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New research to develop climate-resilient blackcurrants

The research seeks to develop climate-resilient blackcurrant varieties (c) LRS
“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”

Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS) has invested over half a million pounds in a five-year project with the James Hutton Institute to develop new varieties of climate-resilient blackcurrant.

LRS, which uses 90 per cent of the blackcurrants grown in Britain to make Ribena, has supported the globally recognised 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.

Dr Dorota Jarret, a soft fruit breeder at the Institute’s commercial subsidiary, 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, who works as 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.’’

This partnership aligns with LRS’s Growing for Good vision which includes commitments to both biodiversity and sustainability in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal for Life on Land. Since 2004, LRS has worked closely with blackcurrant growers to put in place annual Biodiversity Action Plans which ensure the environment is protected as much as possible throughout their growing process. LRS has also partnered with the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group to help tailor these plans to individual habitats found in and around the blackcurrant farms.

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.

Notes to editors

Lucozade Ribena Suntory is one the leading soft drinks businesses in the UK and Ireland. LRS was formed in 2014, and is part of Suntory Beverage & Food Europe. Their much-loved soft drinks brands include Lucozade Energy, Lucozade Sport, Fitwater, Ribena, Orangina and True Nopal Cactus Water. Their business is driven by the Yatte Minahare spirit and their role is to have a positive impact on the lives of consumers by providing them with a responsible choice of great-tasting drinks, enabling them to lead active lifestyles. For further information, please visit: and to find out more about LRS’s biodiversity commitments, go to

James Hutton Limited is the James Hutton Institute’s commercial subsidiary, providing a comprehensive range of analytical, research and development, breeding, and consultancy services to global customers and collaborators.

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

Printed from /news/new-research-develop-climate-resilient-blackcurrants on 24/02/24 05:23:27 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.