New sweeter, giant blackberries set to be game changer for UK growers
17 July 2015
They’ve always been seen as the poor relation to strawberries, blueberries and raspberries - but that’s all set to change for the humble blackberry. This summer British berry growers are starting to reap the rewards of a new variety of blackberry called Driscoll’s Victoria which they believe will be a game changer for the UK berry industry.
They’ve always been seen as the poor relation to strawberries, blueberries and raspberries - but that’s all set to change for the humble blackberry.
This summer British berry growers are starting to reap the rewards of a new variety of blackberry called Driscoll’s Victoria which they believe will be a game changer for the UK berry industry.
Not only are Driscoll’s Victoria far sweeter than traditional UK blackberries but they, on average, also nearly twice the size.
And their impact is already been felt on British high streets with Tesco this summer becoming the first supermarket to sell blackberries as a snacking food.
Tesco’s move to sell these sweeter, giant blackberries in snack packs, which began in early June is already bringing the following results:
- Blackberries – demand up nearly 60 per cent in last 4 weeks
- Raspberries – demand up 25 per cent in last 4 weeks
- Blueberries – demand up 10 per cent in last 4 weeks
- Strawberries – demand up 10 per cent in last 4 weeks
Tesco soft fruit buying manager Simon Mandelbaum said: “Traditionally blackberries have never been as popular as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and that’s because they have not been as sweet.
“They’ve always been popular in cooking, especially as ingredients for jam, pies and crumbles but lesser so as a treat to be enjoyed on their own.
“However, that’s not the case in America where blackberries are far more popular than in the UK and the varieties are far sweeter.
“The early results speak for themselves and we think these sweeter, giant blackberries could totally revolutionise the UK berry industry and see the fruit eventually become as popular as blueberries have become in the last 10 years – and maybe, one day, even strawberries.”
Driscoll’s Victoria is one of several relatively new blackberry varieties including Karaka Black and Black Magic which have been developed as a result of advances in breeding. An increasing number of UK growers have been planting them over the last few years.
The taste is consistently sweet and has been developed with a reduction in the acidity of the berry which allows the natural sugars in the fruit to dominate.
The arrival of the sweeter blackberry varieties helped boost total UK production last year to more than 1500 tonnes - up by nearly 20 per cent on the previous year. But experts predict that, weather permitting, this year’s yield could be as high as 2000 tonnes.
Robert Pascall is one of the UK’s biggest berry growers, running the 420 acre Clock House Farm, Coxheath, near Maidstone, Kent.
He says the arrival of the Driscoll’s Victoria and other sweeter varieties has encouraged him to plant more blackberry bushes with production rocketing from 30 tonnes in 2012 to 180 tonnes in 2014. This year, with good weather, his annual tonnage will soar yet again.
Robert Pascall said: “Finding a larger, sweeter blackberry variety that can be eaten on its own as a dessert or as a snack has long been the Holy Grail for UK berry growers.
“We’ve been trialling various sweeter varieties for a few years now but none have produced as consistent a taste or size as the Driscoll’s Victoria which is already proving to be a game changer for growers like myself and also on the high street.
“The move by Tesco to sell blackberries in snacking packs and widen their appeal will no doubt encourage growers to invest in further production and establish the fruit as a rival to other top selling berries.”
Other sweet varieties now available in UK supermarkets include Karaka Black, and Black Magic which are all grown in the UK.
Note to editors:
Tesco’s new 100g blackberry snack packs cost £1 each.
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