Fresh berries offer one of the best opportunities to grow sales of fruit in a number of European countries, according to one of the region's leading soft fruit buyers.
James Waddy, category buying manager for fresh fruit at UK-based multinational retailer Tesco, told those attending the Global Berry Congress in London on 26 April that the soft fruit sector remained one of the most promising areas of the fresh produce business and, with sales continuing to show growth in several EU markets, the outlook for those looking to achieve further penetration was particularly promising.
"At the end of the day, the positive thing about the soft fruit market is that it is still relatively undeveloped," Waddy told the conference. "There is growth, both here in the UK and in Europe, unlike other fresh produce categories where numbers are more stagnant."
Andy Jackson, who heads up the soft fruit buying unit at International Produce, part of Walmart-owned retailer Asda, spoke in another session about the need to continue the good work done so far to expand the category.
"In the UK, berries look set to be a billion-pound market this time next year," he noted. "We've seen huge growth, but this has come out of volue, not out of cash sales."
He added: "Market penetration is still only around 75 per cent, so that means 15m people in the UK are still not buying berries. We've had a fair amount of doom and gloom in the business as a whole, but this part of the industry is in good shape."
When it came to expanding further in other European markets, where the berry category is arguably less well developed, Waddy said there were differences of which marketers and suppliers needed to be aware.
"The fact is that different markets require different strategies – what works in one area such as the UK may not work in continental Europe," he commented.
"For example, the UK has a strong seasonality aspect for berries, so part of the challenge in this country is getting customers to understand this seasonality, and using it as a selling point."