Larger, sweeter Driscoll's Victoria blackberries 'a game changer'
A variety of blackberry which is nearly twice the size of regular ones is being described as a potential "game changer" for Britain's berry industry.
Traditionally, blackberries have lagged behind rival berries such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in their popularity among consumers.
But industry experts say the arrival of Driscoll's Victoria blackberries this summer could change that due to their sweeter taste and larger size.
Tesco, which has started selling them in snack packs, has reported an increase in demand of nearly 60% in the past four weeks, higher than raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.
Berry grower, Robert Pascall, who runs the 420-acre Clock House Farm in Coxheath, near Maidstone, Kent, said the arrival of Driscoll's Victoria and other sweeter varieties has encouraged him to plant more blackberry bushes.
Production at his farm has soared from 30 tonnes in 2012 to 180 tonnes in 2014, and the annual tonnage is set to soar further this year with good weather.
Mr Pascall said: "Finding a larger, sweeter blackberry variety that can be eaten on its own as a dessert or as a snack has long been the Holy Grail for UK berry growers.
"We've been trialling various sweeter varieties for a few years now but none have produced as consistent a taste or size as the Driscoll's Victoria which is already proving to be a game changer for growers like myself and also on the high street."
He said the move by some supermarkets to sell blackberries in snacking packs would widen their appeal and encourage growers to invest further in production and establish the fruit as a rival to other top-selling berries.
Tesco soft fruit buying manager Simon Mandelbaum said: "Traditionally, blackberries have never been as popular as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, and that's because they have not been as sweet.
"They've always been popular in cooking, especially as ingredients for jam, pies and crumbles, but lesser so as a treat to be enjoyed on their own.
"However, that's not the case in America where blackberries are far more popular than in the UK and the varieties are far sweeter.
"The early results speak for themselves and we think these sweeter, giant blackberries could totally revolutionise the UK berry industry and see the fruit eventually become as popular as blueberries have become in the last 10 years, and maybe, one day, even strawberries."