Lucozade Ribena Suntory Continues Investment for Blackcurrant Breeding


James Hutton Limited is proud to continue playing a central role in developing new blackcurrant varieties for Ribena.  A £500,000 investment from parent company, Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS), will fund research at the James Hutton Institute to develop climate-resilient blackcurrant varieties, safeguarding the future of the crop and helping to secure the livelihoods of UK blackcurrant growers.

LRS, which uses 90 per cent of the blackcurrants grown in Britain to make Ribena, has supported the globally recognised James Hutton Institute since 1991, investing over £10 million to improve the sustainability and quality of British blackcurrant crops. Around 10,000 tonnes of blackcurrants are harvested from British fields each year to keep up with consumer demand for Ribena.

Previous research from the Institute has highlighted the threat that climate change poses to blackcurrant farming. The plants need a period of sustained cold weather in the winter, without which they yield less fruit and have a shorter lifespan. The UK’s 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2002 and winters in the UK are getting gradually warmer. This is one of the challenges LRS and the James Hutton Institute will continue to address over the next five years, aiming to develop varieties of blackcurrants that can cope with these changes.

This research translates to new, commercially available, blackcurrant varieties, which are brought to market by the Institute's commercial subsidiary, James Hutton Limited. 

Dr Dorota Jarret, a soft fruit breeder at James Hutton Limited, said: “Development of climate-resilient varieties is high on the James Hutton Institute’s agenda and blackcurrants are an important species in understanding the effect of climate change.”

The LRS-backed research will also be on the lookout for berries with high anthocyanin levels, the compound that gives berries their purple colour, and for varieties that are naturally more disease and pest resistant.

Harriet Prosser, an agronomist at Lucozade Ribena Suntory, added: “Sourcing local blackcurrants from British growers keeps food miles low and allows us to trace every berry back to its field. Whenever someone buys a bottle of Ribena, they can be confident they’re helping to support biodiversity on our farms and research into the most sustainable ways of farming. I look forward to extending the purple patch that we’ve had with the James Hutton Institute for nearly three decades and making sure the UK’s blackcurrant farmers have a bright future.”

Dr Jarret commented: “Together with LRS we pursue a truly integrated approach, satisfying the needs of the whole supply chain, from helping to secure the livelihoods of UK blackcurrant growers by improving sustainability of the crop, to ensuring the highest quality fruit for consumer satisfaction. Continuous investment from LRS is a forward-thinking move towards securing the future of the crop and we are delighted to play a part.’’

Blackcurrants have been bred at the James Hutton Institute since 1956 and now account for approximately half of the blackcurrants grown in the world. The varieties from this programme, probably the largest in the world, are instantly recognisable as they are all named after Scottish mountains and have the “Ben” prefix. James Hutton Institute varieties have an estimated 95% market share in the UK, and for the last 30 years the majority of this crop has been used in the production of Ribena.