Many EU countries may follow in the footsteps of the U.S., where berries have become the largest fresh produce food retail category.
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Although it is unlikely that all EU member states will, the sky seems to be the limit in the continent’s fresh berry sector, according to Rabobank’s report Burgeoning & Blossoming: The Bar is Raised in the Promising EU Berry Market.
The healthy image of berries has definitely done its bit to spur consumption. The demand for fresh berries in the US has continued to climb, making berries the highest-value fresh produce category at retail stores, at over USD 5.6 billion.
Rabobank expects European consumption volumes to also increase, with fresh blueberries, raspberries and blackberries expected to grow by at least 7 percent a year in the coming five years, while strawberry consumption will grow by nearly 2 percent a year. This outpaces the sluggish total fresh fruit consumption volume in the EU.
The EU’s leading food retailers require a complete year-round fresh range of consistently high-quality fruits and sizeable, efficient, semi-integrated players are best-positioned to deliver this.
“Ongoing investments in new varieties and sustainable efficient production methods are also indispensable when it comes to reaping the fruits of the burgeoning berry market”, says Cindy van Rijswick, Fruit and Vegetable analyst at Rabobank.
“Better availability, increased promotion of berries, quality improvements and supply chain efficiencies, resulting in lower retail prices, could also help further propel the demand for fresh berries in the EU.”
Strawberries are—and will remain—the main and most mature market within the fresh berry category.
The strawberry sector is changing, from a rather fragmented local, seasonal business towards a more capital-intensive sector with extended seasons and enhanced quality.
Year-round demand for high-quality blueberries is growing particularly fast, driving both imports from different production regions in the world and local production in the EU. The EU blueberry sector is on a journey towards larger, more efficient customer-focused players.
The successful introduction of new varieties and better planting materials are major game-changers for the EU raspberry and blackberry industry.
The more integrated and year-round approach to growing and sourcing sweeter, larger and firmer varieties has helped to revive the fresh raspberry and blackberry sector.
In addition to the main berry types marketed, there are scores of other berry types, including cranberries, red and black currants, kiwi berries, pineberries, goji berries, gooseberries, açaí berries and honeyberries.
It is not expected that these other berries will soon capture a key position in the supermarket, but for growers, these can be interesting as seasonal products. ■