British raspberries are set for an earlier start this year after good spring weather.
Growers estimate that this season is starting three weeks earlier than usual, with stronger raspberry plants, prompted by early spring sunshine, helping create bigger, bolder raspberries with better flavour.
This year the fruit is expected to last through to November, thanks to careful planning to ensure a continuous supply of the berry over the summer, according to British Summer Fruits.
Leading raspberry varieties grown in the UK have the ability to flower and fruit over a long period of up to five months, while traditional types typically produce fruit for a four to six week period.
Since May last year, almost £320m worth of raspberries were sold in the UK with shoppers spending 16 per cent more on the berry than the previous year.
In the last four weeks alone, the volume of raspberries has grown by 20 per cent. The category has been boosted by emerging evidence of raspberries’ health benefits, with studies showing raspberries help improve vascular function, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
More recently, two studies revealed that eating raspberries lowered blood sugar levels, potentially making them especially beneficial for diabetics.
Nutritionist Emma Derbyshire said: “Raspberries are a powerful source of nutrients including vitamin C, manganese, dietary fibre and polyphenols which are thought to have potent antioxidant properties.
“There is a growing body of evidence that raspberries could have a valuable role to play in helping to maintain wellbeing, as part of a heart healthy diet. Their mechanisms are in need of further study but it is thought that their consumption may help to regulate and maintain healthy metabolic activities in our body’s cells."
Nick Marston, chairman of British Summer Fruits, the industry body that represents 95 percent of berries supplied to UK supermarkets said: “We are always striving to deliver the highest quality fruit to our customers. Ongoing innovations in the industry allow us to prioritise sweetness and flavour which has helped berries become the most popular fruit in shopper’s baskets.”