UK blueberry breeders strive for consistent taste appeal

30 September 2020

James Hutton Limited, on behalf of the blueberry breeding consortium, has contracted Delytics Ltd to help them select new varieties that will be consistently liked by consumers.

Delytics is assisting the consortium to pin point blueberry varieties that will appeal to multiple consumer groups with distinct taste preferences. The aim is to track how each variety matures over time to determine its taste development and expected acceptance by specific target markets.

Dr Susan McCallum (pictured), who runs James Hutton’s blueberry breeding programme, says Delytics’ recognised expertise in crop taste optimisation is crucial for their consumer-focused breeding programme.

Dr McCallum says, “We are looking to breed blueberries for consistent high quality taste. It’s really important for us to understand the science behind the taste so we know which varieties will appeal to consumers. Delytics is helping us achieve that by analysing how the Brix and acid changes over time in each variety, how much consumers will like them, and the best time to pick for optimum taste.”

Previous sensory research conducted by the James Hutton Institute highlighted variations in taste preferences for blueberries in different consumer groups. The most notable of these was between male and female consumers, with males tending to prefer eating small tart tasting blueberries in their porridge or yoghurt and females preferring to snack on larger, sweeter blueberries.

Dr McCallum says the work the breeding consortium is doing with Delytics has the potential to allow them to intentionally breed blueberry varieties that meet the taste expectations of specific consumers.

The monitoring framework being used for this project was initially designed by Delytics to help The James Hutton Institute raspberry breeding programme develop a new consumer-centric breeding protocol in 2018. Delytics’ monitoring protocols are now also being used to help ensure the majority of James Hutton bred blueberries and cherries will be liked by consumers.

Dr McCallum says, “Delytics is playing a really important role in helping us understand the role that Brix and acid plays in providing the flavour in our berries so we can ensure the ones we select will be consistently liked by consumers. The data analysis they are doing will also tell us the best time to pick the berries to make sure the flavour comes through every time.”

“We want growers to be confident that when they invest in our cultivars and follow our growing and picking instructions, they will get an ongoing good return.”