Blueberries are fast becoming a staple for UK consumers, but making people aware that there are UK grown blueberries may take a bit longer.
“The British Summer Fruits campaign is doing a good job to promote the British blueberry. It’s difficult to get consumers to realise that we do grow blueberries here,” explained Chris Chinn from Cobrey Farms. “Once we start to build awareness I think consumers will start to ask for British blueberries, which is something they haven’t been able to do when they are not available on the shelf!” Cobrey Farms is also extending the season on both ends through the use of varieties and plastic covering.
British grown blueberries are in abundance at the moment, with the season running from mid June through until late October. “Peak season runs from mid July through August and then a late crop comes through until the middle of October,” Chinn explains. Prices are slightly higher than imported blueberries they are all around £2 per punnet, but there will be 250g per punnet of imported compared to 150g in the British ones. The costs of labour keep prices high for British blueberries. “From a retail point of view you would find Polish in a 250g pack where British might be in a 100 or 150g pack. It’s mainly because of labour, 70% cost of production is labour and our labour costs are higher,” says Chinn.
Demand for the world’s fastest growing fresh fruit commodity has certainly not slowed. “They’re very practical, very versatile. They don’t have the complexity of flavour of some other fruits but they’re very easy eating, kids love them, and they’ve got a bit of life as well so they keep in the fridge better than other soft fruits.” says Chinn.
Blueberries are popular with kids and parents alike due to their superfood status, and Chinn sees growth potential there. “I think that’s a growth potential. People also throw them in their cereals or smoothies. In this fast paced world we live in I think that adds an advantage actually.” he says. British blueberries are not expected to compete with the classic strawberries and cream season of Wimbledon, but Chinn says that consumers do not stop buying blueberries just because strawberries are in season. “In your bowl is full of strawberries you might fancy some blueberries.”
Wye Valley, blueberries, the Cobrey brand, are also sold on the wholesale market. “Chefs are also becoming aware that there is a British blueberry which is great news as they can help promote and educate the public how great they are!”
Ultimately, Chinn is optimistic that the British blueberry is just coming into its own and has a long way to climb. New plantings that are just coming to fruition and some new flavoursome varieties will help that process along. “That will demonstrate to consumers the consistency in terms of freshness and flavour sets the British blueberry apart. In terms of quality we can have a very good shout and hopefully British growers will build a brand around that.”