British strawberry growers predict a 6% increase in production of homegrown fruit this year as the official season kicks off.
A cool, dry winter and the recent warm weather has created “perfect” conditions for this year’s crop, according to industry body, British Summer Fruits which represents the majority of berries sold on the UK market.
“This season’s strawberry production reflects a robust and expanding soft fruit category that is able to meet the growing consumer demand,” says chairman Laurence Olins.
“More and more people understand the fantastic health benefits of snacking on a punnet of berries, and fortunately we have been able to match this growing demand with innovation in the industry, to ensure consumers can look forward to good quality British berries on their supermarket shelves.”
Over the last 12 months more than 126,000 tonnes of strawberries were sold across Britain, worth £580 million.
Increasing by 137% since 2007, UK sales of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries have outstripped the 49% increase in general fruit consumption over the same period.
As part of last December’s New York Produce Show, Olins told his story of taking the simple strawberry and building an entire industry with a year-round campaign focused on increasing berry consumption in Britain.
He was speaking as part of the pre-show Global Trade Symposium and detailed the huge successes of the campaign as well as his fears for the future of the soft fruit industry post-Brexit.
The rise in demand continues to gather pace in the UK as health-conscious consumers recognise the nutritional and convenience credentials of berries.
According to Kantar data, berries now make up 22% of all fruit sold in the UK, which has pushed the value of the berry industry above £1.2 billion.
"Berries are a great healthy, summer snack which is backed up by one of the largest bodies of research. They are an abundant source of vitamins, minerals and phyto (plant) nutrients which have been linked to a diverse range of health benefits,” says Dr Emma Derbyshire, British Summer Fruits’ public health nutritionist.
“New Imperial research recently highlighted that we may need to strive for 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day to lower chronic disease risk. Snacking on punnets of berries this summer - be it at a picnic, barbecue or when on a lunch break, is a great and easy way to boost our fruit intake for adults and kids alike."
Retailers are now stocking Malling Centenary, Sweet Eve, Sonata, Elsanta, Driscoll’s Zara and Ava Joy strawberry varieties.