The total berry sector has overtaken bananas as the largest value category in Australian supermarkets.
Berry growers are rejoicing, and at the BerryQuest conference, held in Launceston this week, there was plenty of discussion around export agreements, marketing strategies, seasonal workers and growing techniques.
Luke Osborne from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said that 97% of fruit consumed in Australia is produced in Australia. He also confirmed that blueberries were next on the list of fresh produce trade deals with China.
So, with carefully planned new plantings, and an export strategy in place, the berry sector could find an opportunity to capture a portion of the global market.
Executive director of Fresh Produce Group, Anthony Poiner, mentioned that demand for blueberries in China is growing by 20 per cent per annum, compared with the Chinese blueberry industry which is only growing at 12 per cent.
He added that Chile is currently “winning” because of their ability to fill a gap in supply, but Chinese consumers are willing to pay for Australia’s healthy, clean image.
Elisa King of Hort Innovation was on hand to discuss the benefits of category promotion over individual branding, bringing examples of success from the mango sector.
King’s presentation was followed by a hot debate between marketers, growers and a supermarket representative who was in the crowd.
“Quality is what we build our reputation on and that’s why people keep coming back. We know what people are after and quality is it. We know there’s a surplus supply in September October and that’s when we can tell, because other brands will suffer,” said Mountain Blue’s marketing manager, Josh McGuinness.
“If you all lift your standards then you can increase repeat purchases. Not all your consumers will differentiate the brands,” King replied.
The conference was a key opportunity for growers, distributors, exporters and marketers to come together and discuss comprehensive end to end strategies.
Read more in the Autumn edition of Produce Plus magazine.