FAQ & DESCRIPTIONS OF BLUEBERRY FORMATS AND USES


PROCESSED MEATS

Blueberries have been used in meat preservation for centuries back to the First Nation's times. A beef jerky called pemmican was often produced with a mash of blueberries which gave flavor and preservation properties.

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BLUEBERRY FIBER

This product is made from blueberry pomace which is the by product of making juices and purees. The wet pomace is dried and milled to specific dimensions. Pomace from pressed blueberries in the puree and concentrate process is further dried and milled into a powder that is used in all sorts of grain based foods and recently in pet products.

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FREEZING METHOD

What are the differences in blueberry freezing methods? For customers who need a free flowing blueberry -- the Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) process is desired. This is when individual fruit piece identity is desired. Next is the case frozen, where clean, washed and sorted blueberries are placed into cases then frozen. This is ok for many applications. After that is the straight pack which is packed into a case.

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DRIED BLUEBERRY COATING

Why are vegetable oils applied to dried blueberries. A small .25 percent coating of sunflower or other oils are applied to keep dried blueberries free flowing in packs. This is similar to other dried fruits.

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HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY PRODUCING STATES

We always say that there are blueberries commercially produced in 30 states nationwide and two provinces of Canada. In reality most is concentrated in a few states in the East Coast: (New Jersey, New York, Southeast: North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas; Midwest: (Michigan and Indiana); and the West: California, Oregon and Washington. For Canada the largest Province is British Columbia followed by Ontario.

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CONSUMER COMPLAINTS

What should be done when a consumer calls and complains about product. For fresh tell them to return the clamshell with receipt to the grocer where they were purchased. For frozen and polybag the same procedure, but a consumer can also call a toll free number if it is listed on the bag. We always say that there are blueberries commercially produced in 30 states nationwide and two provinces of Canada. In reality most is Concentrated in a few states in the East Coast: (New Jersey, New York, Southeast: North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas; Midwest: (Michigan and Indiana); and the West: California, Oregon and Washington. For Canada the largest Province is British Columbia followed by Ontario.

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JUICE STOCK

What is juice Stock? This is the raw material stream which comes from sort outs of blueberries on the fresh and processed packing lines. The product is placed into drums or totes and frozen. The product is sent to a juice processor, normally for blueberry juice concentrate.

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HARVEST SEASON

When are blueberries harvested in North America? The season starts in Florida in February and ends in October in the Pacific Northwest.   During the off season, the USA imports fresh blueberries from the Southern Hemisphere.  Now Mexico is also producing.

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MECHANICAL HARVESTING

How are blueberries harvested? Almost all blueberries for the fresh market are hand picked.   For the processed market (frozen) they are harvested with a number of different machines.  In general all of these harvesters are run down rows of blueberries and also over the top of rows.  The machine agitates the bush and blueberries fall onto a conveyor.  From here they are transported by a belt into plastic totes.  These totes are taken to packing houses.

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SHIPPING CONTAINERS

How many 30 lb cases can be loaded on a reefer container for export? Around 1750 cases can be loaded. 

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Puree Concentrate

This is a product made from whole frozen blueberries which is pureed and then concentrated. It works well in dairy products, ice creams and other products. The consistency can be adjusted.

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filling breakdown

What causes blueberry fillings to break down and turn liquid?This is a problem that surfaces every few years.  A naturally occurring yeast found in nature is sometimes found on berries that are harvested and frozen.  It is not a sanitation matter, it just happens and yeasts are everywhere.  This yeast will work to break down a filling.   We have never found a way to turn this around except some use potassium sorbate.  Best practice if encountered is to rotate your stocks of frozen blueberries so that they have been frozen for several months.   That tends to eliminate the yeast.  Another way is to utilize potassium sorbate up front to stop the yeast.  I will post more information on this topic later.

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standard of identity

Currently, there are no US Food and Drug Administration Standards of Identity for blueberry products. The only guides given in FDA guidelines may be information published in guidelines that blueberries should be identifiable in a blueberry baked good. USHBC encourages manufacturers to use adequate amounts of blueberries in a blueberry identified product so that the blueberries can be seen and tasted. I recommend that blueberries should be in the top 50 half of an ingredient statement.

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Blue Plastic case liners

We re often asked why the blue plastic liners in corrugated cases? Simple, if the plastic accidently tears or gets mixed with the fruit -- then the blue color will stand out for identification and removal.

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straight pack blueberries

This is a product format made where blueberries -- typically which are not of the quality needed for IQF or Case Frozen -- are placed in a container such as a case or tub and are frozen. It is sometimes referred to as "block frozen" or BQF. The preferred term from our industry is "Straight Pack." It is often used in jams, jelly or preserves and juices

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bilberries

This is the term used for the European wild blueberry or Vaccinium Myrtillus. It is grown in the wilds of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and the Balkan countries. Typically this product contains pigment on the inside and is often used in pigment extraction for nutraceutical applications.

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Microwave Dried

A new process developed by a company called Enwave is an alternative to freeze dry and targets specific applications where a manufacturer may want a low moisture blueberry with intact skins. Details on this process can be found at: http://www.enwave.net/

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Blueberry sizing

Highbush blueberries come from nature and like highbush blueberries in the wild they are all sorts of different sized berries. Some cultivars for the fresh industry are larger and some for the process business can be big and small. Blueberries are sized either by size of the berry in inches or centemeters and also by the number of berries in a lb. or kg. Typically if a product requires a specific size it is sized by berry in measurement and for users who want to know how many berries in a product then it is done by berries per lb. or kg. Talk to your blueberry packer and they can recommend the right size for your product.

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Korean Duty Structure for Blueberries

The wind down of duties on US blueberries as a result of the Korea-USA Free Trade Agreement is a bit complicated. I have listed the schedule below and it is posted on my blog at: http://blueberryfoodtech.blogspot.com/2015/07/usa-frozen-blueberries-to-korea-duty.html

USA - South Korea
Frozen blueberriesFTA KORUSHS 0811909000    
2015 12.8% - 2016   8.5% - 2017   4.2%  - 2018   0%
Adjusted March 15 of each year.  Note the USA-Korea Free Trade Agreement went into effect on March 15, 2012

Canada - South Korea
Frozen blueberries FTA KOREA-CANADA HS 0811909000

2015: 25.7%   2016: 21.4%   2017: 17.1%   2018: 12.8%  2019: 8.5%  2020: 4.2%  2021: 0%,
Adjusted every January 1st of the year.  The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement went into effect on January 1, 2015

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Individually Quick Frozen Blueberries

IQF blueberries are quick frozen in a freezing tunnel to produce free flowing frozen blueberries.

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drum dried blueberry powder

A blueberry puree or liquid or concentrate is tumbled in a heated metal drum and the dehydrated liquid is scraped off and milled to a powder.

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Freeze Dried Blueberries

Blueberries are rapidly frozen and then subjecting it to a high vacuum that removes ice by sublimation. The result is a low moisture, crunchy blueberry.

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Blueberry oil

Blueberries have small and mostly indistinguishable seeds. Some varieties have more seeds than others. The seeds are cold pressed to create a "green tint" oil with a wonderful blueberry aroma which is used in specialty products and cosmetics.

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Blueberry content standards

Are there any government standards or rules for the amount of blueberry in a manufactured product? Currently there are none.   Unlike raisin bread, mayonnaise and other products, blueberry mufins and other items are not covered by a "Weight of berry to flour weight" regulation.   USHBC however is currently researching and developing guidelines for different categories.    These will be used in evaluating products for qualification for the Blueberry Real Seal.  We will be publishing guidelines in this web site.  In general, we stress that blueberries should be seen in the product, and there should be a blueberry taste. 

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Artificial Blueberries

What are artificial blueberries and why are they used? Each company is different it's approach to ingredient sourcing.    Some companies have utilized fabricated blueberries or analogs since before the days that real dried blueberries have been available.  Now dried blueberries fit many of the same ingredient usage niches which the fabricated products are currently used for.  The price difference is not too wide and USHBC research and common sense indicated that consumers are willing to pay a little more for a real product.   Currently the USA supply is bountiful and the frozen, liquid and dried blueberries are sold in a win-win situation and good availability.  There are several types:  blue colored grain bits; blue colored apple bits, blue colored gum bits, blue colored fat bits and others.

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not from concentrate

Why is it so hard to find blueberry juice -- not from concentrate? Unlike fruits such as oranges and apples and even raspberries -- blueberries are not normally dedicated to juice production.   Blueberries which are not up to standards for fresh and frozen markets are diverted to juice barrels.   This product is in demand by companies who product juice concentrate.   Perhaps in the future threre will be a stream of juice berries for production of not-from-concentrate juices.   Most juice companies look for a homogeneous flavor of blueberry and the blended concentrate fills this need.

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sun dried blueberries

Are Sun-Dried Blueberries available similar to Raisins? Stay tuned, there are some companies with this product in development.   Blueberries have a totally different character than dried grapes or raisins.   The brix of the raisins is higher.   Blueberries dry just fine in air or sun but tend to lose moisture after the initial dehdration and need some sort of infusion to give it texture.   There have been experiments with allowing blueberries to ripen longer on the vine to bring up the brix level.   The results have been promising as the sugar level is higher and maintain a nice texture and do not get too dry--too fast.

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case frozen blueberries

Frozen blueberries which are washed then placed in poly lined cases, then frozen.Case frozen blueberries are blueberries which are frozen in the case as compared to Individually Quick Frozen Blueberries (IQF) which are frozen with specialized machinery.   Quite often all frozen blueberries are incorrectly referred to as IQF.  Case frozen blueberries are utilized in jam, jelly and sauce manufacturing as well as polybags.

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Water packed blueberries

Aeseptec packed blueberries in water.Popular with overseas bakeries where refrigeration and freezing is an issue.

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blueberry seeds

Interior seeds of blueberries are cleaned and dried to produce small free-flowing seeds for further crushing and cosmetic use. Seed fiber is also produced after crushing.

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Straight Pack Blueberries

This is a blueberry with skins non intact that's packed into containers and frozen. This is sometimes called Block frozen, but the proper term is straight pack.

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Blueberry Pie Fillings

Blueberry and sugar based blueberry ingredient that is used in traditional blueberry pies and other bakery items.

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Blueberry Powder

Freeze dried blueberries are milled into a powder of various screen sizes.Blueberry powder is used in nutraceutical powders.

>some not all powders are water soluble.

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Blueberry Pureé

Fresh or frozen blueberries are processed into a pourable liquid for use in product lines such as ice creams, sorbets and other applications.Fresh or frozen blueberries are processed to remove skins, and create a homogeneous liquid .  This product is available in a variety of brix levels. 

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case frozen blueberries

Case frozen blueberries are blueberries that have been frozen inside of a corrugated poly lined box. This is a different method. Case frozen blueberries are produced in a simple in the box method of freezing where fresh blueberries are harvested, then washed and air dried to remove surface moisture. The berries are sorted just as the fresh and individually quick frozen products and are not inferior.  

After blueberries are placed in cases, they are taken to a blast freezer where they are specially stacked to allow cold air to penetrate the case and thoroughly freeze the blueberries.   Typically this process takes 40 hours or so.  The result is a frozen case of blueberries which is usable right from the case.   unlike IQF the case frozen blueberry may not be 100% free flowing.   But depending on the processor, you will find product that is satisfactory for just about any frozen food application including poly bagging.   when the case is not free flowing -- it is often possible to shake the case to break up stuck together case frozen blueberries.

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Blueberry seed oil

A cold pressed oil made from the small seed in the blueberry.

Blueberries do have a very small seed inside.  The seed is more noticeable in some cultivars such as the Southern Rabbiteye.  In recent years, blueberry seeds have been separated from skins and fruit flesh in juice crushing operations.    Small seeds are cleaned and air dried for blueberry seed applications and are further crushed into an edible oil.  This aromatic oil has a green tint and a viscosity ideal for skin and cosmetic applications.

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concentrate

A 65 brix liquid blueberry product used mainly in the beverage industry.

Blueberry Juice Concentrate (BJC) is a 65 Brix that is produced through vacuum concentration.

- BJC is 100 percent natural and contains no artificial preservatives or additives.  

-The liquid will reconstitute with water at a rate of 8 parts water to 1 part BJC

-Most BJC is produced by a small number of juice concentrate factories who specialize in specialty concentrates.  Blueberry Packers sort out blueberries on the processing line -- that are not up to fresh or frozen market specifications.  

-The sort out product is called "juice stock and has a number of specifications such as the amount of red or green berries, stems etc.   

-Juice stock is normally placed in 55 gallon drums or totes and then refrigerated or frozen.   When a truckload cargo is available, the juice stock is then picked up and or delivered to a concentration plant.

-Juice stock has a market price that floats depending on supply and demand.  

-The reason why BJC is used in beverage manufacturing is to get a homogeneous flavor profile.

-Very little juice stock is made directly into beverages.

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Are BLUEBERRIES AND HUCKLEBERRIES the same

This question is as all-American as these berries.  Over the decades, people have argued about the relative merits of blueberries and huckleberries. The huckleberry name, actually refers to numerous shrub-like plants that bear small berries, and some will make a distinction between western huckleberries and eastern huckleberries.

In days gone by, it may be that what was called, “huckleberry pie,” in some places might actually have been made with blueberries – in spite of Mark Twain’s classic about Huck Finn!  Here’s why. The huckleberry of the Gaylussacia species grows in the eastern and southern USA.  It has ten large, hard, boney seeds which do not melt away when the berries are baked, boiled or eaten out of hand, and old timers will tell you that in the past, huckleberries were known as “crackerberries,” because the seeds have a habit of crackling loudly when eaten.  Typically the seeds found in blueberries are so tiny and soft that they literally melt in the mouth.

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