The surge in demand for blueberries all year round has revitalised the category, and is spurring British growers to start producing the fruit.

Retail sales of the superfood are up from £11.8m to £49.8m in the past three years [TNS 52 w/e 3 June) and growers have woken up to the opportunity.

Harvesting gets underway this week at the Dorset Blueberry Company, set up in 1959 by the Trehane family and still one of only a handful of UK growers. MD David Trehane grows on 20 acres at Hampreston and he is not only planting more, but liaising with growers with potential sites.

Blueberry growing requires heavy up-front capital investment because bushes take as long as four years to mature, but once they start fruiting, they can live for 30 years or more.

The high profitability of the crop, which sells at the farm gate for up to £10,000/ tonne, has attracted some of the largest UK grower co-ops and marketing groups because of a breakthrough in growing techniques.

Tim Newton, technical director of BerryWorld, says that its growers aim to plant 50 acres a year over the next three years.

Nick Marston, MD of KG Marketing, is following a similar path and expects to reach 100 acres in the same timeframe. The Summer Fruit Company, which already handles blueberries grown by the Trehane family also expects growth.

Trehane believes that the market will remain buoyant because of the quality of English fruit, with M&S a loyal customer. More sophisticated products are also likely to emerge, with organic fruit soon available and the largest fruit already marketed as 'king berries'.

At present the market is mainly supplied from abroad, especially Poland. "The larger volume should also provide an opportunity for import substitution between July and September," he said.