Biting into a fresh and juicy berry is one of the true pleasures of life – and here in New Zealand we are blessed with some of the sweetest, tastiest berries going around. But if you’ve ever wondered who you should thank for the bright strawberries on your pavlova, or the tangy blueberries in your smoothie, the answer might just be Craig Hall and Dean Astill, founders of The Fresh Berry Company.
The Fresh Berry Company is a New Zealand-owned and operated business focused on growing and selling fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. In order to ensure maximum satisfaction for growers and consumers alike, they specifically select varieties that they believe will thrive best in local conditions.
“We look for varieties that will provide fantastic flavour, great cosmetic appearance, extend shelf life, and ultimately provide growers with good yields,” says Simon Tallon, General Manager of The Fresh Berry Company. “We need to be able to provide our growers with a decent return otherwise the model is not sustainable.”
Since 2016, The Fresh Berry Company has partnered with Driscoll’s – a global market leader in berry production, with more than a century of experience in the field – to drive innovation, get the best results for farmers, and continue to bring the finest produce to the Kiwi market.
In order to meet their pledge of ‘Only the Finest Berries’, Driscoll’s develops new berry varieties that naturally cross-pollinate to guarantee the most desirable flavour, appearance and freshness. These unique varieties are available only to the independent farmers around the world who grow Driscoll’s berries – including The Fresh Berry Company’s subsidiary, Berry Farms NZ.
“Driscoll’s Global have significant resources to put into R&D, agronomy support, new product development, marketing and sustainability initiatives on a scale that is not regularly seen in New Zealand horticulture,” explains Tallon. “It means we can leverage off what works well in other countries but put our own Kiwi flavour on it.”
The Fresh Berry Company’s farms are currently located in Hawke’s Bay, Waikato, and Auckland – though they are looking at expanding their footprint into other growing areas of NZ. Their berries are grown in covered tunnel houses, which allows the company to produce fresh fruit about 10 months of the year. But they’re not stopping there.
“Within a few years our aim is be able to provide a year-round sustainable berry solution,” says Tallon. “Currently strawberries are the only berry type allowed to be imported into NZ as fresh berries. Our aim is to supply enough New Zealand-grown fruit that as a country, we don’t need to import any fresh berries from overseas.
“We are confident that with what we are currently growing and what we’ve got in the pipeline to go into production over the next couple of years, we will stay at the forefront of berry production in NZ.”