Berry Gardens News

All the latest from us and our farmers

British Berry & Cherry 2019 Season

The 2019 British soft fruit season was off to a great start with first picks back in mid February from glass house and heated production.  “This year the weather has been more unpredictable, with unseasonally warm temperatures in April supporting good Easter weekend sales.  However, in May the temperature dropped resulting in plants slowing down, working with our partner Driscoll’s we were able to maintain availability of berries” says Alastair Brooks Chairman of Berry Gardens.

The latest British Summer Fruit figures for 2019 to 30th June1, report total strawberry production static year on year predominately down to the cold snap in May and phasing of crops.  Raspberries, Blackberries and Blueberries are all in growth year on year.

Blackberry production (+21% year on year) continues to be  dominated by Driscoll’s® Victoria™ with Berry Gardens market share to date this year at 61% compared to 50% in 2018.  We continue to support Driscoll’s® Victoria™ with a dedicated PR campaign targeting social media and influencers.  This weekend Victoria™ will be featured on Saturday Kitchen, BBC 1, 10 – 11:30am.

Raspberry production has grown by just over 8% year on year with Berry Gardens’ market share year to date 40.2% vs 36.5% in 2018.

Alastair continues “Berry Gardens Growers continued investment in blueberry plantings is reflected in our increased market share up from 5.7% in 2018 to 8.7% 20191   As a co-operative we have increased our planting of blueberries from 179 hectares last year to 209 this year (+16.7), by 2022 we anticipate the co-operatives production to exceed 300 hectares.  The increased growth is supported by our members, who were the early pioneers of British blueberries, and also new members of the co-operative including Mee Farmers based in Peterborough and Bradley Farm in Shropshire a new member this year.”

Jacqui Green, CEO of Berry Gardens add “this season, we have recently introduced a child focused blueberry pack to one of our key retail customers, with demand for a similar pack elsewhere.  The pack reflects the fun element children are attracted to whilst meeting parent’s convenience needs – each pot delivers more than a child’s portion of fruit a day.

Blueberries are a relatively new product to be grown in the UK and over the next few years we will be highlighting the British provenance to the public”.

The British cherry season is in its first few weeks of harvest, with large fruit being picked and volume building in what looks like a good season with consistent supply over a longer period.  With the recent warm weather we are seeing a flush of fruit over the next week or so with retailers offering larger boxes in store.  As a group we are looking at exporting fruit to Europe.

Over the last few weeks helped by warmer temperatures, Berry Gardens sold 2,330 tonnes of berries and cherries in the third week of June – our biggest every week!  This was a great run up to the Wimbledon fortnight, over the tournament sales were 10% up year on year.


The latest Kantar data2 reflects the importance of the soft fruit category, over the last 12 weeks (to 16th June 2019) the berry category has grown 8.15% in value year on year. In contrast every other fruit category are seeing no or negative growth, apples -5.72%, citrus at -3.30% and pears at -10.97%.  Kantar switching data shows that £11.3million of soft fruit sales over the last 12 weeks are attributable to sales from apples, citrus, grapes and pears (detail split below shown in £millions).

Ultimately the figures continue to illustrate the British consumers’ ongoing love of soft fruit, particularly strawberries, with strawberry penetration at just over 64% and frequency of purchase 5.5 times over a 12 week period.

“Whilst the Kantar data reflects well for soft fruit, as a nation we should be concerned with the decline in other fruit as newspaper headlines tell us obesity is the biggest health threat we currently face, says Jacqui.  Positive Mintel research suggests that 56% of the population eat healthily most or all of the time.   Social media has put a spot light on health with the increased use of visual channels such as Instagram.

The IGD Shopper Vista report supports the desire to achieve a more balanced diet with more convenience store shoppers wanting a bigger range of healthy options available.  71% of 18-24s say their lives will be busier in the next 5-10 years time, retailers and suppliers should work together to meet their grab and go shopping mentality to ensure healthy choices are placed in their basket.

As an industry we should capitalise on the opportunities to promote healthy eating and we look forward to the publication of the National Food Strategy next year”.


Premium Market

“As a group we continue to drive the premium market forward with increased production of early Driscoll’s® Elizabeth™ and Lusa™, continues Alastair.  Increased plantings of both Driscoll’s® Zara™ and Katrina™, both ever bearers have continued premium availability over the Wimbledon period.   Several customers have successfully promoted their top tier offering, including Tesco Finest over this key time.  This season we have also trialed different plant types to bring crops forward.

We are thrilled to see availability of Malling Allure, a June bearer complimented by Malling Champion, an ever bearer, with similar characteristics of Malling Centenary build to support growth of the market during the summer months.


Investing in the Future


“As one of the leading berry producers in the UK we have a responsibility to ensure our industry is sustainable for future generations, says Jacqui.  A priority over the last two years has been to review our use of plastics.  Whilst the disposal of plastic has been vilified in the media our view is that plastic is not intrinsically a bad product, for such delicate fruit, but should be treated with respect and supported by a consistent and comprehensive recycling infrastructure.   As an industry we should bring pressure to bear on recycling schemes and facilities as well as the supplier to the market.

Berry Gardens, Head of Packaging, David McCormack continues to work closely with customers to reduce the use of plastic, whilst not adversely affecting fruit quality and shelf life.  We have trialled pulp and card punnets, with results currently awaited from live store trials using both different pack materials and loose product.

Our current punnets can be produced using up to 100% recyclable material, and can be recycled again after use.  Film is also recyclable but not as an individual packaging element, we are currently looking at ways to keep this attached to the punnet enabling recycling.

The pads at the bottom of the punnet are proving more challenging – we continue to look at paper and fibre based alternatives.  Current learnings support the use of a fibre based pad, using a bi-product such as straw, readily available from farms.

We have also challenged our suppliers to downgauge the volume of plastic used in packs and are working to a 20% reduction without affecting quality or shelf life.

Berry Gardens support the media attention around the use of plastics, as consumer education is crucial to achieve a reduction in the use, complimented by an improved recycling infrastructure. Over the next year on pack labelling will become clearer letting consumers know exactly what is recyclable and what isn’t rather than the current ‘check local recycling’ message”.



Richard Harnden, Berry Gardens Research Director continues to secure funding for innovative research projects with current the value of projects Berry Gardens involved with at over £15million.


“The WET Centre, based at EMR, is a project which has been supported by Berry Gardens since its inception,” said Alastair Brooks, Chairman.  “This is the culmination of more than a decade of intensive research work at NIAB EMR”.   Since its creation and launch at Fruit Focus in 2017, the objective of the WET Centre has been to showcase technologies that help grow strawberry crops more sustainably through better irrigation scheduling and improving water use efficiency.  Over the last three years the focus has been on demonstrating the benefits of the system to growers on a semi-commercial scale.  The system enables the optimum level of irrigation water to be delivered to plants in order to sustain their growth and development, whilst reducing the excess that usually is lost through run-off.  The system is monitored 24 hours with real time information available on smart phones for staff to access easily.

Several Berry Gardens Growers have introduced the Precision Irrigation Programme to their farms in the past year with water usage reducing by up to 20%, with no adverse affects seen on crop yield or fruit quality.

The membership of the WET Centre continues to develop and it now also includes the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board as a full member.  The Centre is holding several tours during Fruit Focus, led by Dr Mark Else, Head of Department, Crop Science and Production Systems at NIAB EMR, where you can see the technology in action.




“At Berry Gardens we are passionate about growing and nurturing talent. Over the last year, our HR department have been busy engaging with schools, colleges and universities to raise awareness of the industry and promote PICK ME, our two year management development programme, which will commence this September, explains Jacqui.

The initials of the PICK ME acronym represent the focus of Berry Garden’s 2022 strategy – People, Innovation, Collaboration and Knowledge – and the objective for the development programme – Management Excellence.  Our commitment to these fundamental principles have shaped the creation of the programme which consists of dedicated management and leadership training and, for the newly recruited Management Trainees, four six-month secondments throughout the business.  It is a programme designed to develop our existing staff as well as introduce new talent to the industry, providing the opportunity for all to benefit from the wisdom of experience and inspiration of new perspectives and ideas.

Whilst not designed exclusively as a graduate programme, our four new recruits are coming straight from their university studies in food sciences and related degrees.  Selected for their passion and leadership potential, they will begin their journey in secondments placed in Production, QA and Procurement.

The structure and content of the training builds on our experience of delivering Future Leaders, our ILM validated programme run for our grower members over the last three years.  PICK ME goes the extra step and offers participants a formal qualification: the Level 5 ILM Award in Leadership and Management.

Internally, Berry Gardens has been placing great emphasis on developing our people.  In May, we celebrated Learning at Work Week, a national campaign promoted by the Campaign for Learning.  This jam packed week of activities launched opportunities to create Personal Development Plans and develop coaching skills – two approaches that are being rolled out throughout the company”.

“Our investment in people is also illustrated by our ongoing sponsorship of the Under 40s Group (now rebranded Next Gen Fruit Group) and the The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers Student Prize 2019, says Alastair.  After much deliberation, the successful applicant this year is María Cárcamo de la Concepción.  Maria’s work investigates the structural and biochemical/genetic differences between two blueberry varieties with distinctly different postharvest attributes.  The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers awards three Student Prizes annually – the two other worthy winners are Tobias Lane and Javier Vidaurreta.



Please contact Janine Hatfield, – 07717 431603 if you would like any further information.









  • British Summer Fruit Figures 2019 season to 30th June 2019


British Summer Fruit Figures - tonnes
  2019 2018 Yr on Yr
Strawberries 37674.78 37855 -0.48%
Raspberries 3651.419 3375 8.19%
Blackberries 586.5676 482 21.69%
Blues 393.1948 302 30.20%
Cherries 283.3009 236.5 19.79%




  • Kantar data 12 week to 16.6.19 year on year