The independent Scottish grower-owned-and-managed soft fruit marketing company believes that it has set the trend by creating the Ava strawberry, with its distinctive sweet taste, strong aroma and confetti-like petals.
In its first full season of production this year, the company sold 1,000 tonnes of Ava, boosting its turnover to about £30m, representing a year-on-year increase of 50%.
The company has an on-going programme of creating new varieties of soft fruit, in particular strawberries and raspberries, while still offering standard varieties of blueberries and blackberries. It says it commands 10%-15% of total UK soft fruit sales. The company’s main base is in Arbroath, in Angus, but its R&D facility in Evesham is where Ava was developed, from an original sample of 120,000 seedlings. The aim was to create a distinctive strawberry that crops in Scotland from May to October to provide a point of difference - as well as a premium of up to 40% over standard lines.
John Gray, commercial manager, says: “It came along at just the right time when the big four multiples were looking to build premiums in produce as a way to compete with M&S and Waitrose.”
Ava is sold as part of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Tesco’s Finest and Morrisons’ The Best ranges.
Gray adds: “Supermarkets appreciate our being a grower-managed organisation because we don’t have to have our needs and theirs translated by a middle man.”