Americans have more than doubled their blueberry intake in just 16 years, buying more than 853 million pounds of the superfood, according to a report from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
That is good news for farmers in North Carolina, where blueberry production has shown significant increases over the past five years. The Blueberry Council released 2012 numbers showing a 5 percent increase in year-over-year production, and the southern states account for a quarter of the country's blueberries, with North Carolina, Florida and Georgia leading the way.
"It's been a good time for us," said Cal Lewis, owner of Lewis Nursery & Farms in Rocky Point, where his family grows 350 acres of blueberries. "It's no secret that blueberry consumption has been rising consistently, and planting has been rising with that demand."
Lewis credits several factors for the fruit's increasing appeal, including greater availability due to more adaptive plant varieties, as well as popularity from being named a superfood.
Many point to research on the health benefits of blueberries for sparking publicity, especially when it was dubbed a superfood in a medical journal in the late 1990s. That has led to the blueberry becoming a celebrity of sorts on TV health segments, magazine features and wellness blogs.