

Chileans are very astute in determining the best places in the world to produce blueberries, led by Hortifrut, which is one of the owners of Naturipe Farms. It has been important in developing in Mexico and also in Peru. Hortifrut merged with Talsa, a Peruvian blueberry firm and significantly expanded their operation in Peru with that acquisition. It says that brings the company to 2,200 hectares in Peru with the combined firm, giving it a very important position.

The other important player is Camposol, which started with asparagus, mangos, and avocados. These are astute firms, and innovative, seeing opportunities and making investments in blueberries. It doesn’t take long to make changes in how they produce.

A couple of players are leading this evolution in Peru to make growth more rapid. I don’t know all the names of the firms, but many growers are producing. These big firms are very well capitalized to increase rate of expansion.

On that point, Camposol recently launched, “The berry that cares,” campaign.

Q: Our company has reported on that news in a couple of our publishing venues.

A: I follow, now one of the sister publications to the Perishable Pundit, all the time and I saw it reported there. And I get as well.

It goes to show the level of sophistication  — not to say other berry players are not sophisticated too — but Camposol recognises consumers care where their brand comes from. Social responsibility drives that campaign. Not only is Peru developing rapidly but with this sophistication on the marketing side.

I should mention what is happening on the Mexico side, another essential part of my presentation. It is important for the whole berry supply for all of North America and considered as a potential source of supply for Europe.

Q: You point to the strength of these multi-national companies in building this global expansion. Could you elaborate on that?

A: Driscoll’s is truly a global player with an important role. It has operations in many places, including in Australia and China. They were newcomers to blueberries about 15 years ago, originally focused on strawberries and raspberries in California, and then the next expansion was blackberries in Mexico.

Hortifrut helped to kick off the blackberry industry. Hortifrut helped find the Tupi varieties and develop the market in the US through Costco. And then other retailers observed consumers buying blackberries in clamshells, which were not really available in the US, and then blackberries became year-round from Mexico. Driscoll’s had already been there in Mexico with raspberries, and Driscoll’s actually has a larger market in blackberries from Mexico than Hortifrut.

Q: Was it an easy sell to get Costco to buy into Tupi blueberries?

A: Hortifrut found the Tupi variety, helped develop it and convinced Costco to take it. Costco was reticent because they were not confident there would be sufficient sweetness with blackberries. Sales were very robust and other retailers started looking at Tupi blackberries out of Mexico; there were only a few blackberries in the US.

Hortifrut was a blueberry firm, whereas Driscoll’s was a raspberry and strawberry firm. As the blueberry market expanded in the US, Driscoll needed to be a full berry supplier, and Hortifrut needed to get into strawberries and raspberries. Hortifrut and Driscoll’s are competitors, but their positions in the berry industry developed very differently. Now Driscoll’s is a major player in blueberries.

We need to make the point… one of the reasons the berry industry is evolving rapidly internationally is because leading firms are looking at all the berries as a global opportunity. This is not like what you have for other commodities. The leafy greens industry is not looking at producing and supplying in all these different continents.

Q: How important is branding?

A: Branding, as you know in produce, has not played a major role in the US. It does vary internationally; in China, for instance, brands are very important. In the US, typically if you ask consumers how important is the brand, they don’t show strong preference for one brand over another. Having said that some brands are gaining traction, Driscoll’s for berries has strong recognition and is expanding on that brand internationally. You see that in Europe, Australia and China.

Leading players in the industry are trying to place more emphasize on consumer branding. I can’t comment on buying preference on chains in Europe for brand differentiation. UK retailers are very focused on that kind of thing working very closely with suppliers, and they have a heavy private brand to make connections with consumers.

Q: At Albert Heijn, according to Michiel van Zanten, a great majority of items are private label, with targeted supplier branding…

A: I find it valuable to read his insights, and am glad he will be on the Thought Leader Panel at the Show What is unique and special about the event, is the select high-level positioning and targeted identification of market needs. Of course, I also read your interview with Ed McLaughlin, who will be the keynote speaker on the topic of retail disruption. Everything is changing every day with my topic as well. And just like Ed, I will be working on my topic right up to the Show. I don’t feel comfortable presenting these numbers unless I can put meat on the bone.

So, to wrap up a few comments on Mexico, here we have another example of an industry changing so rapidly, looking at the berry industry globally. For me, it’s all about context. I’m so interested in art history, which is all about context. Rembrandt, thinking of the Netherlands… why did the Dutch Masters come as they did?

Q: Historical context is critical to that understanding…

A: Argentina is focusing on blueberries, where Mexico has the whole berry line, and, of course, the US does as well. We’re the biggest producer when you combine all berries, although not a lot of blackberries. In the past, Mexico was exporting blackberries and raspberries, now big companies are developing there, with the big Chilean and Peruvian firms, and leading marketing firms like Driscoll’s. Now Mexico is emerging with a whole berry line, where Peru is just developing blueberries, not the others. That is important to think about in Mexico’s relative market positioning. European buyers could be buying their entire berry line, but not from Peru, Chile, Argentina or South Africa.

Q: Economies of scale, one-stop shopping?

A: Both of those advantages. We’ve gone to whole-line shippers, all shippers want full berry lines. It enables one-stop shopping. That’s important when thinking about the whole berry sector.

Expect Mexico to continue to export to the US as its biggest market, barring unforeseen NAFTA developments. Simultaneously, look at the other producer, Spain, servicing the European market. Spain produces during parts of the year that Northern Europe does not. Spain is to Europe like what Mexico is to the US. And Spain is increasing its blueberry production because of other berry markets becoming saturated.

I see a lot of analogies with Mexico and Spain. Mexico does have long shipping seasons for many of the berries and can play with certain windows when prices incentivise to increase imports. This makes Mexico interesting from the perspective of Northern Europe, because Spain doesn’t have the same opportunity to supply just from a climactic perspective. They are off-season supply for northern Europe, but their location doesn’t give them as much flexibility as Mexico. Madrid is the same latitude as Detroit.

I also want to present a slide showing size of production of berries in Mexico. So far, we discussed blueberries, but the total of measured tons of production in 2016 was 858,000 metric tonnes, led by strawberries.

Q: That’s huge…

A: Over half of that is strawberries, and a major amount of strawberries is going to their domestic market because the US is so efficient in strawberries. But now, these California firms are investing in global export that will change overtime. Simultaneously, Mexico has huge volume of blackberries.

Mexico has 238,000 metric tonnes of blackberries, then 112,000 metric tonnes of raspberries. It’s blueberry production is only 29,000 tonnes, and Peru and Mexico are similar in size in blueberries, and that’s not very much in comparison. I want to put in this in context for people how big the Mexican berry production is… There is a huge powerhouse region in Mexico, and one would think it will become more important for supply in the future.

Q: Once again, you’ve put together a thought-provoking, head-spinning presentation.

A: It’s been a lot of work with the research challenges. Just like the presentation I did for the London Produce Show, I worked on it for weeks. I want to talk about something that is relevant and very useful to the attendees.

Q: You’ve certainly accomplished that.

A: There is so much more that I’ve pulled together than I have time to present in the Netherlands.

Q: That is always the case with you! What are the biggest takeaways for attendees?

A: First off, we know that demand is rapidly expanding for all varieties because consumers are more interested in health and wellness profiles. It’s not often where you see a category with all the benefits, easy to consume and tastes good; the convenience and flavour factors are very important in produce.

Let me make a contrast to kiwis. The kiwi has tremendous health and wellness benefits. Cornell published a study showing kiwis as one of the most nutrient-rich, but it didn’t get traction because it is difficult for consumers to prepare and consume. Berries are easy to consume and have many different uses, snacks, salads, baking, so many factors in favour of a growing demand for berries.

Expansion and demand should be phenomenal over the next 20 years. In Europe, overall there is a mature market for produce, but the scan data for Holland berry sales, just like the US, shows a very important share of fresh produce sales in the Netherlands. Berries are a star and that’s one of the important takeaways.

Then the question, will supply be there… for blueberries we can certainly say yes, is supply developing more rapidly than demand? At this point we don’t know. But IBO is projecting we could be at 2 billion pounds by 2021.

Here we have the case of blueberries expanding rapidly and competition for the same fall winter windows. In the next five years, one would imagine even if there is a boom period, firms need to be focused on quality and servicing customers to be competitive.

Firms that are successful will be thinking globally in markets they’re servicing. Fortunately, we have companies in the berry industry that are visionary, and we have firms on the retail side that can invest in the berry category quite confidently.

On some of the berries, it will take more investment in marketing than others, for example, blackberries are not very well known in Europe, and blueberries are much lesser known in Europe.

One final thing I’d say: I didn’t discuss US and North America that much but it’s important, even though most are consumed in the US. Blueberries in the US have grown rapidly but growth rates are growing more slowly because it’s a more mature market, which hasn’t happened in Europe. This contributes to consolidation, so for the North American market, one would expect consolidation on the supply side.


Well, Roberta will be pleased to learn that the three seminar stages at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference are not numbered in a banal fashion — say one, two and three. Instead, in line with her question about the derivation of the Dutch masters, these stages have been christened Rembrandt, Vermeer and van Gogh, so as we elevate industry discussions we can feel ourselves surrounded by pinnacles of Dutch culture.

The analysis of the berry category combines many key trends in produce today.

• Health and wellness seem to be driving demand;

• Globalisation of the industry is well represented in the strategic plantings of berries in locations where they’re expected to enter the global trade of berries,

• Proprietary varieties and branding are playing a part, and the vulnerability of the whole system to political disruption is obvious.

So, come and gather round, be exposed to incredible research done by an incredible mind. Come to Amsterdam!

You can check out the website right here.

Register for the event here.

Book a hotel room — where the action is — at the Headquarters Hilton Amsterdam right here.

And if you would like to exhibit or sponsor, please let us know here.

And, of course, we are happy to answer questions right here.

We look forward to seeing you in Amsterdam!



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