Warmer days and lighter evenings mean only one thing – summer is finally here! With that comes the official start to the British strawberry season, welcome news to strawberry lovers around the UK.

This summer, strawberries are sure to take the centre stage on supermarket shelves, as British strawberry growers have released the news that this year’s crop is going to produce bigger, sweeter and juicer strawberries than seen in the last few years.

The cold start to the year, mixed with the recent warm days and cooler nights, has led to a slightly later start to the strawberry season. This has resulted in slower strawberry ripening and means this year’s British strawberries are packed with more flavour than ever before.

Over the past year, more than 137,000 tonnes of strawberries were sold in the UK, with shoppers spending more than £1.3 million on the classically British berry. Consumption of fresh berries, which includes strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, has grown by an impressive 132% since 2007, outstripping the 49% increase of fruit consumption as a whole.

The steady rise in demand comes from an increase in the number of health-conscious shoppers, who are recognising the serious nutritional benefits berries pack for every calorie consumed. Berries now make up a remarkable 22% of all fruit sold in the UK, and this has pushed the value of the berry industry over £1.2 billion. Where apples and bananas were once the traditional, staple fruit, fresh berries are now the most popular fruit item in shoppers’ baskets.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, British Summer Fruits’ public health nutritionist, explained: “Berries are a great healthy snack that offers an abundant source of vitamins, minerals and phyto (plant) nutrients all of which have been linked to a wide range of health benefits. New research from the University of Reading[4] has revealed that consuming berries in the morning could sustain or improve cognitive function for up to six hours after consumption. Snacking on punnets of berries this summer is a great and easy way to boost our fruit intake and improve concentration and cognitive performance.”

Nick Marston, chairman of British Summer Fruits, the industry body that represents 98 percent of berries sold in UK supermarkets said: “Berries not only taste great, but they also offer fantastic health benefits and should be enjoyed as part of any healthy diet. Innovations in our industry has meant that we are able to meet the growing consumer demand for berries so that people across the UK can enjoy them every day this summer.”