If you thought the market for cherries and berries in the UK was mature, think again. Produce Business UK finds out more from Nick Marston, managing director of soft-fruit and cherry specialist grower and supplier Berry Gardens – the UK’s largest producer organisation and winner of no fewer than four Grower of the Year awards last month
Cherries get going
Accounting for half of the total production acreage and tonnage of cherries in the UK, Berry Gardens is well placed to comment on the development of the marketplace.
Marston says: “Cherries are a small market at the moment. Cherries represent a £90 million-£100 million market, while berries is nearly £1 billion. I think cherries have the ability to do what strawberries, raspberries and now blueberries have done and become a mainstream fruit.”
While supplies of soft fruit from Berry Gardens are available year round thanks to import programmes and overseas partnerships, its cherry offer has largely focused on the UK. Now, through the Berry Gardens Go Cherry initiative, Marston is looking to grow its import business for the stone fruit too.
Driscoll’s is the point of difference
Berry Gardens grows mainly Driscoll’s soft fruit varieties, which gives the company a point of difference in the UK market, as well as some public varieties as appropriate to particular market niches. Marston believes there is still tremendous potential even for this well-established product line.
“I think [the market] for all berry types will continue to grow,” he says. “Strawberries are a more mature market, but there are great opportunities for blueberries, raspberries and sweet-eating blackberries; we haven’t even started to scratch the surface of putting a great blackberry in front of consumers and building that market.”
Deal with disappointment
In fact, Marston believes the consumption of most fruits can be expanded and cites consumer disappointment as a factor in limiting fruit intake. “Most fruit types disappoint on occasion so if you can get a consistently great-eating berry, orange or peach or nectarine right through the year, then you’re a long way towards building momentum right across the marketplace, increasing penetration and increasing kilogrammes per capita consumption.”
Grower of the Year triumph
Berry Gardens won recognition at the 2015 Grower of the Year Awards for both its soft fruit and cherry production, with its cherry concept orchard at Lower Hope Farms named Top-Fruit Grower of the Year and hailed as “a glimpse into the future of how all modern British cherry orchards will be managed”.
Littywood Farm was Soft-Fruit Grower of the Year, while Driscoll’s Solero strawberry was Best New Variety of the Year. Individual excellence was also recognised as Jon Marcar, Berry Gardens’ lead agronomist was named Best Agronomist of the Year and Chris Price of Moorcroft Fruit was highly commended in the Young Grower of the Year category.