The day when consumers buy their strawberries and raspberries by variety, as they do apples and potatoes now, is drawing closer, according to Angus Soft Fruits, creator of the first branded strawberry.
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.”
Greg Meenehan