Strong Polish demand for blueberries despite inflation

With inflation hitting Europe, Sandra Stefaniak-Syguła, co-owner of Polish berry trader Berrytrade, expected demand for blueberries to drop, but consumers never gave up on the berries and sales at the company BerryTrade even increased year after year. year, explain.

“Despite the highest inflation in Poland since 1996, officially around 16 percent, berries seem to have a certain loyal customer base and are more resilient to a decline in consumption than we expected. Berrytrade's sales are constantly increasing, which can be attributed to our efforts to keep prices reasonable, as well as the introduction of new labels of our own design, which give each pack a special summer vibe."

Where most blueberry traders stop when the export season ends, during the off-season Berrytrade actually imports berries for the local market, Stefaniak-Syguła says: “We are an active supplier to a group of Polish supermarket chains during the so-called overseas season, which is between October and June in the case of Poland. However, during the summer months, between June and September, we became almost exclusively blueberry exporters to countries such as Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The biggest change for us in 2022 was probably starting full truckload exports of blueberries with Serbian and then Romanian fruits. In this way, Berrytrade extended its export season and became an important partner for the big players in Western Europe.

Although the Polish supermarket does not offer good prices, the volumes they have to buy for Polish consumers are huge and as such the local market is still an important business for Berrytrade, Stefaniak-Syguła states: “Despite price increases From global transportation costs, electricity, labor cost, fertilizer, packaging and everything else, berry prices seem to be really under a lot of pressure. This is because every supermarket chain is competing on a tough level. Not the best situation for berry growers and traders. Although the Polish market pays lower prices than the western or northern European markets, large berry growers from various parts of the world cannot ignore the purchasing power of almost 40 million inhabitants. In the meantime, we are working to enter other markets that are close to Poland, such as the Baltic states, as our location is perfect for effective deliveries to these countries. Our facility is situated right on the route from Western Europe to the Baltic States, but we are two days closer."

Thanks to EU funding, Berrytrade is able to update its grading line, but Stefaniak-Syguła believes that it is better to make these updates little by little, given the global financial situation. “Despite the aforementioned uncertainties, we constantly make investments of various kinds. We try to be quite cautious, to be sure that we will be able to finance these investments, but on the other hand we need to keep up with innovations to remain competitive. This year, we started purchasing some new vehicles for our fleet, which as always are decorated with Berrytrade graphic design to create awareness of our brand among customers. On top of that, we applied for EU funds to purchase a new weight-filling machine for our blueberry packing line. Before the economic crisis hit, we were thinking of ordering the entire line.

“We also invest in our people. Our mostly Ukrainian employees receive regular classes in Polish and English. We also train selected colleagues to become truckers. Keeping the same group of motivated and talented people in our business throughout the year is crucial to our success. With each month and each kilogram of berries sorted and packed at our facility, our collective competence in the berry industry grows. This is our great competitive advantage over companies that operate only a couple of months a year,” concludes Stefaniak-Syguła.

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