U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council's Victoria De Bruin Discusses 2019 Goals and Iniatives
FOLSOM, CA - Blueberries are a summertime staple—but couldn’t they be more? I had the chance to speak with Victoria De Bruin, Marketing Manager of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) to learn more about the association’s goals and initiatives for 2019, and how it's helping blueberries get into every shopping cart year round.
De Bruin comes to this position from a unique place. She previously worked as Executive Director of the California Association of Collectors; Marketing Director for UC Davis and the California Department of Public Health; and a Marketing Director for the California Grocers Association. Her most recent position was as Branding Director for Farm Fresh To You, Full Circle, and Capay Organic Farms, where she oversaw brand development, expansion into new markets, consumer research, and public relations.
“USHBC supports its members—blueberry growers, marketers, and packers—through global promotions, health research, consumer insights, and market research to increase consumption for all forms of blueberries,” Victoria tells me. “Our efforts are geared toward driving demand across our primary audience of consumers, foodservice and health professionals, and food manufacturers.”
With consumers being a core focus of USHBC’s program, the council has a few tricks up its sleeve on how to drive demand for blueberries all year long:
- Targeted advertising that reaches consumers at key moments in their day
- Influencers, like Tia Mowry-Hardict, who offer lifestyle and recipe inspiration to millions of followers online
- Advertorial and earned media placements that highlight consumer demand and the versatility of blueberries to foodservice professionals in order to stimulate more blueberry items on menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert
- Advertorials, earned media, messaging, technical assistance, and recipes for food manufacturers that inspire the use of real blueberries—not artificial ingredients—in new products
- Scientific research that promoters the health benefits of blueberries
- New recipe development for USHBC’s website that readily brings consumers what they’re searching for online
“At the end of the day, our goal is to further strengthen our relationship with consumers, ensuring blueberries are front of mind and top of shopping list,” Victoria shares.
In addition to driving fresh blueberry demand all year, I ask Victoria what other insights she has on the category, and what trends have driven the association’s activities. The health benefits of blueberries, she explains, will be a key component in USHCB’s messaging.
“We’re continually funding new research to show how blueberries can have positive impacts on the health of consumers,” Victoria says. “There’s more to come in 2019 that will further show consumers how blueberries contribute positively to health in the areas of cardiovascular, brain, insulin response, cancer, and gut health.”
The council is also working to ensure that blueberries are seen as more than just a summertime fruit, educating consumers on the versatility of the fruit in both frozen and fresh form.
In line with its health-forward messing, the council’s Highbush Blueberry Farm to School Playbook teaches children healthy habits. The playbook is packed with nutrition facts, recipe inspo, activities for engaging students, and information for how schools can mazimize their Farm to School programs.
“Lastly, we are opening up new international markets for blueberries and increasing demand overseas,” Victoria concludes. “Recently, USHBC worked with the North American Blueberry Council to gain access for U.S. fresh, frozen, and dried blueberries in Myanmar and Vietnam. Continuing to be a global player, we launched a new export database this year that has complete international market data, including information on trade agreements and regulations, consumer preferences, exchange rate trends, and more.”
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