Executive Director’s Letter: The United Blueberry Taskforce: Adopting a Collaborative Approach to Industry Growth

As a Florida blueberry grower, I have experienced first-hand the pressures of global competition on my business. As consumer demand for blueberries has grown, domestic and global production has also greatly expanded to meet the needs of what has become a year-round market here in the United States. My desire to address the many challenges our family business faces in this global marketplace is what drove me to participate as a member of the United Blueberry Task Force (UBTF).

The UBTF is a recently formed group of domestic and global growers and marketers dedicated to supporting the future success of U.S. blueberry growers and the industry as a whole, both in the immediate future and for years to come. I am honored to participate in the UBTF as a representative voice for U.S. growers and to be able to share an update on our progress.

As background, our own Floridian Ken Patterson, chair of the North American Blueberry Council (NABC), established the UBTF in March of this year. With industry leaders from every major domestic and international blueberry growing region, the UBTF is well-positioned to facilitate cross-industry input to proactive strategies for sourcing and allocating industry funds and resources that avoid issues and effectively leverage growth opportunities.

With the UBTF, the blueberry industry is setting a new benchmark for collaboration and cooperation in a global marketplace. It has been remarkable to see the effort come together. It’s also an important one, in the wake of the USTR 201 investigation. The UBTF gives us a forum to work together, moving beyond the past challenges and focusing on the future and working together to seize the opportunities to drive demand. 

The UBTF now is laying the foundation to build new programs that will expedite future demand and growth. We’re focusing on opportunities to grow blueberry demand and consumption across the grocery, foodservice, export and food ingredient channels. We’ve established several strategic priorities to guide our efforts.

  • More targeted promotions and marketing: Build more efficient and effective programs based on market segmentation that leverages blueberries’ taste, health, convenience and lifestyle benefits.

  • Improved data and insights: Create world-class industry databases on supply, demand, historical price and inventory to enable better decision making.

  • Industry advocacy: Raise the profile of the blueberry industry in Washington D.C., advocating for the resources, programs and opportunities to help drive competitiveness for our blueberry growers. 

In addition, the UBTF developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that guides cross-industry incremental funding to support activities driving demand for fresh and processed blueberries across multiple channels. The MOU increases the investment from imported fruit, by providing a framework for volunteering an additional $18/ton from those who import blueberries today. As a voluntary program through the NABC, the MOU has a prerequisite that a majority of imported production must be participating in the MOU for it to be executed. It also establishes a United Blueberry Advisory Council at the NABC for ensuring the program is performing. The MOU, guided by a collective of U.S. growers, U.S. marketers and importers, is an incremental effort. 

The work of the UBTF has come a long way since Ken announced its formation in March. At that time, I wasn’t sure how or if the vision of this task force to bring our industry back around the table would come together, but I’m proud to report that we’ve already made significant progress. I look forward to sharing more updates as we go from here. I’m more confident than ever that these dollars will help better develop solutions to solve some of our biggest challenges by driving category growth in blueberry demand and consumption, in the U.S. and across the globe. 

All of this is really dependent on the continuation of the USHBC, so please don’t forget to grab your ballot and cast your vote for the future success of our industry; vote yes for USHBC. 

Brittany Lee

Executive Director, Florida Blueberry Growers Association

United Blueberry Task Force Member, North American Blueberry Council

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