U.S. CONSUMERS prefer Florida blueberries above all others, and a new online survey conducted by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education (PIE) in Agriculture and Natural Resources proves it. The study, funded by a Specialty Crop Block Grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, surveyed consumers in 31 U.S. states about their preference for buying blueberries in the grocery store. The survey showed that consumers preferred blueberries from Florida over berries from any other top 10 blueberry-producing state. However, the valuable information from the survey doesn’t end there.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF FLORIDA’S WINDOW
We all know that Florida blueberries are not only special for their quality and taste, but also for their unique harvest window during March and April where they are the only domestic blueberries available on grocery store shelves. While PIE’s survey showed that U.S. consumers prefer Florida blueberries over all others, it also showed that those in the Florida blueberry industry have a way yet to go in marketing Florida blueberries to their fullest potential.
Though consumers preferred blueberries from Florida, they were unable to identify a few key traits about Florida’s distinct blueberry crop. For instance, few of the respondents were able to correctly identify the months of Florida’s blueberry season. The percentage of respondents who knew that Florida blueberries were available in both March and April was— surprisingly— in the single digits.
The study also showed issues that could be addressed through marketing, advertising, and packaging. For instance, not all consumers reported looking specifically for Florida blueberries when at the grocery store or having familiarity with the many health benefits of blueberries. These issues can be addressed with marketing and advertising campaigns that educate consumers about the health advantages of Florida blueberries, and that explain the nature of Florida’s early blueberry season.
With adequate labeling of early-season Florida berries and a marketing campaign that extols the virtues of our berries, Florida blueberries will indeed be recognized as the best in the country.
column by NELSON KIRKLAND, Publisher of The Blueberry News