Suffolk/Essex/Norfolk: Early ripening strawberry crop reaches supermarket shelves
PUBLISHED: 12:34 23 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:34 23 May 2014
A mild spring has prompted an early show of local strawberries this year, with the East of England Co-op taking its first deliveries direct from the fields of growers in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.
Supplier Andrew Sturgeon, of Lindsey Farm Lodge, near Hadleigh, said the weather in March and early April was “particularly favourable”.
“The result is we are about three weeks earlier than last year,” he said.
East of England Co-op’s local and fresh food manager Kevin Warden said: “Our Sourced Locally strawberries, which come direct from the farms into their nearest stores within 24 hours of picking, are always popular. This year, it’s great news for our customers that the season has started earlier than ever – and that we’ll be holding last year’s prices.”
“We now have local strawberries delivered direct to 90% of our stores which keeps our four local growers on their toes right through the summer because we sell punnets of strawberries almost as fast as they get delivered!”
Andrew sturgeon will be delivering two varieties of strawberry, Elsanta and Sonata, to 35 Co-op stores, including the Co-op’s three new stores at Lavenham, Risbygate and Darsham. Andrew’s nearest store is at Hadleigh, under five miles from his farm, where strawberries can be in shoppers basket’s within four hours of picking.
Andrew said: “With any fruit the freshness decreases rapidly after picking and so the fact our strawberries go direct from farm to store means the fruit is as fresh and tasty as it can be and still has a wonderful strawberry aroma.
“All our fruit is grown to high standards, both in terms of fruit quality, food safety and care for the natural environment in which we operate. Our punnets display both the ‘LEAF’ and Assured Produce ‘Red Tractor’ labels.”
At Fiveways Farm in Colchester, Julian Mead will be supplying 20 Essex stores with three varieties of strawberry: Vibrant, Sonata and Serena.
Julian said: “This year the crop is three weeks earlier than last year which, as well as being good news for customers, also helps growers by spreading demand over a longer period which generally results in better quality of fruit in store. All fruit is early this year – for instance this will be the first year that we will be able to deliver raspberries to East of England Co-op stores in May.”