Hortifrut gains McDonald's blueberry deal
Chile-based company Hortifrut has reached a deal to supply blueberries to 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in North America through Naturipe Farms.
A Hortifrut release said the deal was made possible through its innovative 'Ready to Eat' technology, which allows it to supply fresh blueberries to food service chains.
The release highlighted the sector represents half of U.S. fruit and vegetable spending, but only 2% of blueberry production has gone to food service due to constraints in keeping the fruit fresh.
"This development seeks to expand the existing trade channels and make blueberries more accessible to more food service and snack segments in North America and the world," said Hortifrut general manager Nicolás Moller.
The company has invested around US$20 million into the 'Ready to Eat' technology and genetic innovations. The technology is expected to be implemented in Chile in November this year with a US$5 million processing plant, while a U.S. East Coast plant could be on the cards in the future.
Naturipe vice president of sales Jim Roberts told www.freshfruitportal.com it was important the industry could tap into the dollars spent by U.S. consumers in food service.
"I think there’s a limit to what U.S. retail can do so that means we have to open up additional channels," he said.
"So we have come up with a new technology, the berry quick snack, and that we believe is going to allow us to reach school systems and restaurants that we haven't been able to reach in the past. It's an extended shelf life product that’s also washed and ready to use."
Roberts thinks the product has the potential to take off at a faster rate than might be expected, with an upbeat forecast on the impact berries could make in the sector.
"I don’t expect blueberries would get to that vegetable area where 50% of production that goes to food service, but I think it’s realistic to think 20%-25% of blueberry volume could go to food service - that's not going to happen in a year or two, but it’s not unfathomable to see that happen in the next three years.
"The exponential quantity of sales to consumers could turn into millions of pounds of blueberries, so while they may only be serving 1-2oz of blueberries per consumer, when they have millions of customers coming through their restaurants a week, that turns into millions of pounds per year."