European supplies of the late-season winter strawberry variety Calinda are likely to continue until late May with significant volumes going into the UK.
Calinda’s durability has been specially developed to suit the most demanding European trade channels and according to Sarah Hellemans from Belgium importer Special Fruit, the variety’s shelf life and taste profile is partly what sets it apart from other late-season strawberry varieties.
She says supplies are raring to go with volumes for the 2017 winter season 50% up on last year.
“The UK is a trendsetting market and its inhabitants are the biggest berry consumers in Europe, so to us the UK is like a role model. We deliver year-round berries to the UK, coming from Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands,” Hellemans tells PBUK.
“We’ve noticed the consumer would rather pay more for a winter variety that has a lot of taste and reminds them of the summer varieties, than they would pay for a regular winter variety. One of our retail customers did a survey amongst their consumers and the result was that they got a very good appreciation.”
“The UK is a very significant market as we have a lot of contacts who are already clients as we have been selling the Calinda for three years now, and so we are building on a customer base that has already been established.”
Special Fruit has invested in additional production in new regions in Spain where there is full-time cultivation assistance and new 400g packaging.
Available from mid-January to May, Calinda is bred by Netherlands-based Fresh Forward Breeding, which also breeds Elsanta, Sonata, Rumba and Jive varieties.
The fruit never spends more than two hours in the field after picking. It is stored in cooled warehouses, packed, loaded and transported in high-speed climatised trucks delivering to Northern Europe within 36 hours of harvesting.
“Logistically it’s an easy transit over to the UK and in the main we supply the wholesale market as well as several retail channels, but also the food service market is taking substantial volumes because of the sweet taste and the good shelf life.
“We also believe that the winter varieties of Spain are not that good and now with Calinda we offer a new variety that is very well appreciated by customers because it has a really sweet taste, beautiful deep red colour and very importantly, they are not too hard.
“In the winter time sometimes you can have strawberries which are like bricks, but the Calinda is nothing like that, it’s very soft, very crunchy and much more like a summer variety. The taste is extremely sweet and it has a longer shelf life compared with other varieties and so we’re really happy with the production of this variety.”
Speaking about Brexit and the impact on currency exchange, Hellemans adds how Special Fruit is watching closely as the market fluctuates.
“We’ve seen the consequences of the forthcoming Brexit. Retailers are finding it hard to set a good price due to the changing exchange rates. We hope that this will settle in the coming months because the UK is a good partner for our berry sales.”