USHBC Releases Annual Impact Report, Michael Hill Profile, Leadership Class Applications, NABC Awards, Pickleball, Retail Program!


Topics in this issue of Behind the Blue:

From the Chair: USHBC Releases 2023 Impact Report

By Shelly Hartmann 

Each year, the USHBC provides an impact report that details the council’s efforts to keep blueberries front of mind (and top of cart!) with consumers and other key audiences. In 2023, our mantra of “Inspiring Possibilities” was more powerful than ever as the USHBC focused on new and innovative ways to boost global passion for blueberries.  

Despite 2023’s challenges, the USHBC succeeded in conveying the blueberry industry’s critical messages, provided timely information and news about the market, and sustained consumer enthusiasm for our amazing blues. 

I encourage you to spend some time with the report to get a look at the committee members and staff who are leading the charge and learn about all of our efforts in 2023, including:

  • Exciting consumer promotions and power periods. 
  • Outstanding media coverage.
  • Health research promotions and partnerships.
  • Retail marketing efforts.
  • Foodservice events and activations. 
  • Food manufacturing product development efforts.
  • Tactics for engaging blueberry industry stakeholders.
  • Data and insights work.
  • Global business development efforts. 

I think you’ll be inspired when you check out the report – I know I was!

Meet Michael Hill, USHBC Council Alternate From Florida, H & A Packing LLC

1. What was your first job in blueberries? 

My first job in blueberries was building my families blueberry farm from the ground up, then I helped manage the day today on the ground level.

2. What makes you passionate about the industry?

I am passionate about the industry and was called to work in agriculture. I enjoy feeding our nation and the world; it is unparalleled.

3. What do you love about your job?

My favorite part about my job is my love of solving problems. In this business, we are not short of them.

​​4. What’s one of your goals for being on the board?

One of my goals for being on the board is that I have a lot invested in this industry. If their commission doesn’t succeed, neither do my business and investments. 

5. If you weren’t in the blueberry business, what would you be doing? 

If I weren’t in the blueberry business, I would be doing another form of agricultural job.

Blueberry Leadership Program Applications Open Through May 31 

The application process for the third class of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council’s (USHBC) Blueberry Leadership Program is now open. The program will accept up to 10 talented, passionate professionals from across the supply chain to become the next group of fellows.

The training – the first of its kind in the blueberry industry – helps fellows grow their leadership skill set, learn from decades-long industry leaders and develop a network of connections. 

Class 3 of the leadership program will kick off in September at the Blueberry Summit and continue through next year, taking an interactive approach to leadership development through hands-on training, immersive learning experiences, engagement with key industry players and exposure to the many components of the produce supply chain. 

Fellows will participate both virtually and in person, traveling four times over the course of the curriculum between September 2024 and September 2025, with a graduation ceremony taking place at the 2025 Blueberry Summit. 

USHBC is seeking applicants who are up-and-coming leaders, hold a mid-level management position and have a minimum of five years experience in agriculture, with preference given to those who have worked in the blueberry industry. 

The deadline to apply is May 31. Applications will be reviewed and evaluated by the USHBC Industry Leadership Program Selection Committee, composed of USHBC council members and industry representatives. Top candidates will be interviewed throughout June and July.

Learn more and apply today

Nominations Now Open for the NABC Awards

The nomination period for the annual NABC Awards is now open. This is your chance to help us recognize blueberry industry luminaries who have made a lasting impact. 

Learn about each award, then submit your nominations by June 28

Hall of Fame Award
The NABC Hall of Fame Award celebrates blueberry leaders, growers and suppliers who have impacted the blueberry industry in North America. The award is the council and industry’s highest honor, and is open to influential leaders, past and present. Selection is based on candidate attributes in leadership, collaboration, industry support, longevity and innovation. 

The Alex Wetherbee Award
The Alex Wetherbee Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the blueberry industry in marketing and promotion. Alex Wetherbee was one of NABC’s founders and a blueberry marketer from New Jersey who was respected industry-wide for his passion in promoting blueberries. Let us know who you think is carrying on these efforts! 

The Duke Galletta Award
The Duke Galletta Award recognizes excellence in blueberry horticultural research. The award is named in honor of Duke Galletta of Atlantic Blueberry, an inaugural member of the NABC. Galletta was very involved in blueberry varietal development and worked with USDA plant breeders, allowing them to set up test plots on Atlantic Blueberry land. Tell us about others in the industry who are leaders in horticultural research! 

This year’s winners will be honored at The Blueberry Summit, Sept. 25-27 in Denver. 

Learn more, then send in your nominations!  NABC Awards – NABC (

Blueberries Declared the Official Fruit of Major League Pickleball to Inspire Fans of America’s Fastest Growing Sport to Grab a Boost of Blue

The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) announced its partnership with Major League Pickleball (MLP by Margaritaville) for their 2024 season, promoting blueberries as “the official fruit of MLP” among a rapidly growing base of pickleball fans. One in five adult Americans, or 48 million people1, play or have tried pickleball – and its popularity is growing each year at a rate of 64%2. By being the first-ever produce commodity to partner with the premier organization for professional coed team pickleball, USHBC aims to increase awareness of blueberries’ benefits among pickleball enthusiasts, encouraging them to eat more blueberries for a healthy and active lifestyle.

“Pickleball is a hugely popular sport that inspires excitement and passion – in the same way we know many people are superfans of blueberries for their deliciousness and health benefits,” said Kasey Cronquist, president of U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. “There is tremendous opportunity to capture and grow this enthusiasm through our partnership with Major League Pickleball, which will come to life throughout the season and motivate consumers to grab a boost of blue, whether they’re a fan of playing pickleball, watching it, or both.”

Blueberries’ partnership with MLP encompasses a comprehensive national marketing promotions program that spans 11 events in as many markets across the country, kicking off with the season’s first event,MLP Atlanta (May 9-12). USHBC advertising and messages encouraging consumers to Grab a Boost of Blue will appear in linear broadcast, streaming, courtside signage, and on MLP’s social media channels, website and newsletter. Additionally, MLP’s VIP and player tents will feature blueberries for hundreds of onsite attendees to enjoy at events throughout the season. 

To complement the sponsorship, USHBC will also work directly with pickleball influencers and players to create content that demonstrates how blueberries are a perfect partner to support nutrition for athletes and active lifestyles alike. Turnkey assets for retailers, including in-store merchandising and digital materials, will also be made available to amplify July promotions at point-of-sale, via social media, online and more.

USHBC will also launch a National Blueberry Month campaign to further boost consumption and excitement around pickleball, including plans to host special activities during MLP’s mid-season tournament taking place July 10-14 in Grand Rapids, MI. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

For more information about MLP’s 2024 season, visit For blueberry information and inspiration, visit

 1Association of Pickleball Professionals 

2Association of Pickleball Professionals

USHBC Launches New Retail Shopper Activations to Boost Blueberry Sales

The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) has launched an innovative shopper marketing and consumer campaign to drive incremental sales increases and volume of fresh and frozen blueberries at retail. The latest consumer activation will launch this month, just in time for summer, with holiday themes like Mother’s Day and Memorial Day barbecues – all targeted at increasing the consumption of blueberries by occasional blueberry users and winning new consumers.

“In the dynamic world of retail, a well-crafted shopper marketing plan isn’t just a strategy, it’s the compass guiding inventory from shelves to shopping carts, seamlessly connecting products with the pulse of consumer demand,” said Kevin Hamilton, USHBC vice president of global marketing and communications. “While we remain focused on providing the valuable, great-tasting experience that our core consumers love from this healthy berry, we are excited to share that same deliciousness of blueberries with new consumers and get occasional users more involved in the category.”

The campaign will run in over 4,000 stores in major markets throughout the U.S., including retailers such as Target, Sam’s Club, Smart & Final, Albertsons Portland, IGA USA, Schnucks, United Supermarkets, Demoulas Market Basket, Giant Martins and many others. The USHBC shopper marketing efforts are tailored to each retail partner and take an integrated approach, both inside and outside the store, to target consumers during their path to purchase. Tactics include in-store demos, on-shelf and point-of-sale signage, in-store radio, retail media, couponing and targeted emails, as well as Grab a Boost of Blue-branded items for produce personnel.

The blueberry category in the United States has seen a boom in recent years, with retail sales increasing by 11.1% from 2021 to 2023, reflecting consumers’ growing enthusiasm and love for the crave-worthy flavor of blueberries and their many health benefits. The industry is adapting to this new landscape, with a focus on efficiency, quality improvements and new varieties boasting better flavor and shelf life. This new campaign is just one of many marketing and promotion tactics deployed throughout the year by the USHBC to further its mission to grow consumer demand for blueberries and empower the industry to make blueberries the world’s favorite fruit. Retailers interested in partnering with USHBC on future campaigns can reach out to Kristy Babb at [email protected]