Last week marked the official start to the British Strawberry season, and this year growers are predicting a 6% increase in production.
The cool, dry winter – coupled with recent warm weather that saw temperatures rise to 26ºC in one of the hottest days of the year – has created the perfect growing conditions for this year’s crop of strawberries.
The deliciously juicy and slow-ripened strawberries are now on supermarket shelves in abundance, helping to meet the increasing consumer demand for one of the UK’s favourite fruits.
Over the past year, more than 126,000 tonnes of strawberries were sold in the UK, with shoppers spending more than £580 million on the fruit. The consumption of fresh berries, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, has grown by an impressive 132% since 2007, outstripping the 49% increase of fruit consumption as a whole.
The steady rise in demand comes from an increase in the number of health-conscious shoppers, who are recognising the serious nutritional punch berries pack for every calorie consumed. Just nine strawberries (108g) provide your recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
Berries now make up a remarkable 22% of all fruit sold in the UK, which has pushed the value of the berry industry above £1.2 billion. Where apples and bananas were once the traditional, staple fruit, fresh berries are now the most popular fruit item in shoppers’ baskets.
‘Berries are a great healthy, summer snack which is backed up by one of the largest bodies of research. They are an abundant source of vitamins, minerals and phyto (plant) nutrients which have been linked to a diverse range of health benefits. New Imperial research recently highlighted that we may need to strive for 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day to lower chronic disease risk. Snacking on punnets of berries this summer – be it at a picnic, barbeque or when on a lunch break, is a great and easy way to boost our fruit intake for adults and kids alike.’
DR EMMA DERBYSHIRE
British Summer Fruits’ public health nutritionist
Innovation in growing technique has ensured this season’s quintessential British crop will be a mouth-watering treat. Amongst the many varieties available on shelves will be Malling Centenary, Sweet Eve, Sonata, Elsanta, Driscoll’s Zara and Ava Joy.
Here’s a quick guide to the strawberry varieties hitting the supermarket shelves.
Laurence Olins, Chairman of British Summer Fruits, the industry body that represents 98% of berries sold in UK supermarkets said this season’s strawberry production ‘reflects a robust and expanding soft fruit category that is able to meet the growing consumer demand.’
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