With the kiwiberry season now under way, one of Britain’s biggest suppliers, BerryWorld, expects to sell twice as much of the niche fruit as it did last year.
The soft fruit giant’s sole grower, Withers Farm in Herefordshire, has been producing the miniature, hairless kiwi variety for five years and is increasing production each year.
This year the grower expects to sell over 20 tonnes of the native Chinese berry in selected Tesco, Waitrose and M&S stores across the UK and online, via Ocado. This is double the 11 tonnes it sold last year.
Alan Leeds began the Withers Farm business in 1958, growing strawberries and apples. When his son George Leeds took over the business he diversified, first planting blueberries and then, in 2012, kiwiberries, becoming one of the first UK growers.
The producer now cultivates three different varieties of the niche fruit: Weili, Ananasnaya and Geneva.
This season, BerryWorld has developed a new collection of kiwiberry recipes and images to help market the fruit, which it describes as “zesty” and “snackable”.
But it has not all been plain sailing for the fledgling fruit. In October 2016 kiwiberries faced a UK marketing ban, but the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) stepped in to prove the product’s sales potential, arguing that the kiwiberry sector, then worth £1 million, was showing strong growth.
Thanks to successful lobbying, kiwiberry suppliers avoided having to apply to sell the fruit as a ‘novel food’ – the European Union’s classification for any product deemed to have insufficient evidence of production and consumption in the EU prior to 1997.
BerryWorld is the biggest supplier of British-grown kiwiberries, which are harvested from the end of August to the end of September. The company also sources product from Chile during the off-season.