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As market demand grows for superfood berries, freak weather patterns devastate supply

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: berries, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) A company that supplies berry extracts and concentrates for the global health market has warned of an unusually bad European berry harvest that may lead to a shortage in supply.

Harsh weather including a spring freeze, high humidity and severe heat and floods led to an unusually short berry harvest in Europe earlier this year, cutting it down from four weeks to only one or two. In its preliminary harvest report, nutraceutical company Berry Pharma anticipated supply shortages and prices increases, although it conceded that it is still "too early to estimate prices for [next year]."

The dismal harvest comes at a time of unprecedented berry demand, driven by a growing market for "superfoods" and berry-derived health supplements. Berries as a group are high in antioxidants, including a type called anthocyanins that help fight aging, bacterial infections, cancer, diabetes, inflammation and neurological diseases.

The demand for blueberries is now at an all-time high, making it one of the fastest-growing fruits in popularity in the United Kingdom. U.K. sales have surged 55 million ($110 million) in only two years, from a May 2005 level of 40 million ($81 million) to a May 2007 level of 95 million ($191 million). Other berries, such as blackcurrant, have also seen explosions in demand, with the price more than doubling in the last two years.

But the poor harvest is already making its effects felt on the supply of these popular foods. This year's blackcurrant harvest was 40 percent lower than the previous years, Berry Pharma said, and "blackcurrant frozen storage warehouses are already empty for the first time in many years."

Berry Pharma says that the global demand for berry products is expected to continue increasing, particularly due to "aging populations in the United States, Asia and Europe."

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