Blueberry boost for British business
September 26, 2013

As the popularity of blueberries with shoppers continues to grow apace, researchers at the James Hutton Institute are working with growers and processors on projects designed to secure the place of UK-grown berries in the market.

Although sales of fresh blueberries rose by 60% last year almost all of it is imported, as only 1-3% of all sales were blueberries grown in Britain. With annual sales valued at £144.8 million, just behind raspberries at £146.3 million, there is huge potential for the home-grown blueberry market.

However it is not only the fresh blueberry market that is in the sights of the British industry as they are also targeting the juice market and exploring the potential of growing native low bush varieties, known in Scotland as blaeberries, on a commercial scale for juicing.

Researchers at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee are working on two separate projects with industry partners that hope to exploit both these opportunities. The first is a Horticulture LINK grant to identify high bush blueberry varieties suitable for growing in the UK for the fresh market. The second is a Technology Strategy Board project investigating blaeberry use in the production of a quality blueberry juice.

Dr Julie Graham, who works on both projects, says the time is ripe for diversification by berry growers across the country. “Blueberries offer great potential for growers as their popularity grows year on year and the benefits shoppers will get from home-grown fruit will be fresher, tastier berries. British growers are harvesting their fresh blueberries right now so I’d urge shoppers to give them a try to taste the difference,” she said.

“Although the fresh market season is relatively short for British growers and consumers the possibility of exploiting our native blaeberries for an all-year-round product in the form of a quality juice means shoppers will be able to enjoy berries throughout the year.”