More than 400 members of the international soft fruit sector from 21 countries spread across six continents were in the Chilean capital Santiago last week to hear about new opportunities to grow their business in emerging markets such as China, Brazil, Russia and South Korea.
Taking part in the fifth edition of the Global Berry Congress, the annual conference and networking event for the worldwide berry industry, delegates also learned about untapped potential to boost sales in established markets such as North America and Europe, about newly emerging sources of supply and about future innovations in varietal breeding and supply chain logistics.
Marco Luraschi, researcher and advisor at Rabobank Chile, opened the conference by underlining the strong propspects for marketers in emerging markets like Russia and China, which he suggested will see major growth in demand for fresh berries during the coming decade as spending power increases and consumer preferences shift.
"Developing countries are growing their demand strongly, and the fastest-growing of these markets are Russia and China," he said. However, he said. as the global market for fresh berries continued its recent impressive growth, the trade itself would face various challenges including increasing costs and a need for greater mechanisation and innovation.
While emerging markets have stirred a great deal of excitement particularly among Latin American berry exporters, some of those speaking at Global Berry Congress 2013 were ken to remind delegates that growth might also be achieved in the established markets of North America and Europe.
Robert Verloop of US sales and marketing group Naturipe Farms commented: "There are still some great opportunities to build ranges and grow the category in North America, especially working with foodservice operators."
With fresh berry sales topping US$5bn in the US alone last year – up 12 per cent on the year – Verloop insisted there was still a lot of growth available and said opportunities were endless in the US and elsewhere.
"The industry needs to create demand," he added. "Coca-Cola's aim is to be 'within arm's reach of desire', so is the berry industry there? We are far from that. We are barely getting consumers to reach for berries on a regular basis."
Breaking new ground
This year's event marked the first time that the Global Berry Congress – now in its fifth year – ventured beyond Europe and North America, taking place in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time.
Despite its remote location, the meeting proved popular with leading players in the berry sector from far and wide, with delegates from Latin America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia in attendance.
Several of the world's major retailers and importer-distributors also took part in the congress, including Tesco, Loblaw, Cencosud, Benassi, Bama, Naturipe, Driscoll's, VitalBerry, Berry Gardens, CPM Retail and Angus Soft Fruits.
Further reading on this year's Global Berry Congress:
Speaker presentations from this year's Global Berry Congress are available to download from the official event website at www.berrycongress.com