This year's Global Berry Congress, held in Rotterdam on Tuesday, November 15, was a valuable opportunity for industry insiders from all berry sectors to reconnect and find out what is really happening in this exciting product category.
Berries appear to have all the makings of continued strong demand in many of the world's consumer markets over the next year and beyond. The emergence of new varieties has already kicked off a major round of genetic improvement that promises to satisfy more consumers and generate even better commercial yields as a result.
The health benefits of consuming these fantastic fruits are also becoming increasingly apparent to people around the world. And many retailers know how reliable this category has become. As a result, they have devoted more shelf space not only to strawberries and blueberries, but also to a growing volume of other products, including raspberries, blackberries and even more niche lines.
Add to this an impressive amount of technological innovation-in the form of data-driven procurement or robotic harvesting, to name just two examples-the category seems well equipped for further expansion.
BERRY CONGRESS ON SUSTAINABILITY AND THE GLOBAL CRISIS
But there are also some major challenges ahead, not least those associated with the global economic crisis. Suppliers of berries will undoubtedly find that they are far from immune from pressures in the form of cost inflation throughout the supply chain and depression of the spending capacity of the market itself.
With an impressive lineup of speakers ready to share their thoughts and expertise, the Nov. 15 Global Berry Congress offered an opportunity to consider all these trends and innovations in more detail.
Buyers and suppliers from around the world attended the fair's first physical meeting in more than three years. Participants included retailers Aldi, Lidl, Delhaize, ICA and M&S, as well as big names such as Driscoll's, BerryWorld, Fall Creek, Hortifrut, Dole/Total Produce, Special Fruit, SanLucar and Agrovision.
The event, which featured conference sessions on three stages at the heart of a vibrant exhibition and networking area, brought together more than 350 people from 28 countries to discuss the latest key trends in the fresh berry category and to hear about innovations that will change business in the years to come.
This year's agenda focused particularly on the challenges facing berry companies and their customers. Cindy van Rijswick of Rabobank spoke about short-term supply-side challenges, mainly related to cost inflation in areas such as transportation and fertilizer, as well as reduced availability of labor and water.
However, he also reassured those present by emphasizing the healthy long-term demand forecast and continued growth in several market sectors.
His talk was followed by an in-depth discussion on the future direction of the berry category with Jonathan Lock of British retailer Marks & Spencer, Lisette Holmberg of Swedish chain ICA, and Jose Gandia, president of leading European supplier Royal.
Throughout the day, delegates attended lectures on ethical and sustainable sourcing, the crisis in Ukraine, renewable energy sources, emerging sources and markets, branding, new varieties, genetic editing, robotics, and a whole range of other advanced technological solutions.
Organized by Fruitnet, the Global Berry Congress is the essential annual event for tracking trends and innovations in the fresh berry industry. Buyers, suppliers and other key industry players meet in person to discuss the future of the category.
Fruitnet is part of the NCX Media network.