22 Feb 2021

OPPY'S STRATEGIES BETWEEN BLUEBERRIES SUSTAINABLE AND HASKAP

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berries continues to be one of the most successful and fastest growing categories in the fresh produce aisles of supermarkets in the US, and suppliers are meeting demand with new varieties (such as haskap or blueberry Siberian) and new ways of marketing and even growing traditional varieties.

In 2020, Oppy, based in Vancouver, B.C., added Fair Trade certified Peruvianblueberries , packaged under the Ocean Spray label, to its berry assortment. Jason Fung, vice-president of categories, berries and greenhouse at Oppy, said the reception to the new agreement has been "incredible."

Image result for oppy fair trade blueberries

"It shows the true potential of sustainably grown and socially responsible produce," said Fung. "Last year we had more sales of blueberries Fair Trade than ever before, generating surpluses that help farm worker communities by funding many essential projects and services."

Oppy expects the programme's momentum to continue to grow in 2021, with plans to expand in the near future.

Oppy continues to be a leader in Fair Trade certified products in its various categories, including table grapes, and the company is currently exploring other products as well. "We have been a Fair Trade partner since 2004 and have generated more than $4.4 million in rewards since 2013 alone, and each year our Fair Trade sales increase as consumers increasingly look for products that have a positive environmental and social impact," Fung said.

Another berry that Oppy began shipping in 2020, the Haskap (blueberry Siberian), has seen similarly positive results, Fung said.

"Oppy has seen an incredibly overwhelming response from the industry, other growers, the trade press and retailers," he said. "The interest Haskap berries have received has really been above expectations. Especially for a niche product, the response has been very open and receptive, with everyone wanting to know more about this unique and fun berry."

Fung said it is probably a combination of novelty and flavor that has generated so much interest in Haskap in the industry. With a sweet and very aromatic taste, Haskap berries have a flavor profile that combines elements of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, he said. Haskap berries are also particularly suitable as snacks for children because of their size and flavor, which offers an aftertaste reminiscent of candy. Fung said he expects higher volumes of Haskap in 2021.

Oppy's berry programme continues to expand across the company's main growing regions. Oppy is also focusing on varietal development with new products (such as Haskap), as well as introducing new opportunities to promote the berries to retail partners.

The company is also experimenting with various technologies - an effort led by Garland Perkins, Oppy's senior manager for insights and innovation - which Fung says have enormous potential to transform the category.

"There's a whole world ofprecision farming, for example, which focuses on trying to maximise outcomes and meticulously measure inputs, he said. "We're looking at different ways we can grow berries in every sense of the word, whether that means a better environmental footprint, or an increase in quantifiable metrics like quality, yield, as well as automation at various points in our supply chain."

Oppy expects berry volume to increase across the board, with more acres planned and more plants continuing to ripen. "We have more production capacity than we've ever had before, so we expect volume growth across our entire programme."

Consumer demand for berries at retail is robust and continues to grow every year, Fung said. Even during COVID-19, Oppy is seeing great demand in all its categories.

"The drivers are multifaceted and include more people eating at home as restrictions are reintroduced or extended in different geographies," he said. "We are also seeing shoppers making more frequent trips but with smaller trolleys, which helps consumption of highly perishable items such as berries."

The supply side is also driving growth in the category, especially as Oppy offers year-round availability for a number of products, he added. This means that buyers now have access to high quality berries at times of the year when they might not have been able to buy them previously, such as Peruvian berries during winter.

When it comes to retail merchandising , in-store positioning is crucial to generating high sales. When berries are displayed prominently, with large, prominent displays catching consumers' fleeting attention, sales increase, Fung said. Oppy also offers retailers a large number of POS and other marketing materials that can help them reap these benefits.

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"Coupled with larger packs, we can really help generate significant volume and consequently turnover from sales," said Fung. "It's definitely a winning combination if done at the right time of year."

Source: Supermarket Perimeter

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