top of page

The humble British blackcurrant: a supply-chain success story

In 1938, Ribena, a beloved British brand, was established, using 100% British blackcurrants. This year, Ribena celebrated its 85th anniversary, highlighting its longstanding supply chain, almost as venerable as the drink itself.

British farming, integral to the nation's economy and identity for centuries, utilises over 70% of the land, contributing significantly to the GDP. It shapes our landscapes and rural communities while providing essential sustenance.


However, recent challenges such as climate change, labour shortages, and funding issues have threatened the stability of our farm-to-fork systems. Building resilience in our food supply chain is now more crucial than ever.


Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I (SBF GB&I), the custodian of Ribena, emphasises sustainable practices as central to its business model. The company's commitment to the environment and farming communities underpins its 'Growing for Good' initiative.


Ribena's success owes much to the British blackcurrant industry. All blackcurrants used in Ribena are grown in Britain, making up 90% of the country's blackcurrant crop. The relationship between Ribena and its growers, some lasting up to 70 years, is a testament to the brand's deep roots in the UK blackcurrant industry.


Josh Berry, a third-generation blackcurrant grower, has been cultivating blackcurrants since the 1960s. SBF GB&I supports growers with long-term contracts, providing financial security and valuing their efforts. These contracts offer stability despite the unpredictable nature of blackcurrant harvesting.


Growers like Josh Berry appreciate this model, which allows them to align their operations with a leading international food and drink producer. This partnership fosters strategic investments in their businesses, ensuring the future supply of UK blackcurrants.


SBF GB&I's Six Point Plan for Biodiversity, initiated in 2004, aims to protect natural habitats. The company works with growers to implement Biodiversity Action Plans, enhancing on-farm conservation and protecting blackcurrant growing areas.


Collaborating with the James Hutton Institute, SBF GB&I has invested over £2 million to enhance the sustainability and quality of British blackcurrant crops. Additionally, a new regenerative farming project in Norfolk, in partnership with the University of East Anglia, Suntory Holdings Limited, and the Soil Ecology Laboratory, focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving soil health.


David Hinchliff, a second-generation blackcurrant farmer, praises the unique partnership with SBF GB&I. This model encourages investment and growth, benefiting the environment, economy, public health, and job creation.


SBF GB&I's approach, exemplified by the Ribena Blackcurrant Growers' Survey, highlights the need for more governmental support in agriculture. This includes tackling climate change, addressing labour market changes, and revising the Environmental Land Management Schemes.


Carol Robert, COO of SBF GB&I, believes that closer collaboration between business and government can secure the future of British farming and agriculture. The company's commitment to its blackcurrant growers ensures Ribena remains a family favourite for generations to come.


Comments


bottom of page