The UK's first entirely pesticide-free strawberries and raspberries went on sale last week in Tesco.

Good Natured Fruit, which has taken four years to develop, is the first free-from brand in the produce sector, according to supplier Angus Soft Fruits.

Instead of using chemical pesticides to prevent crop damage, Angus growers use 'natural herbal ingredients', natural predators and stricter quality control.

John Gray, commercial manager for Angus Soft Fruits, said the brand posed a threat to organic counterparts because the fruit was cheaper and tastier.

"With organic soft fruit there is often a trade-off between the variety and its suitability for organic

production," he said. "It means some organics don't have the right taste for consumers."

The brand's launch comes in the wake of a wave of pesticide scandals involving Spanish-grown vegetables and negative publicity over residue levels in school fruit and vegetables.

Angus has invested heavily in developing the brand, which is costlier than standard fruit. It has shifted 20% of its UK production - 1,000 tonnes of fruit - over to the brand and is banking on continued growth in the free-from market. Mintel says sales of foods such as gluten-, wheat- and dairy-free have already grown by 329% since 2000 and will double again by 2010.

The lines launched last week in Tesco include Ava strawberries and Glen Ample raspberries, which grow in the UK until early November.

Angus is currently in talks with other retailers regarding listings and with European growers to extend the brand's availability to 12 months. It is also looking at extending it to other soft fruits, said Gray. Angus' blueberry and blackberry lines could be candidates, although he refused to speculate.

Scottish TV chef Nick Nairn is supporting Good Natured Fruit with cookery demonstrations.