By Karen Peattie

FOOD producer Scotty Brand will supply over 200 tonnes of Perthshire-grown strawberries to Asda stores across the UK this summer after securing a contract with the multiple retailer.

Scotty Brand, a division of Airdrie-based Albert Bartlett, the UK’s leading supplier of potatoes, sources its strawberries from Bruce Farms which has been growing the soft fruit for 25 years. It has been able to increase the amount of strawberries grown this year as a result of the Asda deal which will see 200 stores sell 300g punnets from Sunday.

Despite fears by some in the food and drink industry that soft fruit crops might be left to rot if European seasonal workers were unable to travel to the UK because of the coronavirus pandemic, Geoff Bruce, director of Bruce Farms, confirmed that the business had secured a mix of British and migrant pickers for this year’s season.

“The pandemic has not impacted on production at Bruce Farms albeit a great amount of additional time, resource and money has been spent on protecting the business from Covid-19,” said Mr Bruce.

“All migrant workers go through the quarantine period as laid out by the Government, followed by induction and then training, particularly on our requirements for social distancing and hygiene. We are fortunate to have such a vast amount of open space to adhere to the necessary social distancing requirements during the picking and packaging process.”

Workers will have to live in accommodation on-site and adhere to strict lockdown rules which mean they will be unable to mix with others during and outwith work.

The climate this year has been perfect for growing strawberries, Mr Bruce added. “Strawberries take about 75 days to ripen in Scotland compared to about 60 days in England and 45 days in Spain,” he pointed out. “This is all down to the Scottish weather and climate. The longer the ripening, the better the flavour.”

Scotty Brand strawberries can be in stores within 24 hours as Bruce Farms has an on-site packing hall allowing the fruit to be picked, packed, and distributed quickly.

Michael Jarvis, head of marketing at Scotty Brand, added: “Scottish berries are a big hit both north and south of the Border, so this year we are delighted that our Scotty Brand strawberries will be listed throughout the UK in Asda stores.”

The £5.4 million-turnover firm supplies other seasonal produce include raspberries, Ayrshire new potatoes, prepared vegetables, fresh soup, sausage rolls, smoked salmon, chilled coleslaws, and potato salad. Strawberries accounted for 12% of turnover last year.