Berry Gardens has seen turnover increase by over 14 per cent and exceed £300 million for the first time.
The soft-fruit cooperative ended the financial year with a turnover figure of £318.7m, announced at its 45th AGM, held in Maidstone on 27 April.
The early winter months of 2016 saw strong trading with sales of imported and early British fruit ahead of last year, the group said. Homegrown fruit enjoyed a good start to the 2016 season thanks to higher than average sunshine hours, while favourable weather conditions in August and September resulted in a new sales high during the British season.
“Our continued success and double digit growth illustrates that our strategy of supplying the best varieties underpinned by our co-operative structure is a winning formula,” said chairman Alastair Brooks.
“We are the only grower owned berry and cherry marketing group in the sector and this gives us the ability to react swiftly in our dynamic market and maximise opportunities.
“As a co-operative our policy is to return surpluses to our grower owners which enables them to invest in the most up to date production techniques.”
The popularity of sweet-eating blackberries “continues to grow unabated”, Brooks said, while Berry Gardens expects British cherry volumes to increase substantially once new plantings reach maturity. Although UK cherry production overall was affected negatively by the weather in 2016, Berry Gardens increased its market share of British production to 65 per cent.
The total berry market was valued at £1.18 billion, up by 12.6 per cent year on year, according to Kantar figures for the 52 weeks to 1 January 2017.
Raspberries and blueberries experienced the highest value growth, 21 per cent and 23.7 per cent growth respectively.