First berry event hails health role

Friday, 09 January 2009

Soft fruit grower Anthony Snell reports from the inaugural International Blackcurrant Conference, which took place in New Zealand in November.

The inaugural International Blackcurrant Conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, included significant involvement by its main sponsor, health business Four Leaf Japan Company, demonstrating its view of the vital importance of the emerging nutraceutical and functional foods market in addition to the more traditional blackcurrant drinks sector.

New Zealand's climate is ideally suited to blackcurrant growing, centred around Christchurch and Nelson in South Island. The industry currently produces just over 9,000 tonnes, with the bulk taken on contract by GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) for Ribena.

The remaining fruit is taken up by co-operative Blackcurrant NZ, Just the Berries, Enzafoods and the Sujon Berry Fruit Company - concentrating on IQF (individually quick frozen) production and, more recently, the blackcurrant nutraceutical ingredients for the Japanese market.

The conference heard from a series of eminent world food scientists extolling the virtues of this "super fruit's" health properties as the panacea for many illnesses.

Interestingly, research is moving on from the well-documented antioxidative and vitamin C properties to newer areas involving visual improvement and "gut wellness". Both areas are potentially of great economic importance.

It would be reasonable to assume that pharmaceutical giant GSK might be excited by these findings. However, procurement director Michael Dunsire said GSK was "remaining firmly focused on the health drinks market".

He added: "Japanese nutraceutical products are often sold by mail order, (which is) a specialised area completely different to our core business."

Further encouraging news is that a team from the Scottish Crop Research Institute at Invergowrie, near Dundee, has received significant funding to research whether bioactive compounds found in blackcurrants can slow dementia.

Conference chairman Jim Grievson said it was time to "turn science into money" and follow the example of the well-marketed cranberry and blueberry brands.

The Currant Company president Greg Quinn, whose firm operates the Currant C brand, emphasised the unique character and flavour of blackcurrants but was concerned at the lack of marketing strategy. He said that the sector must get away from being a commodity market and develop as a niche.

Jarrow Rogovin, president of California-based Jarrow Formulas, said blackcurrants were in a similar position to the pomegranate market seven years ago.

There is no doubt that blackcurrants are extremely good for people's health, and many of the fruit's qualities have been well documented for years.

Growers are aware that it will take a very concerted world marketing effort, together with a few lucky breaks, to get the market penetration this berry deserves.

The New Zealand conference was a great success, and could just provide the catalyst required.


You must log in to use Clip & Save

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Additional Information

Latest jobs Jobs web feed

  • HEAD GARDENER Private Estate in Vale of Evesham Dependent on experience, Worcestershire
  • Horticulturalist Gardener, Borders Grosvenor Estate Competitive salary plus benefits , Chester, Cheshire / Eccleston, Cheshire
  • Pet and Aquatics Supervisor MorePeople £16000 - £18000 per annum, Norfolk
  • Sweeper Driver The Landscape Group Paying London Living Wage (£8.80 per hour) and upwards dependent on experience), London (Greater)
  • Tractor Driver The Landscape Group Paying London Living Wage (£8.80 per hour) and upwards dependent on experience, London (Greater)


In This Issue

Horticulture Week - 18 April 2014

NEWS: Garden centres look forward to late Easter sales bonanza

SARGENT'S SOLUTIONS: Why the Customer Rights Bill should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat

MARKET REPORT: Glasshouses

LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS: Government prospectus offers potential boost across disciplines

EDIBLES: Helping cut food waste - latest packaging addresses concerns over waste issues

PLANT FOCUS: Polygonatum