WB Chambers Open Day: An insight into the future of the UK berry market

On Tuesday 12th July 2022, a couple of our team attended WB Chambers Farms First Open Day! We enjoyed talks from Tim Chambers, James Miller and Pairwise as well as a number of industry experts covering the current fruit economy, the future of fruit genetics and berry breeding. 

WB Chambers was set up in 1952 in Kent. Third-generation owner and present Managing Director Tim Chambers took over the reins of running the family’s farms in 1990, focusing on berry, currant and stone fruit production. Today Chambers Group operates with 5 core divisions: UK Farms, Overseas Farms, Contract Packing, Importing, and Prepared (The Fruitery).

We were lucky enough to visit Homefield Farm. This is where Chambers pioneering raspberry trial site is located. This trial site offers an opportunity for propagators to see how their plants deliver against a range of criteria. 

The Open Day provided an in-depth insight into UK berry growth showcasing continued trails and development of new varieties in addition to alternative growing methods. There has been a huge reduction in the use of pesticides over the last few years with the farm now moving to more expensive biological pest control. 

Other key takeaways from the day included:

– Major highlighting of labour cost increases. It was interesting to learn that 60% of production costs in cane fruit is labour and 35% in strawberries. 

– The berry market is valued at over £1.70 billion for 2022 and continues to grow although consumption per capita is still low leaving plenty of room for growth.

– Industry experts discussed plans to help reduce supply chain costs and ensure their premium product is still a firm favourite among retail customers.  

Chambers believes sustainability matters and has put in place a number of sustainable business practices to improve their environmental impact such as; Planting native species of hedgerows and plants to attract bees and local wildlife and installing insect hotels and bird boxes at specific Chambers’ sites. In addition to this, Chambers is constantly looking at ways to reduce product waste through IQF, Freeze drying and even by using excess product in fizzy drinks.

Chambers vision for the future introduced us to American company Pairwise. They taught us more about enhancing berry traits such as taste, shelf life and appearance. The vision for the future is to develop varieties with the highest yield for each region. This is by bringing out the traits to make them best adapted to different regions. 

Fun fact: Did you know humans and bananas share about 40 to 60 percent of the same DNA. 

Thank you to the Chambers team for hosting an insightful event. Please contact your account manager to purchase your delicious Chambers berries.

Tags: UK Berries
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