New market opportunities might soon be available to BC raspberry growers, according to a market development assessment conducted by Abbotsford Growers Co-operative with support from IAF.

BC is the largest producer of raspberries in Canada, with 4,200 acres growing 26.5 million pounds of berries. However, only three percent of raspberries are sold fresh, with the vast majority being processed into a variety of products, as well as retail and wholesale packs.

Abbotsford Growers Co-operative is owned by 127 grower members and processes raspberries from more than 2,500 acres of farmland. The co-op owns the only aseptic processing facility in western Canada.

Aseptic processing is a high-temperature sterile process similar to that used to package wine into ‘bags in a box’ and milk into ultra-high temperature packages. For health-conscious consumers, aseptic processing provides a preservative-free product with a fresh taste.

However, there is currently little awareness among buyers about this form of processing, as it is relatively new technology in Canada. A desire to increase market awareness motivated the co-op to undertake a market assessment and develop a set of recommendations to make aseptic processed raspberries more marketable to potential buyers.

After surveying 183 retail buyers, commercial end-users and other industry members, the co-op identified several opportunities in domestic fruit smoothie and energy bar markets. However, the biggest potential likely lies in export markets.

While the majority of Canadian infrastructure is geared towards cold storage, US and Asian buyers are interested in this shelf-stable product.

“We are enthusiastic about some of the new opportunities identified in Canada that could grow in the long run, but the study also found that export opportunities will be very important for future growth, so we will be pursuing that as well,” said Stephen Evans, general manager of Abbotsford Growers.

Although the results indicate that tapping domestic markets might be challenging, Evans remarked that the study provided valuable information on potential barriers and helped the co-op focus their future marketing efforts.

Funding: $18,075 provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program. (A0605)