Blueberries and raspberries sales up as newer, robuster varieties bring greater yields and liquidisers such as Nutribullet fly off the shelves

Growers trade body British Summer Fruits says sales of British strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, pictured, will top £1bn this year, compared with about £300m in 2004. Photograph: Food and Drink/REX Shutterstock

It is the liquidiser revolution that is changing what we eat: sales of blueberries and raspberries are soaring as health-conscious shoppers embrace smoothies as a short cut to consuming one of their five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Demand for blueberries is up by nearly a third this year, while raspberry sales are ahead by 20%. Their popularity has been supported by the engineering of robust new varieties that survive the trip from field to fridge in a better condition.

Laurence Olins, of growers’ trade body British Summer Fruits, said: “Berries used to be a luxury item, like strawberries and cream and Wimbledon. Now they are are omnipotent.” The organisation calculates that sales of British strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries will top £1bn this year, compared with about £300m in 2004.

Sales of liquidisers like the £90 Nutribullet have risen nearly 300% in the last year, according to market research firm GfK. John Lewis says it is selling one Nutribullet every four minutes as people seek new ways of consuming their recommended daily portions of fruit.

Sales of strawberries are up by just 0.6% year on year, according to data from research firm Kantar Worldpanel, although some British farmers say sales of UK breeds are up by 20% after a good summer crop.

There have long been claims about the health benefits of berries, which are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, with blueberries described by some nutritionists as a “superfood”. This year, berries were named as the only fruit in the Mind diet, which is designed to help slow cognitive decline and the reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, although the NHS says that evidence for the health claims about blueberries is inconclusive.

“For those interested in health, berries fit easily into their lifestyle, adding a touch of sweetness and vibrant flavour to homemade smoothies, juices or blends by only adding a small amount to a more ‘basic’ or traditional fruit,” said food trends expert Imogen Birt at consultancy Dragon Rouge.

British farmers are expected to produce 14,000 tonnes of raspberries this year compared with less than 12,000 tonnes last year, according to British Summer Fruits. New varieties give better yields – by as much as 50% compared with a few years ago – and farmers are expanding the amount of land they devote to the fruit. Another reason for the rise in UK production is the wider deployment of equipment such as polytunnels.

Farmers are particularly keen to plant more raspberries, according to Olins, as the newest varieties produce greater yield, and high-quality berries. Raspberry varieties such as the berry jewel and Driscoll’s maravilla are also bigger and sweeter. Tesco has claimed that the berry jewel, bred by a Kent-based grower, had helped increase demand for raspberries by 45% this year.

Robert Pascall of Clock House Farm, one of the UK’s biggest berry growers, said this year had been a fair one for raspberries and that he had increased the acreage devoted to the fruit by a third in the last three years. “Traditional varieties had turned to juice in the fridge very quickly,” he said.

Pascall said British growers enjoyed a good deal of loyalty from shoppers who liked to buy local produce. “When English fruit is available, it’s taken first,” he said. But year-round availability of raspberries – with imports from Portugal, Spain or Morocco – helped keep the fruit in people’s minds when the British season came around, he added.

Growers now hope that blackberries, which enjoyed a 6% increase in sales in the year to mid-July, according to Kantar, will be the next fruit to take off. Pascall said new varieties such as Driscoll’s victoria were helping make them a more regular purchase. “The whole concept of blackberries has changed. People are eating them fresh rather than just putting them in a pie,” he said.

Discount supermarket chains such as Aldi and Lidl, which have significantly increased the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables they stock as part of tactics to attract regular shoppers, have also helped to increase sales by making fruit more affordable. Lidl, for example, said it was selling 30% more fruit this year than last and that its sales of strawberries were up by a fifth year on year.