The drinks giant Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS), which manufactures Ribena in the UK, has agreed to invest more than half a million pounds over five years in crop research at the James Hutton Institute at Invergowrie near Dundee. The research programme is to develop new varieties of climate-resilient blackcurrant.
LRS reportedly uses around 10,000 tonnes of blackcurrants grown each year in Britain to make Ribena. James Hutton Institute varieties have an estimated 95% market share in the UK, and for the last 30 years the majority of this crop has been used in the production of Ribena. Blackcurrants have been bred at Invergowrie since 1956: the Institute’s varieties now account for approximately half of all those grown across the world.
According to researchers: “Previous research from the Institute has highlighted the threat that climate change poses to blackcurrant farming. The plants need a period of sustained cold weather in the winter, without which they yield less fruit and have a shorter lifespan. The UK’s 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2002 and winters in the UK are getting gradually warmer.” LRS and the James Hutton Institute aim to develop varieties of blackcurrants that can cope with increasingly mild winters.
This investment in the Institute is part of a long term relationship: the Ribena manufacturer has invested more than £10 million here since 1991.
The James Hutton Institute brings together the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute (dating from 1930) and the Scottish Crop Research Institute (founded in 1981), each with notable histories and antecedents. The James Hutton Institute was created in 2011. It has offices and laboratories in Aberdeen and Dundee and employs c.550 staff.
The Institute has a substantial range of research facilities including: 137 individual glasshouse compartments ranging in size from 12.5m2 to 325m2, including sophisticated heated, lit containment glasshouses with computer control of temperature, lighting, shading and irrigation.
Some of the products developed at the James Hutton Institute (and its predecessors) are familiar names: raspberry varieties such as Glen Ample and Glen Lyon; potato varieties including Lady Balfour, Anya, Vales Sovereign, Vales Emerald and Mayan Gold; and brassicas (swedes, turnips, kale etc.) all dominant in the UK food market.
It also hosts The Commonwealth Potato Collection, the UK’s genebank of landrace (domesticated) and wild potatoes held with the support of the Scottish Government. The collection, one of a network of international potato genebanks, comprises c.1500 ‘accessions’ of about 80 wild and cultivated potato species.