U.K.: Berry Gardens stakes record strawberry sales
U.K. soft fruit marketer Berry Gardens has reported achieving record sales for strawberries in the domestic market, with more than 1,700 metric tons (MT) of berries sold every week between June 23 and July 14.
Speaking at British fresh produce trade fair Fruit Focus, Berry Gardens managing director Nicholas Marston said the sales record had been achieved despite the latest ever start to the U.K. soft fruit season.
"The cool and dull spring weather this year created an unprecedented delay to the start of the season, which created bigger fruits that have had higher than average sugar levels," he said.
"When the crops finally started to ripen, a lot of fruit came quickly. Fortunately we had anticipated this situation and sales plans were prepared to reflect later, bigger crops."
According to Kantar Worldpanel data, the U.K. strawberry market decreased by 1.03% in value terms over the past 52 weeks, but grew by 1.88% in volume. However, sales values increased by 15.77% during the past four weeks while volume was up by almost 29%.
Berry Gardens chairman Paul Kelsey said that the company had been able to ease pressure on growers’ finances caused by the late start to the campaign by paying its annual commission rebate earlier than during previous years, with over £2.92 million (US$4.48 million) paid to member producers in May.
Although the U.K. raspberry campaign was similarly delayed, Marston said Berry Gardens had also achieved some of its "highest raspberry sales ever", totaling 400MT during the week starting July 14.
Marston predicted that sales would continue to grow over the coming weeks, with the delayed Maravilla crop combining with additional volumes of Glen Ample, Tulameen and Octavia.
"Overall sales of raspberries are up by 20% compared with last year although the category doesn’t have the same penetration as strawberries," he said.
"We’d like to see penetration grow to 65-70% like strawberries and bananas, but just a rise to 50% would increase the market by 40-50%."