A new strawberry variety hailed as a “quantum leap forward” for soft fruit production is set to be sold in commercial volumes.

Sasha is being touted to challenge leading varieties Elsanta and Sonata for market share within two years. Sainsbury's is believed to have ordered as much Sasha as is available this year and Tesco is also buying the fruit. Other supermarkets are reported to have expressed an interest.

The variety was developed by soft fruit breeders Meiosis and propagation and commercial rights have been bought by Hargreaves Plants and Woods Nurseries Plants. The two companies have planted 250,000 plants for commercial use next year, after successful supermarket trials.

“Sasha ticks all the consumer boxes in terms of taste with a consistent brix reading, colour, shape and size,” said Hargreaves’ commercial director Rupert Hargreaves. “Through high yields and reduced planting density Sasha can increase growers’ profitability.”

The new fruit was delivering 22% higher yields and 10% more class one fruit than Elsanta in trials, and had a better shelf life, Hargreaves claimed. The volume increase alone equated to an extra £30,000 per hectare, he said. Sasha is regarded as ideal for glasshouse production, with Wallings Nursery in Essex conducting a commercial glasshouse trial. Picking, which started two weeks ago, is expected to last two months. The company hopes to fill 250,000 250g punnets this season.

Wallings could increase its level of Sasha from 25% to 50% of its glasshouse production next year, said director Christopher Batchelor.