The Italian Molari Berries & Breeding group has signed a landmark agreement with California-based Ekland Marketing Company (Emco Cal), which specializes in plant variety management, to develop the supply of higher quality proprietary blackberries varieties to the European market.
The agreement gives Molari the green light to propagate seven different varieties managed by Emco Cal from the University of Arkansas' world-renowned berry breeding programme. The Italian group is now authorised to sell the resulting plants in a number of European and North African markets.
Brothers and managing partners Matteo and Luca Molari said they had been impressed by the performance of the varieties during recent trials, and now welcomed the possibility of extending their portfolio beyond raspberries, blueberries and a range of other red fruits.
"This is a big step for us, because in the European market we have always been known for our raspberry genetics," Luca Molari told Fruitnet. "But since Matteo and I joined the company, our first goal was to increase the quality of not only the plants but also the genetics we could offer in blackberriesas well."
According to Matteo Molari, the success of any attempt to capitalize on the growing consumer demand for blackberries relies on having the right kind of high-quality varieties. "From a business point of view, our main goal is to raise the bar in terms of quality and bring the best possible material to the market," he commented. "We really believe that today the consumer needs to have something new and something that is recognized in the market for quality."
To underline its commitment to this goal, Molari plans to triple its breeding capacity. This implies an investment in a new laboratory, where it will undertake the necessary micropropagation of tissue cultures to produce the plants.
Jose Jon Garcia, commercial director for Europe and Africa at Emco Cal, said the time has come to increase the commercial volumes of the next generation of blackberries in Europe. With the help of two other partners in Spain and France, Molari has the opportunity to develop production of blackberries throughout the European continent, as well as in Morocco.
"Molari has a very good existing network of customers, which we hope they will be able to take advantage of, and extend the varieties to those countries and beyond," Garcia added. "We are very excited to have reached this point. We believe it is in everyone's interest that commercial nurseries now take the direction of direct sales with growers."
Molari's technical manager Alessandro Gualandi emphasized the product's potential in a category that is already on the rise. "We see that blackberries is probably the product with the most growth potential in the berry category," he said. "There is not yet a large consumption of blackberries, but we believe this is mainly due to the fact that not many varieties of blackberries are tasty enough for consumers."
The important change needed, he continued, is better varieties. "We see big differences between blackberries bad and good ones, and we strongly believe that with these good genetics, we can help the market improve their production and consumption."