An Early Season With Many highs!
Berry Gardens has enjoyed an early strawberry season this year – with the first pick on the 28th February!
Alastair Brooks, Berry Gardens Chairman says “the last few weeks have been challenging due to the warm weather, particularly in England but due to the investments we have made in recent years to ensure fruit is chilled to 10° within an hour of picking and 4° within 3 hours we have ensured best eating quality through the excellent weather. Of course the warm weather entices the British public to buy even more berries and we enjoyed a record week during the last week of June with sales reaching a record of £11.2 million total sales”.
“With the increased planting of varieties such as Driscoll’s® Lusa™, Berry Gardens growers are able to push the boundaries further every year”, says Jacqui Green Berry Gardens Chief Executive Officer. Jacqui continues, “coupled with the high levels of growing degree hours during March and April this year availability has increased and several retailers have supported our growers by introducing larger packs earlier than normal. To maintain availability, as a group we are increasing plantings of new premium Ever Bearers Driscoll’s® Zara™ and Katrina™ in conjunction with recently introduced June Bearers, Driscoll’s® Julietta™ and Olivia™, which to date have delivered a good yield. The retailers have positively introduced tiering in the soft fruit category which has supported the increased availability of the premium varieties but also helps manage potential waste with the perfectly imperfect ranges”.
Availability continues to be key in the expanding soft fruit market with the latest Kantar1 data showing for the last four weeks volume for all berries has increased by 11.5% with strawberries increasing volume by just under 10%. Berry Gardens saw a high of 1,693 tons of strawberries sold in mid June this year with the latest British Summer Fruit figures reporting Berry Gardens share of UK strawberry production in this crucial period at 35%.
Berry Gardens has commissioned several pieces of primary research this year including consumer focus groups looking at the strawberry market. The British strawberry has strong emotional ties with a large percentage of the general public who have memories of a short season and pick your own. 40% of purchase is impulse, again highlighting availability, instore presentation and quality. If a customer is disappointed with the quality of their strawberries they are quite unforgiving and will boycott the store, the ongoing development of better eating varieties remains key in sustaining the market.
Looking to the future, our research findings across all berry categories indicates that packaging will become part of the product experience, health will remain key and the human element of farming will come to the forefront supported by the natural environment.
“Raspberries have also enjoyed an earlier than normal season and again the supermarkets have supported our growers by introducing larger packs specifically designed to maintain fruit quality on shelf. Raspberries, as a category have enjoyed volume growth of nearly 13% year on year, with Berry Gardens share of UK production reaching a high of over 53% at the end of June, comments Jacqui Green. Raspberries have historically had an older demographic but with the ongoing popularity of smoothies and adding berries to breakfast we are starting to see a younger demographic emerging”.
Berry Garden’s share of UK raspberry sales, year to date2 is 45% compared to 32% last year. With the early season and increased production Berry Gardens sales year on year to date have more than doubled in volume (859 tons in 2016 compared to 1,948 tons in 2017).
The latest Kantar3 data shows blackberries as a category growing by over 15% in volume year on year – driven by sweet varieties such as Driscoll’s® Victoria™. Berry Gardens share of UK sales this year, according to British Summer Fruit2 figures is 47% compared to 40% last year.
“Several of our growers have introduced glass house production of Driscoll’s® Victoria™ and this year will be able to maintain good quality supply until late Autumn, says Alastair Brooks. We have also been running a specific PR campaign promoting Driscoll’s® Victoria™ which includes social media, a recently introduced website (uksweetblackberries.co.uk) and recipes developed by chef and food journalist Rosie Birkett. Not forgetting winning Best Variety of the Year at the Grower Awards back in February this year!”
“Once again we took part in the Taste of London Food Festival and introduced many of the 40,000 visitors to the amazing full, sweet flavour of Driscoll’s® Victoria™. We have also been using our taster punnets in selected stores to give consumers the opportunity to try sweet blackberries at no cost”.
The British public’s love of blueberries continues, as a category it is worth over £330million1 representing growth of over 12% year on year with penetration at a high of 47%. Research commissioned by Berry Gardens has identified that breakfast is a key time of the day for blueberry consumption. The health benefits of blueberries remain one of the main purchase drivers. There is an opportunity to introduce innovative packaging formats to support snacking and on the go grazing to suit modern lifestyles.
“As a group our hectares in production have increased significantly year on year, comments Alastair Brooks, from 117 hectares in 2016 to 141 hectares in 2017, +20%. The increased availability of British blueberries is being driven by the new varieties such as Driscoll’s® Sweet Jane™, Jolene™ and Barbara Ann™”.
“We are at the beginning of the British season, but currently forecast tonnage to double year on year to mid August with 376 tons this year compared to 185 tons last year”, concludes Jacqui Green.
“Although we are only in the first month or so of the season volumes have been good helped by the cold winter followed by ideal conditions during blossom and pollination, says Jacqui Green. As a group we are estimating our tonnage by mid August to be up 141% year on year (1,180 tons in 2016 vs 2,855 tons in 2017) and expect to end the British season at 3,300 tons. Several retailers have supported the increased volumes with 1kg boxes in store retailing at competitive prices as well as TV and press advertising”.
Alastair Brooks, continues “eating quality has been excellent and size consistent due to the varieties such as Kordia, Folfer and Regina. Berry Gardens’ growers continue to invest in planting orchards, covers and state of the art equipment.”
The increased availability of British cherries is being supported by an industry wide PR campaign focusing on the health benefits of cherries. Cherries are packed full of nutrients, including antioxidants that help relieve exercise induced inflammation so a perfect post-workout snack. Cherries can also help you get a better night’s sleep as they are one of the few natural sources of melatonin which regulates the body’s sleep patterns as well as potentially reduce inflammation which can contribute to health disease, arthritis and obesity. All in all a pretty powerful fruit!
According to the latest Kantar1 data, the cherry market, over the last 4 weeks has grown in expenditure by+28% and volume by +10.8%. The newer entrants to the market experienced the most growth driven by increased penetration. According to the latest British Summer Fruit data, Berry Gardens share of UK production stands at 71%.
Brexit continues to be an issue for the whole industry and the recent Anderson Report commissioned by British Summer Fruits highlighted some of the challenges facing growers over the next few years with securing labour for an ever growing market. “We are already seeing the effects of uncertainty, in previous years we would have had 10 applicants for every job, it has now fallen to just 3 applicants per job. As an industry we are hoping for clear guidance from Government and a Seasonal Workers Permit Scheme agreed by September 2018”, concludes Alastair.
For media enquiries and images please contact – Janine Hatfield, Communications Manager, Berry Gardens Ltd. Tel: 01892 838800.
1 Kantar Worldpanel market share data for 4 weeks prior to week ending 18th June 2017
2 British Summer Fruit data to 25th June 2017
3 Kantar Worldpanel market share data for 52 weeks prior to week ending 18th June 2017