UK berry and stone fruit supplier Soloberry saw its request for novel food approval granted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) last week, meaning it can now start planning to commercialise the berry throughout the European Union.
Also known as blue honeysuckle or honeyberries, haskap berries have a taste described as a cross between a blueberry, blackberry and raspberry and look like a rectangular blueberry, measuring up to 2 cm long.
“[The] unique flavour means it is ideal for the processing sector, in the form of relishes, jam or juices, but there is also potential in fresh,” said Soloberry.
“The appeal of haskap as a new berry on the market stems from its superfood credentials with higher levels of antioxidants than blueberries, even wild blueberries,” the company said. “For growers it’s the berries suitability for northern climates and providing a crop early in a growing season as well as the prestige of getting involved in something new and healthy for our future generations.”
Native to Hokkaido and northern Honshu in Japan, haskap contains up to 13 times more anthocyanins than blueberries, according to Soloberry.
Soloberry requested an opinion for three haskap varieties: Lonicera caerulea emphyllocalix, Lonicera caerulea kamtschatica and Lonicera caerulea edulis.
Its novel food dossier drew upon Japan’s history of cultivating haskap berries, particularly on Hokkaido Island where a cooperative-based supply chain has been in place for 25 years. They are also commercially available in Canada while a number of research programmes into cultivating the berries were carried out in Eastern European countries in the 1980s and 1990s.
In an opinion published last week, EFSA scientists concluded: “The available data on composition and history of use on three L. caerulea varieties do not raise safety concerns. Considering the available data, EFSA does not raise safety objections to the placing on the market of the requested berries within the European Union.”
Soloberry, which will supply fresh and frozen haskap berries, estimated in its novel food dossier that around 100 tons of the fruit would be consumed annually in the UK.
Development manager at Soloberry Poland Piotr Janus said: “We have taken time to really understand the product and to set standards and a specification with highly professional growers. In line with Soloberry’s business strategy, of fully partnering with the best growers we have initiated long term supply contracts and have focused our efforts to bring this product to market.”
Jointly headquartered in the UK and Spain, Solboerry already sells haskap outside Europe to countries including Japan but said demand to both grow and buy the berries in Europe has been growing.
It initially looked into selling the berries in Europe in 2015 but put plans on hold after “a realisation that this would be more difficult than […] first thought” due to the EU’s novel foods regulation.
Since then, it has earmarked Poland as an ideal region to cultivate the berry and has partnered with major growers there.
The EU’s process for novel food approval was recently streamlined and came into effect on 1 January this year.
Since then, a raft of ‘traditional food’ applications have been given the green light for commercialisation in Europe, such as high protein grain fonio native to Africa, thanks to a dossier submitted by Italian firm Oba.