Coinciding with the period in which the UK berry market smashed the £1 billion value barrier for the first time, Berry Gardens has posted a record turnover figure.
Aided by helpful growing conditions and strong sales of imported product, the co-operative grew its turnover by 15.8 per cent from 2014 to £278m in 2015.
This figure could push the business into the top five of FPJ's annual Big 50 Companies publication, with Berry Gardens having been ranked in 8th place for the last two years, holding on to the position in the most recent edition with a turnover of £236.8m.
Berry Gardens chairman Alastair Brooks said: "Growth is attributable to both UK and import sales. In early 2016, import sales exceeded the £100m mark for a rolling 52 weeks, assisted by the investment in the Berry Gardens packhouse, which packed 61.9m punnets in 2015 over 10 packing lines – an increase of nearly 20 per cent.
"Following a second year of mild winters, the season started as expected, and production across the group largely followed our pre-season forecast, which allowed us to maximise member sales.
"As a result we have achieved a record turnover. This, in turn, allowed us to reinvest record amounts back into our members' businesses, by running our biggest ever PO programme, through increased R&D spend, and by giving record rebates to members."
In the year, Berry Gardens –which claims to be the largest grower owned co-operative in UK horticulture, with 54 growers – also expanded its services to members in areas including agronomy, pest monitoring, IT, benchmarking and supply chain.
Its association with berry breeding giant Driscoll’s has allowed Berry Gardens to further increase its efforts in varietal development on all of its main fruit types.
As well as berries, Berry Gardens remains one of the country's leading players in the cherry market too.
Brooks added: "British cherries, long seen as a six-week wonder, are moving into a different and exciting phase. Following on from 2015, when our production increased by 70 per cent, we were delighted to welcome two new members in Kent for 2016, which will cement our position as the UK's leading producers of cherries in this fast-growing and exciting category.
"With covered production from Kent to Aberdeenshire, we now have a season that runs from early June to the end of September."