AC Goatham & Son has opened a new £9m packing and distribution centre near Rochester to improve quality and streamline supply of apples to retailers.

The facility, built by Britain’s biggest grower of top fruit, allows fruit to be packed at high speed and apples to be checked for internal defects. It was opened by Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King on 19 August.

“This is a great step for the industry and for our customers who will see more British fruit on shelves,” said King, adding that the site would play a key role in Sainsbury’s 20x20 Sustainability Plan target of doubling sales of British food by 2020.

AC Goatham expects to supply around 200 million apples to Sainsbury’s in the forthcoming season, having worked with the retailer for 10 years.

“Improving quality and offering better service to both our retail and growing partners is key to our success,” said senior partner Clive Goatham.