Why Nordic Wild Blueberries Is So Expensive

Hailing from Nordic forests, bilberries, known for their antioxidant richness, see their nutritional value diminish two days post-harvest, necessitating swift freezing by Finnish firms. Their rising popularity in the wellness market fuels demand. Let's delve into why it's so expensive

Why Nordic Wild Blueberries Is So Expensive
Bilberries- by Bozhin Karaivanov / Unsplash

Bilberries, hailing from Nordic forests, are delicate yet nutritious purple gems.

Their nutritional prowess starts diminishing just two days post-harvest, prompting Finnish firms to meticulously sort and freeze them to preserve their antioxidant richness.

Their scarcity and healthful allure, especially in the wellness market where they're transformed into pricey juices or supplements, drive their price upwards of $200 per kilogram.

The allure lies in their potent nutritional composition, making them a prized, albeit expensive, health food commodity.

What is Nordic Wild Blueberries?

Nordic Wild Blueberries, also known as Bilberries, are a distinctive variety of blueberries native to the northern regions of Europe, particularly thriving in the Nordic forests of Finland, Estonia, and Sweden.

Unlike the Maine blueberries common in North America, Nordic blueberries are a different species, correctly referred to as bilberries, although the term blueberries is often used interchangeably.

Recognized as a superfood due to their four times higher antioxidant content, these Nordic treasures offer a unique blend of taste and nutrition, setting them apart in the health and gourmet sectors.

History and Origin

Wild blueberries have a rich history dating back over 10,000 years, originating in regions with a unique convergence of geography and climate that supported their growth.

While the information about the specific historical emergence of Nordic wild blueberries is scant, it's known that the Nordic forests, mountains, and peatlands are abundant with wild berries, including bilberries, which have been part of the local diet and traditional medicine practices for centuries.

These bilberries nutritional superiority, especially in antioxidants, along with their scarcity and meticulous harvesting, make bilberries highly sought after in the health-food market.

Nordic Wild Blueberries vs. Maine Wild Blueberries

Nordic wild blueberries, or bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus), thrive across Nordic and Northern European terrains, whereas Maine wild blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) flourish in North America's Northeast, especially in Maine and parts of Eastern Canada.

They're distinct species, with Maine's berries often managed in fields and barrens.

Despite their smaller size, Nordic wild blueberries pack four times the antioxidant and anthocyanin levels of Maine wild blueberries, appealing to health-conscious consumers.

They have a blue skin with a deep purple interior linked to high antioxidant content, while Maine wild blueberries, also blue-skinned, have a nearly white interior.

In the market, Nordic wild blueberries' nutritional edge drives their price 20 times higher than Maine wild blueberries, highlighting the nutritional and market value differences, and emphasizing the premium placed on the nutritional richness of Nordic wild blueberries.

yellow and green leaves in tilt shift lens
Wild Bilberries by Tomas Williams / Unsplash

Why Are Bilberry So Expensive?

The high cost of Nordic wild blueberries can be attributed to several factors:

Bilberry's Surge in Popularity for Nutrition

Bilberries have seen a popularity surge, notably as supplements, making first-class bilberries a lucrative export, while second-class ones mainly stay in Finland for products like bilberry juices or traditional soup, Mustikkakeitto.

With over four times the antioxidant content of farm blueberries, particularly rich in anthocyanin, bilberries' nutritional edge is sharpened by the Nordic contrasting growing conditions.

Despite unbacked claims in alternative medicine circles, such as enhanced night vision or cancer curing, the demand for bilberries grows, with export values tripling to $370 million from 2001 to 2010.

According to Insider, the recent Ukraine conflict disrupted its 20 million kilo supply to Europe, further pivoting focus towards Nordic bilberries.

Harvesting Challenges

Wild bilberry plants, growing to a modest height of 40cm, predominantly thrive in the uneven terrains of Nordic forests, necessitating manual harvesting.

The unique challenges of the terrain preclude the use of machines, requiring workers to traverse the forest on foot to locate the berries.

They employ specialized rakes designed to collect berries while preserving the bush structure. These rakes feature long handles, enabling workers to reach low bushes without stooping, optimizing the harvest process.

However, the diminutive size of the berries presents a challenge, as maintaining a safe distance from the bushes is often unfeasible. This proximity exposes workers to forest insects like mosquitoes.

The use of insect repellent sprays is prohibited to prevent contamination of the berries, compelling workers to don face masks as a protective measure against insect bites during the harvesting endeavor.

Preserving Bilberry Freshness: A Time-Sensitive Task

Bilberries are delicate, maintaining freshness and nutrients only for a few days post-harvest, making the brief picking season crucial as it contributes to over 50% of the annual business.

Having efficient equipment and timely transportation is essential to avoid value loss. Quick processing and freezing are imperative; post-harvest, bilberries are processed for 7 to 9 days.

They are initially frozen at minus 40 degrees Celsius for two days, then stored at a warehouse at minus 20 degrees Celsius, ensuring their preservation as even a slight temperature rise can spoil them.

High-End Machinery for Bilberry Processing

Machinery blowers are employed to remove leaves, sticks, and stones from the batches of bilberries. The small stems on bilberries pose a significant removal challenge, prompting companies to develop specialized machinery.

While still frozen at minus 30 degrees or lower to prevent any damage, the berries are then subjected to this machinery which gently vibrates or shakes them, facilitating stem detachment.

After this process, they are moved back to warehouse storage at minus 20 degrees. The berries are then sorted by size, graded into first and second class categories, and undergo a final visual check before packaging.

Weather Impact on Bilberry Yield

Experienced workers can gather up to 1kg of bilberries in ten minutes, and with favorable crop conditions, may collect over 100kg in a day.

Ideal harvesting spots are near lakes where the soil stays moist and the spacing between trees allows bush growth.

Unlike farm blueberries that receive regular watering, wild bilberries depend on rainwater, with their size being influenced by weather conditions.

Adequate rain and warmth result in larger bilberries; however, if there is less rainwater throughout the year, the size of bilberries will be very small. Excessive rain can complicate harvesting as wet leaves tend to adhere to the berries.

Bilberries Can't Be Farmed due to Forest Ecosystem

Cultivating Nordic wild blueberries or bilberries is challenging due to their adaptation to specific forest habitats in Nordic regions.

They thrive in a unique balance of sunlight, rain, and soil composition, which is hard to replicate on a farm.

The specific soil and moisture near wild water bodies are crucial for bilberries, unlike common blueberries which can be watered as needed.

In the wild, natural pollinators facilitate their pollination, a process hard to control in farming setups.

Additionally, bilberries have evolved to resist certain pests and diseases in their native environments, a resilience that may not hold in different growing conditions.

Flavor Profile

Nordic wild Bilberries boast a robust, sweet yet tangy flavor, making them an excellent addition to smoothies, shakes, oatmeal, porridge, yogurt, as well as cooking and baking endeavors.

Interesting Facts:

  1. Superfood Status: In Sweden, blueberries, including the Nordic variety, are considered superfoods packed with healthy antioxidants and are a favorite among locals for berry picking during the summer.
  2. Health Benefits: Their health benefits extend beyond being antioxidant-rich; there's an ancient acknowledgment of their positive relationship with digestive health, dating back to when humans first roamed the Nordic regions.
  3. Variety in Nature: Similar to other wild blueberries, they come in thousands of genetically different varieties in every field, a characteristic that not only contributes to their unique flavors but also their health benefits.


The Nordic wild blueberries are hailed as antioxidant-rich superfoods. Their rich history in the Nordic regions, intertwined with traditional practices and natural adaptations, underscores their nutritional and medicinal value.

These unique traits, alongside a luxurious and exotic aura, make Nordic wild blueberries a cherished ingredient among gourmets and health enthusiasts.

Despite the high-end price, the health allure they offer makes them a tempting, nutritious indulgence worth exploring.