Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS) has invested over half a million pounds in a five-year project with the James Hutton Institute, to develop new varieties of blackcurrant that are resilient to the changing UK climate.
The project extends the company’s 30-year partnership with the food and environment research institute. Since 1991, it has invested over £10 million to improve the sustainability and quality of British blackcurrant crops.
According to LRS, it uses 90% of the blackcurrants grown in Britain to make Ribena, with around 10,000 tonnes of blackcurrants harvested from British fields each year to keep up with consumer demand.
Previous research from the Scottish institute has highlighted the threat that climate change poses to blackcurrant farming. According to the press release, the plants require a period of sustained cold weather in the winter, without which they yield less fruit and have a shorter lifespan.
Over the next five years, both participants aim to meet the challenge of the UK weather gradually getting warmer by developing varieties of blackcurrants that can cope with these changes.
“Development of climate-resilient varieties is high on the James Hutton Institute’s agenda and blackcurrants are an important species in understanding the effect of climate change,” said Dorota Jarret, a soft fruit breeder at the institute’s commercial subsidiary, James Hutton Limited.
Jarret continued: “Together with LRS we pursue a truly integrated approach, satisfying the needs of the whole supply chain, from helping to secure the livelihoods of UK blackcurrant growers by improving sustainability of the crop, to ensuring the highest quality fruit for consumer satisfaction. Continuous investment from LRS is a forward-thinking move towards securing the future of the crop and we are delighted to play a part.’’
The partnership aligns with Lucozade Ribena Suntory’s Growing for Good vision which includes commitments to both biodiversity and sustainability in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal for Life on Land.
Harriet Prosser, who works as an agronomist at Lucozade Ribena Suntory, added: “Sourcing local blackcurrants from British growers keeps food miles low and allows us to trace every berry back to its field. Whenever someone buys a bottle of Ribena, they can be confident they’re helping to support biodiversity on our farms and research into the most sustainable ways of farming.”
The LRS-backed research will also be on the lookout for berries with high anthocyanin levels, the compound that gives berries their purple colour, and for varieties that are naturally more disease and pest resistant.
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