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Press releases

Ribena launches pilot to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from blackcurrant growing

Liz Nieboer, Head of Sustainability and External Affairs

Liz Nieboer, Head of Sustainability and External Affairs | Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I

4 min read Partner content

Ribena's new regenerative farming project offers a win-win for our environment and rural communities.

Recent years have been difficult for rural communities. From the impact of Covid-19 through to the uncertainties surrounding farm payments, those in rural areas have had to weather a host of challenging new issues – all while continuing to suffer from more traditional concerns regarding poorer access to infrastructure and public services.

On top of all of this, farmers are now having to grapple with their role at the forefront of our transition to a greener and more sustainable economy.

Of course, given the climate emergency, it is vitally important that we successfully make this transition. There will no doubt be challenges – but with the right support from Government and supply chains, farmers can take advantage of this transition as a means not just of rejuvenating our natural environment, but their businesses too.

That’s why last month, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I (SBF GB&I) - proud producers of Ribena launched an exciting research project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the growing of blackcurrants through regenerative farming practices.

Ribena Blackcurrant Harvesting

Ribena works with its blackcurrant growers to manage over 4,000 acres of British countryside – spanning from Perthshire in Scotland to Herefordshire on the Welsh borders, Somerset in the South West, to Kent in the South East. The well-loved brand is centred around UK farmers – with 100% of its blackcurrants sourced from British farms, accounting for over 90% of the British blackcurrant crop.

Ensuring the long-term viability of the environments in which farmers grow blackcurrants has always been a priority for SBF GB&I. Equally important, is ensuring the financial stability of the farms and farmers that tirelessly produce these crops.

This new regenerative farming project, launched in collaboration with the University for East Anglia, Suntory Holdings Limited and Soil Ecology Laboratory, will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from blackcurrant production, while at the same time improving soil health so it can support plant resilience and increase the amount of carbon it can sequester. It aims to reduce scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions from blackcurrant growing, supporting SBF GB&I’s path to Net Zero across Scope 1, 2 and 3 by 2050.

Ribena harvesting image

Minimising external inputs, while improving soil health, plant nutrition and environmental protection will mean better outcomes for the environment and ensure blackcurrant growing remains financially viable for the long-term.

This will be achieved by:

  1. Sap sampling to better understand and optimise blackcurrant plant nutrition – the theory being that macro and micro-nutrient imbalances affect plant resilience and attack pests and diseases
  2. Utilisation of novel and organic inputs (both fertiliser and crop protection) to replace conventional inputs
  3. Creation of diverse alleyways of grass to feed the soil and increase carbon sequestration;
  4. Improvements to soil health and carbon sequestration through the utilisation of compost extracts to restore soil microbiology

The pilot project, which is backed by investment from Suntory Holdings Limited for at least three years, will take place across much of the 60 hectares of blackcurrant production at Gorgate Farm in Norfolk, which has been growing blackcurrants for Ribena since the 1950s. The ambition is to roll the findings out more widely across all 34 farms that grow the blackcurrants for Ribena, as well as creating a blueprint that could support other fruit growers as they start their regenerative agriculture journey.

This is just one small example of how making the green transition can be a win-win for both our environment and our rural communities.

Biodiversity on Ribena farms

Since 2004, SBF GB&I has been working closely with blackcurrant growers to put in place annual Biodiversity Action Plans which protect local habitats around farms. In recent years, the company has also partnered with the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group to tailor these plans to each farm and independently audit their impact. And over the past two decades, Ribena has invested in 20 years of research with leading agronomy research centre The James Hutton Institute, which has cumulated in new climate-tolerant blackcurrants.

SBF GB&I is proud to be leading a step change in investing in the rural economy while enabling the sustainable production of blackcurrants. It hopes, together with support and promotion from Government, this will help to create a blueprint that could support the entire sector pursue a path towards regenerative agriculture that will promote both sustainability and growth for the long-term.

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