Retail practices for blueberries
Improved retail practices can lead to maintaining a high quality of blueberries and improve customer satisfaction. For the highest freshness on the shelf and to minimize waste, 'first-in first-out' management may be the best strategy. However, quality inspections may lead to other decisions. The staff must be well trained in handling the different types of fresh produce. They must realize that fresh products are very susceptible to handling damage and to unfavourable conditions such as improper temperature and relative humidity.
Retailers play an important role in maintaining quality
Blueberries are a type of berries that grow on bushes. The four main commercial varieties are Lowbush, Northern highbush, Southern highbush, and Rabbiteye. Since 2010, many new blueberry plantations have emerged. With production in several countries around the world, blueberries have become available year-round. Due to the short shelf-life and perishability of blueberries, the supply chain requires excellent logistics including the retail. Blueberry popularity is still growing due to its marketing as a super food. Taste and quality are determining factors for repeated purchasing. As part of the blueberry supply chain, retailers play an important role in offering a good quality to the consumers.
Attention points in the store
Blueberries must meet quality standards to be allowed on the market. Photo by Fotoluminate LLC/Shutterstock.com
Quality standardsTo be allowed on the market, blueberries have to meet specific requirements. The production must comply with legislation to avoid health and environmental risks. In addition, blueberries have to meet certain standards to obey regulations regarding a minimum fruit quality, packaging and labelling. Among the minimum requirements that blueberries have to fulfil are being intact, fresh in appearance and free from rotting. Additional requirements apply to Class Extra, Class I and Class II.
Blueberry plantation. Photo by Raota/Shutterstock.com
VarietiesThere are four main commercial varieties, each of which has many cultivars. For each variety, there are early, mid and late season berries. Berries from Lowbush are smaller and intense in flavour. The Northern highbush and Rabbiteye are the most popular types on the retail shelves. The Rabbiteye are mostly grown in the Southern hemisphere, and the Northern highbush in the Northern hemisphere.
Blueberry firmness can be tested using a penetrometer. Photo by WUR
Quality inspectionDisorders may have occurred during previous parts of the supply chain. Hence a quality inspection upon receipt is important to ascertain good product quality on the display shelves. Improper post-harvest handling can result in mechanical damage, while wrong temperature and time management can lead to fungal decay. Parameters such as colour (deep purple/blue), diameter, soluble sugar content (8-18° Brix), acidity and firmness are taken into account during quality inspections.
Supermarket display. Photo by WUR
Display conditionsBlueberries are generally displayed on shelves in a macro-perforated packaging that reduces water loss. Blueberries are best displayed on refrigerated shelves. But they are also displayed at ambient temperature. In this case, during non-business hours, products can be taken from the shelf and placed in a refrigerated room above the indicated minimum temperature. A proper display, clean and orderly, contributes to maintaining the quality of blueberries. Packages containing fruits with signs of dehydration, decay or mould should be discarded. Moreover, regular quality inspections are needed particularly in periods with lower product turnover.
Rotten and damaged blueberries should be removed. Photo by WUR
Handling and qualityBlueberries are very fragile and must be handled carefully to avoid damage. The packages with blueberries should not be dropped or thrown. In addition to cosmetic damage on the exterior of the blueberries, internal bruising and breakdown can occur as well. To prevent disappointed customers, remove packages with rotten and unattractive fruits from the display.
Did you know?
AnthocyaninThe molecule giving the deep purple colour to the blueberry is anthocyanin.