A Northamptonshire farming family which supplies blueberries to supermarkets all over the UK is celebrating after being named Family Farming Business of the Year.
The Mee family – Peter and Zoe Mee, their children Charlie and Emily, and Charlie’s fiancée Charlotte Foster – scooped the prize at the prestigious British Farming Awards for their work on their blueberry farm in Nassington.
The family recently launched a new range of blueberry-based products to help get the best of the excess berries they grow which would otherwise by classed as waste. The range includes a blueberry juice, vodka liqueur, gin liqueur, jam and chutney.
The family harvested 150 tonnes of blueberries on their farm last year, 123 tonnes of which were packaged and transported around the UK to be sold in branches of Waitrose and M&S. The remaining 27 tonnes would usually be classed as waste – but more than 12 tonnes have been used to develop the new product range.
As the yield of blueberries on the farm has grown each year, so has the amount of waste – but creating the range of products has given a new lease of life to ripe berries which would not have a seven-day shelf life for the supermarket shelves and would otherwise be used as animal feed.
The Mee family’s drive to cut waste is one of the reasons why they chose to use IPP, one of Europe’s leading poolers of sustainable wooden pallets, to move their blueberries around the supply chain.
Emily Mee said:
“We wanted to find a way to use our waste and to add value. During lockdown I made a jam using the berries and it tasted great, which gave us the idea to create our own range of affordable blueberry products.
“We worked hard to find the best partners to create each product – including finding a partner persistent enough to get a high juice yield from the berries, which can be tough as they are a small and fibrous fruit.
“We are so pleased with the results – the products are delicious, and we have had great feedback on them. In time, we would love to find a way to use the seeds and skins too.”
The family hosts its own pop-up shops on the farm and will also be selling the new product range at farmers’ and Christmas markets across the Midlands in the run-up to Christmas.
Emily said that the popularity of blueberries was due to their reputation as a superfood, as they are rich in antioxidants.
“We pick our blueberries fresh and they are packed and collected the following day to go to the supermarkets.
“This means they are on the shelves and being sold within a couple of days, giving customers who buy them the benefit of British blueberries rather than imported fruits – the flavour is a lot sweeter.”
The Mee family have been farmers for several generations and moved to the area from Essex to take on their Nassington farm in 1994. Mee Blueberries has been working with pallet pooler IPP since 2019 and the partnership is delivering excellent results for both parties.
Shelley Harris, commercial director for IPP, said:
“Our model is focused on squeezing every last drop of value out of the supply chain process, so working with another business which has this process as part of its DNA is a natural partnership for us.
“The Mee family are a pleasure to work with and their success is richly deserved. We’re delighted to be playing a part in their ongoing growth.”
For more information on IPP, visit www.ipp-pooling.com or search for IPP Pooling on LinkedIn.
To find out more about Mee Blueberries, visit www.meeblueberries.co.uk.