Our Suppliers: Boddington's Berries
Name: Joanna Boddington
Job Title: General Assistant
Where do Boddington's Berries come from?
We are a third-generation strawberry grower in Mevagissey, Cornwall; the current owner Phil Boddington prides himself on producing the best high fruit content jam with no additives or preservatives and the finest fresh strawberries.
What makes your strawberries so unique?
Our strawberries are best known for their sweetness, colour and taste. Years of experience have allowed Phil to instinctively know how to grow the best crop and customers regularly comment on how exceptional our strawberries and jam products are.
How was Boddington's Berries established?
The business originally started as a market garden in the 1940’s by Phil’s grandfather who grew fruit and flowers. In the 1960’s Phil’s father Richard Boddington decided to specialise in the strawberry side of the business, growing fruit for local markets as well as the supermarkets. Phil helped in the fields as a lad learning the business from his father and after a spell in horticultural college and a quick world tour, Phil took over from his father and continued to grow the business and turn it into the success we have today.
Today we have streamlined our fruit production to grow fruit in a smaller area. Our fruit is sold locally in retail and farm shops and is often found on local chef’s menus. The preserves are now the mainstay of the business, and these are dispatched all over the world.
Can I find Boddington's Strawberries in the supermarket?
Not anymore! For a number of years we grew fruit for the supermarkets – being at the forefront of putting ‘Own Label’ punnets directly into store. However the supermarkets began to see strawberries as a commodity crop and we were at the mercy of strict rules such as fruit sizing. This meant there was too much wastage of large or small fruit.
We saw rising costs and reducing prices wreaking havoc on the farm. After much thought we diversified into jams and reduced our growing acreage. We now operate with fewer staff reducing the team from 50 to just 6 key workers.
What was your very first conserve?
In 2001 Phil’s wife Louise trialed the strawberry conserve. The first small batch was made in the farmhouse on our range cooker. The plan was to sell these during our ‘pick your own’ events and we were surprised and elated to find that all our jam sold in the short distance from the kitchen to the farm shop. This was the moment when Boddington’s Berries diversified into jams and all our wonderful flavours.
What makes Boddington's conserves so unique?
Boddington’s preserves are different to most, using nothing but natural ingredients. All our preserves are made using only fruit and sugar with a dash of lemon juice where required, cooked in a traditional open pan. This method slowly cooks the fruit to a natural setting point and results in an outstandingly high fruit content conserve.
How many fresh strawberries are in the strawberry conserve?
Our Strawberry Conserve typically has 80g of strawberries for every 100g, making a lovely thick jam with spoonfuls of complete strawberries. The business remains a family affair with a small team of staff who all multi task to run the farm efficiently. Boddington’s pride themselves on being small enough to care but big enough to deliver.
Do family members help out on the farm?
Half of the current working staff at Boddingtons Berries are part of the Boddington’s family including Louise & Phil’s’ children. To date their oldest children have moved on to their chosen professions but often return to help out and they were pleased to welcome me into our business as a full-time employee. A farmer never really retires and this year we saw Grandad coming out of retirement to help plant our latest strawberry crop.
Who is your longest working employee?
One of our longest working staff members is our chef Jeff and yes we know it rhymes. Fun fact about Jeff is that his initials are J.A.M. Jeff started working for us approximately 30 years ago, as one of the picking gang. He proved to be such a good worker that he was promoted to new field work including removing ‘Stolons’ from the strawberry plants: Stolons are more commonly referred to as the runners which are a long, leafless stems that grow from the plant.
Jeff soon became the field supervisor and successfully did this role for around 10 years, overseeing the picking and checking the fruit quality as only the best will do. When Boddington's diversified into conserves, we found that Jeff also had a passion for cooking and creating new recipes. Jeff worked with Louise & Phil to perfect the conserve recipe. This took approximately two weeks around a black board, multiple mind maps and trial and error batch cooking. Chef Jeff is now the main chef for all our conserves and preserves.
What’s next for Boddington's Berries?
As the business grew so did our marketing and media. The family realised they needed some youth input to boost the business in these areas. To do this they now work with Harper Adams University and offer a middle year placement for one of their students to join.
This programme started four years ago. The students were able to bring their own passion to life in their own way while at Boddington’s. This included setting up promotions and running social media channels; creating new products and designing labels for things such as the limited edition Christmas lines; designing recipes with our products such as raspberry maccarons and new product marketing ideas such as our subscription box.
As a small business we are able to provide students with opportunities to benefit both the business and themselves. All of the students that we have worked with have had the opportunity to be involved on our exhibition stands, at different events such as the Royal Cornwall Show, as well as food festivals and trade stands. Alongside this it allows them to become involved with other companies and gain contacts that could be useful in their future.
We are also constantly striving to be more environmentally friendly and have recently changed our packaging to compostable craft card punnets. We asked our customers what they would prefer with a social media vote and the results came in with a demand for the new compostable punnet. This was the final encouragement we needed to go through with this change and we sourced the punnets from a UK manufacturer. We have received positive feedback for the durability and attractive appearance. Some of our customers re-use the card punnets as compostable pots for planting in their gardens.
Our punnets are packaged in cardboard trays. However, we have always packaged our punnets in cardboard outer trays, and we ask for them to be returned to us from our customers, so we can reuse them.
At Boddington’s we do not stop with just environmentally friendly strawberry packing, but we also pack our mail orders of preserves in reused packaging whenever possible. This includes reused cardboard boxes and the recycling of label backing as padding. Alongside this we also use Geami paper packaging for mail orders.
In our fields we have released 1000’s of native bumble bees spread over multiple hives to help with the pollination of our Strawberry plant flowers. These bumblebees work in our growing environment to pollinate the strawberry flowers, which in turn produce perfect shaped berries and when their work is done on our strawberry crops, they work the wildflowers in the Cornish hedges nearby.