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Blueberries on top in new survey

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By MITCH LIES

For the Capital Press

Blueberries have passed strawberries as the favorite berry in a new poll, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

Move over strawberries. Blueberries are now America’s favorite berry.

The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council recently announced the results of a survey that shows consumers rank blueberries ahead of strawberries as their favorite berry.

Strawberries had reigned supreme since the council first commissioned the consumer attitude survey in 2004. It commissioned a second survey in 2008.

In the 2013 survey, the council’s third, 36 percent of respondents identified blueberries as their favorite fresh berry. Twenty-nine percent gave the nod to strawberries.

Conversely, 47 percent ranked strawberries as their No. 1 berry in 2008, while just 21 percent gave the nod to blueberries.

“That’s a nice move,” said Mark Villata, executive director of the USHBC, based in Folsom, Calif. “It shows that blueberries are really coming on strong as a berry that folks are interested in.”

The survey showed consumers like both the taste of blueberries, as 81 percent said that was what they liked about the berry, and the fact the blueberries are good for you, as 84 percent of respondents said they were aware of the health benefits of blueberries.

In 2004, just 39 percent said they were aware of the berry’s health benefits.

“The whole health halo that has surrounded blueberries has really been a godsend to the industry,” Villata said. “It has really helped move the product.”

The survey also showed that berries are increasing in popularity among young people and minority groups.

Also, 68 percent of respondents said they had purchased blueberries within the past month, compared to just 38 percent in 2008.

“This is a good report card for us,” Villata said.

Villata said the independent research firm hired to conduct the survey contacted 3,765 households nationwide by phone calls and through the Internet.

The council uses information from the survey to help direct its market promotion activities, Villata said.

“It helps us to see where we need to go, what areas we need to address, where we need to ramp up, and, in some case, to just kind of track how well our programs are doing,” he said.

The USDA recently approved a one-third increase in the assessment growers pay the council, bumping it from $12 a ton to $18 a ton.

The increased revenue, Villata said, “is going to help us keep ahead of this new wave of record production. We have to keep demand ahead of supply. These dollars will help us do that.”



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