By Mark Villata, Executive Director For The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
Demand for blueberries is growing by leaps and bounds. Americans are nearly twice as likely as they were nine years ago to buy blueberries this year. The number of households saying they purchased blueberries within the past month (69 percent) has nearly doubled since 2008.
Today’s blueberry consumers are also trending younger and more diverse; they are more likely to be 35- to 44-year-olds (often parents with kids at home) and minorities. When one considers this shift in buyer demographics and the fact that 57 percent of consumers have seen news stories about the healthfulness of blueberries, it’s evident that the industry’s investment in communicating the role blueberries play in a healthy lifestyle is paying off. With the Mom market representing $2.7 trillion in annual spending in the U.S. and the Hispanic market expected to hit $1.5 trillion in buying power by 2015, connecting with this next wave of purchasers will continue to be a key strategy in driving demand.
A Fit For Modern Lifestyles
As consumers place greater emphasis on finding healthy, flavorful options that are also convenient, blueberries rise to the top of ideal options. Marketers looking to move product quickly off shelves should continue to position blueberries as a good fit for modern lifestyles.
When asked what they like best about blueberries, consumers cite a variety of attributes including health (84 percent), taste (81 percent), convenience (61 percent) and versatility (44 percent) — evidence that they view blueberries as a simple yet beneficial addition to their diet.
The majority of consumers (84 percent) choose fresh blueberries over other forms, preferring to eat them “out-of-hand” as a snack (60 percent), over yogurt (54 percent), in smoothies (49 percent) or over cereal (48 percent) — all ideal options for busy families or individuals.
The favorite way to use frozen blueberries is in smoothies. Forty-nine percent of the general population and 54 percent of women between the ages of 25 to 44 say they like to use frozen blueberries in smoothies, which have become a popular source of fuel for the health-conscious and time-pressed.
The Blueberry Effect
With 99 percent of consumers believing blueberries to be a healthy food and 68 percent stating awareness of specific health benefits (a 115 percent increase over 2004), there are no doubts that consumers associate blueberries with a healthy lifestyle. This is good news for marketers because awareness of the fruit’s nutritional benefits is closely tied to the propensity to purchase.
When consumers see blueberry items on menus, 58 percent perceive the specific dish as being healthier, 24 percent perceive the restaurant as offering healthy fare, and nearly 20 percent say they order that specific dish.
Make Use Of The Web
As they seek to enhance their own bottom line, blueberry marketers have much to gain from web-based communications.
Nearly 60 percent of consumers say they are very likely to purchase blueberries based on information they’ve seen on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. To draw more consumers into the store, retailers should consider promoting special blueberry offers through these channels.
As more people are made aware of the many ways blueberries fit in a healthy, dynamic lifestyle, demand for this small package with big benefits will continue to grow. Marketers and merchandisers with an eye on the bottom line should take a closer look at the great potential of this little fruit. To view an executive summary of the research, visit blueberrycouncil.org/blueberry-marketers.
Methodological notes: The research was conducted by Hebert Research, Bellevue, WA, on behalf of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council in May 2013 among 3,765 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and over. Data was collected via a combination of online, mobile and telephone surveys. Respondents were categorized into a general population group of 1,797 primary shoppers and an oversample of 1,968 women ages 25 to 44 who also identify themselves as primary shoppers. The general population group was used as the baseline for all comparisons with 2004 and 2008 data. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. In this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 2 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample. The margin of error for any subgroups will be slightly higher.