US Consumer Prefer Florida Blueberries

Demand for Florida Blueberries Rising With Superfood Status

Patrick Archer Florida Economy

BY PATRICK ARCHER – BROKER ASSOCIATE
COLDWELL BANKER COMMERCIAL SAUNDERS REAL ESTATE

More Consumers Seek Superfood Benefits of Blueberries

Florida blueberry growers are riding a blue wave of growing demand thanks to rising awareness of the antioxidant-rich superfood, shifting U.S. consumer preferences, and Florida’s unique blueberry harvest window from March through May.

A Google search of “health benefits of blueberries” unearths no fewer than 810,000 articles citing the many coronary, cerebral and dermatological benefits of consuming blueberries on a regular basis.

“Eat them until your tongue turns blue in order to live a long and healthy life.”OrganicFacts.net

An article on the Organic Facts website serves up a long list of the benefits of eating blueberries including delayed aging, improved brain function, better digestion, a stronger immune system, and reduced risk of macular degeneration.

Florida Blueberries are #1 Preference of U.S. Consumers

U.S. consumer demand for and consumption of blueberries has tripled over the past decade from 150 million pounds in 2005 to over 500 million pounds today. This surge is demand has benefited both domestic producers and South American countries that export blueberries to the United States between November and March including regional leader Chile, regional laggard Argentina, and suddenly surging Perú.

“Consumers reported they would prefer to buy blueberries from Florida more than any other state.”GrowingProduce.com

Overall, the U.S. is the world’s #1 producer of blueberries. The 240,000 tons of blueberries harvested annually in the U.S. is more than double the production of the world’s #2 producer, Canada, according to HortiDaily.

Blueberries grow in 38 of the 50 states, and the top 10 blueberry producing states are Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Georgia, New Jersey, California, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi and Indiana, according to the Blueberry Council.

And even though Florida ranks #8 in terms of total blueberry production, the Sunshine State ranks #1 in the minds of U.S. blueberry buyers. A 2016 survey of consumer preferences nationwide found that Florida blueberries were the #1 preference among American buyers, according to GrowingProduce.com.

Florida Blueberry Harvest Window and Best Practices

In addition to rising consumer demand for antioxidant superfoods and the good news that Florida blueberries are now top-of-mind among U.S. consumers, Florida blueberry growers benefit from their unique harvest season. The March-to-May harvest window makes Florida blueberries the only domestic berries available in large quantities in U.S. supermarkets during these prime spring months.

Some of the major blueberry cultivars commonly grown in Florida include Southern Highbush, Emerald, Jewel, Star, Windsor, Springhigh, Sweetcrisp, Farthing and Rabbiteye. Researchers at the University of Florida say that Florida blueberry producers can expect yields of 2 to 5 pounds (0.9 to 2.2 kilos) per plant by the third or fourth harvest year.

“Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush are two types of blueberries that grow well in Florida”University of Florida/IFAS

The University of Florida/IFAS Blueberry Gardener’s Guide has more information regarding the different varieties of Florida blueberries and best practices for growing blueberries in Florida including site selection, fertilization, irrigation, planting and pruning.

Strong Season & Upside for Florida Blueberries

Favorable climate conditions made 2017 one of the best years for Florida blueberry production. The strong harvest has been chronicled in headlines across Central Florida.

Blueberry Season Looks Sweet for Central Florida Growers is the headline of Susan Jacobson’s article in the Orlando Sentinel which finds more startups and family businesses entering the Florida blueberry market. Local growers tell Jacobson they are expecting to earn $3 to $4 per pound wholesale.

It Looks Like A Berry Good Year for Florida Blueberry Farmers is a similarly-optimistic outlook from the Tampa Bay Times’ Laura Reilley which describes Florida’s unique blueberry harvest widow as the “sweet spot” between the South American imports and the beginning of harvest season across the state line in Georgia.

“Despite doubling the amount of acres planted with blueberries in the past five years, Florida still has only between 6,000 and 8,000 acres.”Laura Reiley, Tampa Bay Times

In addition to interviewing several growers and researchers, Reiley’s analysis shines a bright blue light on the tremendous upside for blueberry production in Florida. Even though U.S. consumers clearly prefer blueberries grown in Florida, there are only around 7,000 acres of blueberries planted in Florida. That is one-fourth of the total blueberry acreage in neighboring Georgia and one-sixth of the total blueberry acreage in a country like Chile.

With that kind of upside, Florida growers in the state long synonymous with the “Orange” may soon start hearing more boisterous demand for the “Blue.”

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