Into the blue
By Treena Hein
By Treena Hein
Whether they are wild or cultivated, organic, or conventionally grown, Canadian blueberries are famous for their health properties. They’ve stood their ground against stiff competition from exotic “super berries,” and are now gaining greater popularity through value-added products being created by some Canadian companies. We’ve rounded up some of the newest, most successful and most innovative of these products – ones you may want to try. Please let us know about anything innovative or new we might have missed.
Van Dyk’s 100% Pure Wild Blueberry Juice
Van Dyk’s 100% Pure Wild Blueberry Juice, containing only wild Nova Scotia blueberries, has been on the market since 2000. The company manages more than 600 acres of wild blueberries from Caledonia to Yarmouth.
Van Dyk’s worked on a proprietary process to make the juice (including flash pasteurization), in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at the Atlantic Horticulture Research Facility in Kentville, NS. The work also received support from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program.
“The initial research took two years,” notes Randy MacDonald, Van Dyk’s business manager. “The focus was on preserving the health properties (polyphenolic compounds found in abundance in wild blueberries).
“Over the ensuing three years, more research focused on scaling up the process and still retaining the properties of the final product.”
A 500-ml bottle ranges in price from $10.99 in the Maritimes to $14.99 in Western Canada, available through Loblaws and Sobeys, as well as regional grocery, health food and specialty stores. Van Dyk’s also exports the juice to China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, UK and the U.S.
Acadian Maple Wild Blueberry Juice
Containing only Canadian wild blueberries, this pasteurized juice is made in Upper Tantallon, NS. It costs about $7 for a 375 ml bottle or $16 for a litre. Acadian Maple is the largest purchaser and processor of Nova Scotia-produced maple syrup and the firm exports maple products to markets worldwide, as well as hosting more than 30,000 agro-tourists each year. The Acadian Maple Blueberry Syrup is concentrated from the juice.
Blueberry Puffs dried blueberries
CAL-SAN Enterprises in Richmond, B.C., created Blueberry Puffs some years ago, a dried cultivated blueberry with a difference. Blueberry Puffs retain their shape, colour, flavour and nutrients and are very popular in products such as breakfast cereals. The technology used to make them (by Vancouver-based EnWave) combines vacuum drying and radiant energy. The company also makes Blueberry Powder, which is used in health drinks.
Blueberry Enzyme Drink
Also in Richmond, B.C., is Lohas Blueberry Farm, where 30,000 pounds of organic blueberries are grown each year on about 10 acres. Some berries are sold and donated locally, but the majority are exported fresh or frozen to Taiwan and made into a product called Blueberry Enzyme Drink. It’s been so popular in Taiwan that owner Fred Liu is now shipping it back to be sold here in Canada (just from the farm right now).
Liu and his family immigrated to Canada from Taiwan in 2005 and first sent back blueberries to relatives and friends. Orders grew to 6,000 pounds within two years, and Liu began looking to make a value-added product available year-round. In 2012, on a visit to Taiwan, he saw fruit-enzyme drinks selling for up to $800 a bottle. The trend started in Japan and quickly spread throughout Asia, he says, with purported digestive health benefits.
Liu partnered with Taiwanese Buddhist health-food producer Leezen to develop the drink, which contains blueberries, mulberries, isomalt oligosaccharides, brown sugar and sugar.
“The drink is fermented, thus it tastes not only sweet but also slightly sour, depending on the degree of dilution with water,” Liu explains. “It does not taste like plain blueberry juice with fizziness, not only because of the fermentation the product has gone through, but because the isomalts give the drink a different texture.”
The drink can currently be purchased in Canada at the farm for $75 per 375 ml bottle. After getting good feedback from Caucasian consumers, Liu is looking at U.S. and European markets and perhaps building a processing plant in Canada. If expansion occurs, he will buy blueberries from other B.C. growers. He’s already purchased B.C. cranberries and shipped them to Taiwan, where a cranberry enzyme drink is about to hit the market. Liu also plans to make raspberry and blackberry enzyme drinks, in addition to a Pure Blueberry Enzyme Drink, which will contain only blueberries.
DECO Wild Canadian Blueberry supplement
Platinum Naturals in Richmond Hill, Ont., makes DECO Wild Canadian Blueberry supplement. It combines wild Canadian blueberries and premium dark chocolate made through natural fermentation, a process that enhances the absorption and digestion of the nutrients in both the chocolate and blueberries. Platinum uses only sustainably-sourced, traditionally-grown cocoa, with no dairy, plus GMO-free lecithin.
PURE Blueberries wild blueberry purée
At P.E.I. Berries in Montague, P.E.I., wild blueberries from the farm’s 400-plus acres plus other growers are going into a purée drink. President Kevin Carver established the company in 2007 and believes in on-farm research using natural farming methods.
Several years after he founded P.E.I. Berries, Carver was introduced to a technology called hydrothermodynamics (HTD), which can take the entire blueberry and process it into a very smooth purée. The low-temperature process protects the antioxidants in the berries. Research on the HTD technology was done at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, and it took a number of years to achieve full-scale manufacturing.
PURE Blueberries hit the market in 2013, and sells for $6.99 per 350 ml bottle at Sobeys in Atlantic Canada and Metro grocery stores in Quebec. It will be available across the county in future. The company also ships the purée to the U.S., Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China and is looking to expand into more international markets. PURE Blueberries won the 2015 P.E.I. New Food Product Award.