The history of Beekers Berries
Beekers Berries celebrates 25 years in the soft fruit industry, let’s go on a journey to take you back to how it all started.
How it all started
After Wil Beekers graduated from the HAS University of Applied Sciences, he started at a breeding company in the North Holland province. “I’ve always had an affection with everything that thrives and grows. It was during my job in North Holland, the idea of starting my own company was planted.” Wil explains. And so, in 1991 it happened. Wil and his wife Anita started their own cucumber business in Made, North Brabant. After 4 years growing cucumbers, they changed their course. In the fall of 1995, Wil started with his first greenhouse of Elsanta strawberries. “This was a huge leap of faith, but I felt this was the right moment”, continues Wil. This turned out to be a great move and from here on the focus went 100% to strawberries.
“I’ve always had an affinity with everything that blooms and grows.” – Wil Beekers, owner Beekers Berries
Time for a berry range expansion
In the beginning there were only spring and autumn strawberries. The season stopped around the end of June and started again in September. ‘From the beginning we’ve always had close contact with our customers. At a certain point they asked for our products during the summertime. As we were only a glasshouse grower at the time, it was that moment that I started outdoor cultivation with my brother-in-law – an experiences outdoor grower.’ according to Wil. In 1997 Wil took the next brave leap and started with the exclusive Lambada strawberry. ‘The year 1997 I will never forget, the year we started with growing Lambada’s. Experts will know, this is the true queen amongst all strawberries. With the Lambada strawberry you really go that extra mile and can distinguish yourself as a grower.’ continues Wil. The Lambada is a beautiful strawberry with a delicious, sweet taste with a fine texture that melts on your tongue. However, Lambada is a very difficult strawberry variety to grow and requires more attention than other varieties. Therefore, the total production is much lower than other varieties. On top of this, a different picking technique is applied to the Lambada: they are cut on the stem and placed carefully in the Beekers Berries punnet.
“With the Lambada you really go that extra mile and can distinguish yourself as a grower.”
The demand for raspberries, blueberries and blackberries increased
In the year 2000, raspberries and blackberries started emerging and the, now loyal, customer base of Beekers Berries were asking specifically for these berries. In 2003 raspberries and blackberries were added to the portfolio for products. With our own premium varieties Sapphire® raspberries and Midnight™ blackberries we can provide our customers the best raspberries and blackberries all year round. After that the raspberries and blackberries were added we’ve added the blueberries to the Beekers Berries portfolio in 2006. The core selection of berries was now complete!
The specialties made their debut at Beekers Berries in 2007
Wil did not stop there, working together with Hans de Jongh on breeding new varieties, in 2007 the first speciality berry was added to the portfolio. The Strasberry debuted with a distinct appearance that looks a bit like a raspberry and has a sweet summery taste. In 2010, Hans developed the Pineberry. The Pineberry is one of the oldest strawberry varieties in the world but was close to extinction. Through a lot of research, cultivation and harvesting, we have been able to preserve and even improve the Pineberry. The Pineberry is a white strawberry with a delicious fresh, sweet taste and a slight undertone of pineapple. Because of the huge success of the Strasberry and the Pineberry more specialities followed including the: Whiteberry, Bubbleberry, Pinkberry and Yellowberry. “We will always continue to develop new speciality varieties with beautiful colours and rich flavours.” according to Wil. Most recently, in 2019 the red currants were added to the portfolio with their fresh sweet taste. The result: a wonderful range of berries with only the best quality!
The love of breeding berries
Breeding is a complicated process. Berries, especially strawberries, are really complicated to breed and require a lot of knowledge and patience. ‘Strawberries are octoploids, a technical term, which means that you will cross in a genetic environment where the predictability of the outcome is very low’ says Wil. This means that the breeder must work with many offspring to find the right one. A select strawberry plant can grow somewhere in the 2,000 – 10,000 plants. Then further selection needs making! ‘This makes it not only very difficult, but it also requires a lot of time. It is an expensive project and the chances at success are very low. Nevertheless, this is what makes it is so rewarding to find a new variety after all these years. Breeding berries is an expensive hobby’, Wil laughs. The year after a cross is made, there will be approximately 25 new strawberry plants. These will be tested extensive and if they come out positively, they will be multiplied again. This means it takes a few years before there are enough of these new strawberry plants to sell their strawberries on the market.
“Breeding berries is an expensive hobby”, Wil laughs.
This is the history of Beekers Berries in a nutshell. Read more about our varieties and the love for cultivation on our website.