Buoyant British Summer Fruits reveals triumphs of 2004.
2004 was “a year of revolution, not evolution”, according to Laurence Olins,
chairman of British Summer Fruits, who addressed the ADAS/East Malling
Research Soft Fruit Conference in Ashford at the end of November. In an
upbeat presentation, he said the organisation is beginning 2005 with a
financial surplus as well as an enhanced, stronger role in the industry thanks
to the hard work of the new PR company, Sputnik.
When the organisation was still known as National Summer Fruits, budgets
were tighter and volumes were smaller. It has now become a well-respected
industry body and represents 98% of all fresh, homegrown soft fruit in the
UK’s leading supermarkets. All the major industry players are involved, now
including Well-Pict European Ltd and AMS Ltd, which both joined at the
beginning of 2004.
In transforming itself, British Summer Fruits has matched the growth and
increasing sophistication of the industry – highlighted by its contemporary new
logo and website, designed and maintained by London-based Sputnik.
www.britishsummerfruits.co.uk now delivers facts and news instead of recipes
and is aimed at the media rather than the consumer.
The objective of the 2004 campaign was to raise awareness of the health
benefits and availability of UK berries and to make them a regular, everyday
purchase, shifting the marketing emphasis away from luxury, summer
desserts. Sputnik’s overall brief was to increase sales and customer
awareness, especially to younger consumers, families and children. Sputnik
and BSF commissioned research into the health properties of soft fruit, which
provided evidence that strawberries are the only homegrown fruit containing
Vitamin C and that raspberries can alleviate the symptoms of hay fever. Also,
that both fruits have high folate and antioxidant (ORAC), content and
glycaemic load. More importantly, the research also established that
strawberry seeds contain very high levels of zinc, excellent for a good sex life
– what better PR could we ask for?
Well-known nutritionist and founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition,
Patrick Holford (pictured), was recruited to analyse the research and was
interviewed on over 40 radio stations exalting the virtues of British soft fruit.
There was extensive coverage, focusing on strawberries and raspberries in
particular, in all the major national newspapers and well over 150 pieces of
coverage in regional newspapers and national magazines. The diverse list of
titles includes The Times, the Daily Mirror, the News of the World, GQ,
Cosmopolitan, OK! and Sky News. Stories were also published as far away as
India, Russia and Australia. The success was huge, achieved by extremely
positive coverage that lasted way beyond what most people consider to be
the strawberry season. After an initial wave of news reporting, newspapers
returned to the story upon discovering the effects their reports had on berry
sales. Stories were still appearing in the national press at the beginning of
In all, Sputnik calculated a ratio of media coverage to PR spend of 55:1, an
overwhelming proportion that brands and organisations can usually only
The campaign was helped along by several high profile names, including
Victoria Beckham declaring she was on a strawberry-only diet during Euro
2004 in Portugal. This was followed by intense media coverage of the
cellulite-beating properties of soft fruit and the release of the blockbuster film
‘Wimbledon’ at the end of the summer meant prolonged coverage. When
BSF coordinated a berry hunt at the 2-day ‘Fruitstock’ festival in August,
organised by pure fruit drink manufacturer Innocent, its healthy eating
message was extended to 150,000 people in London’s Regent’s Park, which
included a large number of children, the next generation of soft fruit
During 2004, for the first time, supermarket buyers received a BSF buyer
report every Wednesday morning showing how many tonnes they are buying
compared to other supermarkets. BSF is the only British horticultural
organisation that offers this service and it has been found to increase
competition between the multiples.
In August Monty Don provided what was perhaps the sole low point for the
year. But, the Press Complaints Commission forced Don to retract his
potentially harmful comment about pesticides, proving that BSF is now so
strong and respected it is prepared to stand its ground and will not back down.
Olins sees Don’s latest attack on the industry on BBC2’s inconclusive ‘Money
Programme’ regarding polytunnels as distracting rather than damaging. "Our
industry is one of the few success stories of British agriculture,” he said. “It
was a shame this didn't come across more strongly in the programme."
Thankfully, however, neither this nor Monty Don had a negative effect on
sales. In fact, market penetration (number of households buying strawberries)
increased from 63% in 2002 to 69%, while raspberries saw a 50% year-on-
year growth in value. This was all achieved with an expenditure of £132,000,
compared to an income from membership and HDC grant of £152,000. A part
of the remainder of BSF’s income will go towards bringing in expert witnesses
and developing an information pack highlighting the importance of tunnels.
The packs will be distributed to all growers to be used in the event of a
challenge and also used to lobby MPs, Defra and the parliamentary circle as
well as given to councils and planning permission officials when necessary.
During 2005, BSF will be using the HDC fund to find nutritional or health-
giving properties of raspberries as they did to such rewarding effect in 2004
for strawberries. For its part, Sputnik will focus increasing attention on
raspberries, as well as blueberries (see pages 6 and 13 for this year’s
phenomenal sales information) and strawberries.
Martin Seymour is satisfied with his first year as a board member. “I joined
British Summer Fruits this year because I believe it is now an effective
lobbyist and we are in a strong position to compete with our European
counterparts.” Seymour is pleased with Sputnik’s achievements and looks
forward to working closely with his fellow ‘Berry Barons’ during 2005.
Well Pict European Ltd