With an almond-cherry taste profile, and a member of the apple family, saskatoon berries are available in the UK for the first time after 10 years on Canadian supermarket shelves.
"This is a big opportunity for the food industry, particularly those working in bakery and beverages, and those looking for novel ingredients," Jim McKee at the fruits ingredients company told FoodNavigator.com.
The Lincolnshire-based company claims the almond-cherry flavour of the fruit gives manufacturers the advantage of providing a nutty flavour without having nuts in the factory.
Also known as Juneberries, shadberries or serviceberries, saskatoons have been commercially produced in Canada for 10 years, with the first berries exported to the USA and Holland last year. Harvested in July, the berries are blast frozen within a couple of hours of picking.
The key motivator behind the Canadian Saskatoon berry market, set to rise from 3 million lbs last year to 10 million lbs by 2005, is the Canadian Prairie Lane company run by John Rich. J.O. Sims has set up a sourcing agreement for the supply of saskatoons from this Manitoba grower responsible for 60 per cent of Canada's saskatoon crop.
Launched recently in snack pots by the UK supermarket chain Waitrose, J.O. Simms ?the Ocean Spray cranberry agent for over 40 years - is looking to get the Saskatoon berries into a range of food applications and hopes to see strong growth in the next five years. Health benefits, a burgeoning trend in the food industry, will also be pushed. "A three-year-study by Agriculture Canada found that the antioxidative activity of saskatoons is comparable to that of blueberries, blackberries and grape seed extract," said Mckee.
"We're already in discussions with current customers and their food development people to bring the berries into market food formulations as soon as possible," he added.
While North American ingredient suppliers in general are feeling the pinch of rising freight costs, McKee said that the company is currently able to benefit from the strong sterling pound against the dollar. "We have to keep our prices tight so we are well aware of what's happening on the world market," added McKee.
A major source of revenue, the UK company said that berries now account for 80 per cent of total ingredient sales.