Sugar levels are running high this season

As the UK strawberry season hits its peak this week, producers are reporting large sizes and high sugar levels despite a late start.

Nick Marston, managing director of Berry Gardens said: “The very cold and dull weather we had in March and April, particularly in the south of England held back the early tunnel crops which started three weeks later than you would normally expect.

“The good news is that fruit quality is great and sugar levels are high because of the long, slow ripening process.”

British Summer Fruits (BSF) has reported brix levels as high as 10 registered by some growers in their crops during the early part of the season.

Producers have also reported an increase in the size of strawberries this year, with fruit up to 15 per cent bigger.Demand is also measurably up on last year thanks to some mixed weather in early June boosting sales in contrast to very wet and cold conditions during the same period in 2012.

Production is expected to exceed last year’s 51,626 tonnes of strawberries supplied to UK supermarkets by BSF members. The organisation’s chairman Laurence Olins said: “We have had abundant supplies of UK strawberries since early last week in all major supermarkets and the RSP is similar to last year.

“The bigger packs of British strawberries currently on offer mean that customers can buy UK strawberries at a lower price – on a kilo basis. This is a great mechanic when volume exceeds demand, as it keeps the strawberry crop moving.”

Meanwhile, BSF is funding and undertaking its first integrated UK marketing campaign to promote British strawberries in 2013. The campaign developed by The Red Brick Road was launched nationally in mid-May and runs until September. It includes digital advertising, social media and PR.

Olins added: “Running an integrated marketing campaign of this magnitude is a first for British Summer Fruits, so it’s an exciting time for us and the category as a whole. The campaign will help us to connect with our core consumers and attract new consumers to the fresh-fruit aisles.”