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2013 – Tipping Point Year for the ‘Blackcurrant Renaissance’


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2013 – Tipping Point Year for the ‘Blackcurrant Renaissance’.

Over the last 500 years the blackcurrant has gone from being one of the most respected health foods of the medieval era to a staple household beverage, to being overshadowed by trendy new berries in recent times. But a Renaissance is underway and 2013 looks set to be a pivotal year for the blackcurrant industry, says global blackcurrant industry leader, Svend Jensen.

“For hundreds of years the blackcurrant has been a staple of the berry basket in European civilisation, as a health tonic and as a food. But over the last 30 years scientists have started to unveil the true health potential of the “king of berries”. New generation research started in Japan in the 1980’s and then the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Now exciting projects are also being undertaken by research teams in Scandinavia, France, Eastern Europe, and the USA,” says Jensen, President of the 5-year old industry group, the International Blackcurrant Association.

“This health-based research doesn’t have a single focus. In Japan its “eye-health”, in the USA “liver health”, in Western Europe “mental health and cardio health”, and in New Zealand, “sport-health and lung-health”. This multi-directional launch pad is good: it will create its own synergy and marketing platform options. What is important is the standard of research: sound peer-reviewed published research that is building a foundation upon which marketers will be able to develop and market products with ethical and proven human relevance,” says Jensen.

“Society is concerned about the huge explosion in marketer’s health claims and regulators are starting to impose serious limitations on what can be promoted in foods. In the short-term that’s disruptive to our own blackcurrant marketers and confusing for our consumers. But in the medium to long-term, this is good news for the blackcurrant industry as we are getting the type of quality science needed to make ethical claims in the future,” says Jensen.

“Separate to the health platform, the blackcurrant’s culinary values are creating wonderful opportunities for the global marketplace. Demand for the classical French crème de cassis as well as non-alcoholic cordials, concentrates and fruit drinks are growing in the critical new Asian markets. Blackcurrant ciders, wines and craft beers, as well as bakery, sauce, jam and confectionary innovations are seeing new growth opportunities in traditional European markets.”

“Climate change is a potential threat to the global blackcurrant industry: but that threat is being balanced by a two-pronged approach: developing new growing areas, and developing new plant varieties to suit changing climate conditions in existing areas,” says Jensen.
“But perhaps our greatest strength and the key to the renaissance, is the culture of the industry, of the growers as a global group. There is a unique sense of family that transcends national borders. The nine major producer countries form the membership of the International Blackcurrant Association (IBA); and another nine countries with developing grower organisations sit at the IBA round-table as associates. We share knowledge and we motivate each other to be better in what we do. As growers we are working with processors and customers to create a sound future, and its working,” says Jensen.

“An example of this working together is the development of quality and reliable production information that allows all parties to make informed supply and pricing decisions and plan ahead. The total global production of blackcurrants in 2012 was in excess of 186,500; approximately half of which was produced in Poland. This total excludes the significant Russian crop where growers are not required to report production for berry varieties, but we understand that Russia consumes its crop domestically and therefore doesn’t directly affect global supply-demand,” says Jensen.

“The need for reliable information is critically important as the renaissance develops. Conflicting estimates of the Polish crop last year resulted in a projected oversupply and there was a resulting price-drop to most growers. But the final harvest was less than expected and there has been a significant drop in global stock reserves prior to the 2013 harvest,” says Jensen.

The IBA will be holding its inaugural Horticulture Conference in Germany in June this year and the next bi-annual International Conference will be held in Poland in 2014. A new Blackcurrant Agronomy & Plant-breeding Sector group will hold its first meeting at the Conference in Germany this year.

The IBA developed out of a world conference held in New Zealand in 2008 and followed by Conferences in Denmark (2009), France (2010), Netherlands (2011) and Scotland (2012).
ENDS

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