Fueling Blueberry Demand and Consumption: USHBC’s 2021-25 Strategic Plan

New Five-Year Plan Sets the Course to Make Blueberries the World’s Favorite Fruit

CREDIT: Kasey Cronquist

President, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and North American Blueberry Council


As president of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC), it was a pleasure to present our organization’s strategic plan for 2021-2025 at the 2021 Fall Meeting. It’s truly amazing to work with people across the industry and see how quickly blueberries have been elevated from the rest of the berry patch. Blueberries are now a beloved treat and a worldwide symbol of wellness – and together, we can keep the momentum going. Give those boosts of blue, if you will. 


USHBC was established in 2000 as an official research and promotion program overseen by USDA’s AMS division. It is governed by a 20-member board that periodically adopts strategic plans to guide short and long-term budget and program decisions. In the last 20 years, USHBC has driven demand for blueberries through comprehensive consumer promotional efforts and programming in retail, foodservice, export and food manufacturing. The impact has been significant. 


In 2019, for example, 49% of U.S. households purchased blueberries — a 25% increase in annual household penetration over the previous six years. Blueberries are now on one in four menus, with 93% more restaurants offering blueberries than in 2005. And 76% of food manufacturer respondents reported using blueberries in their company’s manufactured products — higher than any other berry. We’ve accomplished a great deal, and we’re excited about what’s next.


Currently, USHBC  collects approximately $10M in assessment dollars from growers and importers of record annually, and the 2021-2025 strategic plan addresses how we will invest that funding to fuel continued growth of blueberry demand and consumption. You can read the strategic plan on ushbc.blueberry.org, but I do want to highlight our refreshed vision and mission here.


Our mission clarifies USHBC’s reason for existing: To grow consumer demand for blueberries by uniting industry stakeholders through research, promotions and resources that strengthen their ability to compete in the global marketplace.


Our vision represents the aspirational change that will result from our work: USHBC empowers the industry to make blueberries the world’s favorite fruit.


That really is the crux of everything we do, and the rest of the strategic plan is dedicated to how we’re going to get there. It updates several key sections, including a shift from four strategic pillars to five: integrated marketing communications; health and nutrition; industry services; global business development; and innovation and technology. The plan also includes expanded, measurable programmatic goals for each pillar as well as strategies and tactics to support the achievement of these goals.

The strategic plan is the result of an eight-month planning process executed with the help of Rockland Dutton Research & Consulting, which has similar experience working with the National Mango Board, World Bank, Beef Checkoff, Hass Avocado Board and more. It was the most comprehensive planning process in USHBC’s history. We sought significant internal and external input, conducting approximately 50 interviews of Board members and industry leaders, surveying 193 industry stakeholders, consulting with our entire staff and all partner agencies, ensuring all efforts were informed by the people at the heart of the blueberry industry.


Ultimately, the strategic plan charts our future. It implements a unifying strategy to ensure we continue our rapid growth — which is crucial, as USHBC is the only organization completely focused on growing the volume of blueberries sold in the U.S. and around the world. The strategic plan outlines how we’re going to grow the size of the category through continued investments in consumer marketing, health-benefit research, public relations, access to new global export markets and the cultivation of year-round supply.


And, importantly, the strategic plan reinforces our commitment to centering you, the growers, in everything we do. Together, we can achieve our goals and support continued growth in blueberry demand and consumption, making a boost of blue a must-have on shopping lists around the world.

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