Monday, February 27, 2017

The Wall of Blueberries Revisited

It is amazing to see the "walls of berries" in high end grocery stores in Dubai!   Although many of the customers are expat workers from Europe -- the locals also shop here!  Welcome to Choithram's a major chain in the region.  You will see the same type of cases in most other store chains including Spinneys and Giant. Blueberries are now carried by most middle rang stores too.






Sunday, February 26, 2017

Gulfoods 2017 - Meeting Old Friends and Making New


Gulfoods is the largest food industry exposition in the region.  When we say region, this includes all of the countries around Dubai including Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and even Iran.  Many of the visitors are from India which is close and dominant in trade with the region.    Some of our best new blueberry friends stopped in to visit and are very proud of their blueberry products!

No visit to Guylfood would be complete without a visit from Gunjan Jain of VK nuts.  Gunjan is a fourth generation dried fruit and nut grower, processor and seller from Jammu Kashmire.  He was an early importer of dried fruits and proudly displays his new Diwali Pack for the wonderful Indian holiday. 


Here is the crew from Green Tea, one of the other major Indian packs which are sold throughout India and now in the Gulf.  They have continually evolved their pack and are now becoming major players in South India.


Here is a wonderful bakery filling produced in India and marketed around the Gulf.  Malas received blueberry samples and technical assistance from USHBC to develop this product and it is selling well.  Malas has a booth at the Gulfoods in the India pavilion and generated a lot of interest!



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dubai - United Arab Emirates is Blueberry Country!

Our directive from the blueberry industry has been to seek out new, long-term markets for highbush blueberries.   Ten years ago, we made our first mission to the Middle East, starting with Dubai which is one of the United Arab Emirates.   I spent a week in Dubai as well as Abu Dhabi and Sharjah which are also part of the UAE.  It was depressing, I walked the public markets, local stores and upscale stores and only could find a few bottles of jam.   At the show, we spent most time explaining what a blueberry was.  

Leap forward to February 25, 2017

Fresh blueberries 365 days a year.  Note this is at a local supermarket and the customers are Middle Eastern and Indian and not Western Expats.





Dried Blueberries.   Dried fruit is part of Middle Eastern culture and consumers will pay the price for the finest product.  Below is a consumer pack of dried, non-sugar infused blueberries and a bulk bin in the produce section of the market.   In this part of the world, consumers like to buy fruits in the bazaar or "souk" which is the tradition.



Frozen.  I never thought I would see polybag blueberries in Dubai.   Young consumers are now making their own smoothies at home.



Food Products with Blueberries.  The Middle East is an import-oriented food society -- yet there is a booming food industry as well.   Regional companies are producing dairy, baking and snacks for the region as well as Africa and Central Asia.    More and More blueberries are showing up in yogurts, ice creams and snacks.    Blueberry-Containing products from Europe abound and lead to local development.


Locally-produced cheese cake. 






Thursday, February 23, 2017

Blueberries for Fighting Chickens!

I am often asked -- what is the strangest thing I have seen on the road? That is a tough one as something weird happens just about every time I land somewhere -- sometimes with minutes of arrival.

The major feed mills of the country all feature extensive
lines of fighting cock feeds and supplements.

Well -- here is another.

Recently, a food importer in Manila asked me about blueberries for fighting chickens.  Cock fighting is a tradition in the Philippines and you will find a ring in just about every small town and village.   Major competitions are held in sports arenas and the cocks out draw even the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and Pinoy Wrestling.  Billions and billions of Pesos are bet on these bouts.  (legal in the Philippines and much of Southeast Asia)

Next day at the trade fair I fielded questions again and again from visitors looking for blueberry fiber and powder for "slasher" diets!

What's up -- the fighting cock business -- is an ultra competitive sport.   It involves training birds from the start, conditioning, practice and diet.   Any little edge from diet could mean a big prize for the owner.  

I checked up some of the social networks for cock fighters and there is the answer.    Discussion groups tout various diets and -- there it is -- blueberries!



Right now the feed companies are investigating addition of blueberries to fighting cock feeds.  Look at the pack above -- they are looking for stamina, sharpness and quick and fast strength.  We do not have research indicating documented results of blueberries in these areas. 

But -- several cock owners offered me cash for my sample bags of blueberry powder and fiber on the spot.

Who knows -- maybe there is something to it.   





Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Balikbayan Imports

Question:  When is an import not an import?  Answer: When it is a returning cargo!  Welcome to the world of the Balikbayan trade.  


Look what Uncle Enrico sent us from America!



Balikbayan literally means Returning Filipino.   With millions of Filipinos living and working outside of the country the diaspora is a major power -- especially the huge amount of overseas remittances sent back from abroad.

The Balikbayan system is designed to reward returning "Pinoy" by allowing them duty free allowances for goods coming back from abroad.  If you have ever boarded a homebound Philippine Airlines flight you remember the towers of "Balikbayan Boxes" on their way home.    These goods can arrive unchecked and are not duties by customs.   This does not mean that they are not scanned for illegal substances -- and that is another story.  

Initially the Balikbayan system was designed to cover personal goods for workers on the return home.   It has evolved into a major import system for all sorts of goods -- especially foodstuffs.  And, yes even blueberries.   Filipinos love sweet foods and the dried blueberry has become a prestige item and a prime "Balikbayan good."  The system has evolved into an elaborate parallel freight channel for larger goods with huge Balikbayan boxes used to transport goods by sea.   Specialized Balikbayan express companies will move just about any cargo into the country and fast,

What does this mean for blueberries.   First of all a good amount of the blueberries entering the Philippines are not picked up in government statistics on the Philippine side.   In fact the current statistics are about a year old.   Here is a look at the current statistics from US Customs.
Note the fresh imports!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bakery Expo - Chennai (South India)

USHBC exhibited at the India Bakery Expo, held in Chennai  (Formerly Madras) February 17-19, 2017.  The economy of South India is strong and cities such as Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore are home to the icons of high technology.  


USHBC booth was shared with local blueberry product processors such as fillings and dried blueberries.   This gave us the opportunity to link bakeries immediately with blueberries.   Full container load customers are routed back the USA for supply.



Here are some action shots from the show!

The most colorful booth at the exhibition.











Saturday, February 18, 2017

Filipino Products Containing Blueberries

I visited the SM (Shoe Mark) Mall in Pasay Metro Manila in search of blueberry.  A lot of good signs!



This is a mid level store.  


Jam made in the Philippines.  Filipinos love it sweet!


Muffins are a new concept with potential to grow.


Blueberries sell as seen with this waffle.


Nice to see the largest baking company in the region on the blueberry bandwagon.  Note the halal certification.  The Philippines has a substantial Muslim population in the South.


Here is a blueberry-strawberry bread from Gardenia. 


Fruit juice -- especially pineapple -- is big in the Philippines and here is a combo with blueberry. 


Here is an example of regionalization.  Thai dairy -- Dutch Mill is markets this blueberry milk all over the Southeast Asia.


Baby formula is a huge category in the supermarket.  Like all over Asia -- nothing is too good for baby and imported products are preferred including this berry blend.


Filipinos associate blueberries with cheesecake!  Magnolia is the leading local dairy and they use blueberry images in their packaging.


Wondering if berries can be produced in the tropical islands.  Here are strawberries from Bagio, a higher elevation region of Northern Luzon.  






















Friday, February 17, 2017

Philippine Bakrey Fair Part - Day 2






Blueberries are a hit at the Bakers Fair!



Here is a local baker who just loves blueberries and helped draw colleagues to the booth. 



Continual stream of visitors.  Want to know where they can buy locally.  We have made important contacts with local suppliers who can help supply the demand.