Which retailers are the best at backing British fruit? - Fruit & Vine

Which retailers are the best at backing British fruit?

The berry industry has for the first time taken the unprecedented step of calling out retailers who don’t support British berries amidst huge concerns over the viability of the industry with an 8% drop in crops forecast for 2024 as retailers squeeze growers on price.

British grown fruit

Britain is self-sufficient in strawberries from May to October. British raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are in plentiful supply throughout the summer months.

An overview

  • Growers report zero increase in what retailers paid for their strawberries in 2022 – despite supermarkets increasing the average price of berries for consumers by 11%.
  • The failure of retailers to pass on their profits means an estimated 18 million fewer strawberry punnets could be on supermarket shelves in 2024.
  • Asda is least supportive of British berries, just below Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Iceland.

Increased production costs putting pressure on fruit growers

Fresh berries are the most popular fruit item in the nation’s shopping baskets – enjoying the biggest market share (28 percent) of all fruit sold in the UK.

Despite this abundance and demand for soft fruit, not all supermarkets are backing British berries. The British berry industry is under threat, with supermarket returns failing to meet growers’ inflationary costs of production.

Rising costs for energy, packaging, haulage, and labour are all contributing to grower cost increases. However, British Berry Growers (BBG) members are reporting zero increase in what retailers paid for their strawberries in 2022.

This is despite berry prices going up for UK shoppers. Data from analyst firm Kantar shows that in the 2022 British season from May to September, supermarkets increased the average price of berries by 11 percent for consumers.

Weekly sales data will be published to highlight most supportive supermarkets

In a step towards greater transparency, British Berry Growers, the industry body representing 95% of berries sold in the UK, is now publishing weekly sales data from its members to reveal which supermarkets are most supportive of British berries, accessible here.

The data will be published each Wednesday during the UK summer season and is presented in two ways. First, the total tonnes of British berries sold to UK supermarkets by BBG members, and second the percentage of total British berries sold compared to that supermarket’s grocery market share.

Together, the weekly charts provide an accurate picture of which retailers are the most supportive of fresh British berries.

For example, for the week commencing the 10th July 2023, Tesco bought the most British berries (1,361.6 tonnes) of any UK supermarket, this equated to 23.9 percent of all British berries sold which is less than its 27.1 percent grocery market share.

Asda had the biggest discrepancy between its grocery market share (13.7 percent) and the percentage of all British berries sold to UK supermarkets (5.5 percent) in the latest data charts of the summer season.

As of 20th July 2023, Lidl was the largest single supermarket to top the charts for total berries sold compared to their market share, followed by Aldi, Waitrose and Co-op.

British berry industry under threat

Nick Marston, chairman of British Berry Growers said “The squeeze on the British berry industry, which faces rising production costs and flat returns from supermarkets, is seriously threatening the viability of the British berry industry.

“If we don’t address this disconnect, British berry growers will start to reduce the numbers of berries they grow or go out of the industry completely, as they are unable to make a profit. None of us wants that, least of all consumers, who love buying and eating British berries.

“That’s why we have taken the step of publishing retail sales data collected from our members, so that the British public can see which retailers are most supportive of the British berry industry. We want to shine a light on retailer best practice and encourage consumers to challenge their supermarkets to stock British berries whenever possible.”

The BBG sales data rankings will culminate in the British Berry Growers’ annual Retailer of The Year Award to be announced at The Farmers Club in November 2023.

In addition to BBG calling for fairer returns for growers from UK supermarkets to ensure the future of the berry industry, the industry body is also calling for specific government support to help address the cost of production crisis in the form of a fit-for-purpose seasonal worker visa scheme. Specifically, BBG growers are seeking nine-month seasonal worker visas (currently six months) to ensure workers can cover the entire British berry picking season.

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