On taste alone, raspberries might be the perfect fruit. (Don’t @ me, strawberry stans.) But the experience of eating them has always been marred by one frustrating flaw: the anticlimactic airiness of their hollow centers.
This week, the berry behemoth Driscoll’s unveiled a dramatic solution: the braspberry. Inspired by a viral Justin Timberlake Instagram post, Driscoll’s announced (on Instagram, naturally) that it is bringing braspberries to market.
The braspberry is not, of course, a “new berry.” It’s one old berry lodged snugly inside of another one. Even the idea isn’t new—perhaps you’ve assembled one yourself, in a flash of insight, at some point along the line. But it took an influencer of Timberlake’s stature to focus the public’s attention on what should have been obvious all along: Raspberries and blueberries were made for each other.
Here’s JT demonstrating the basic concept in December 2017. “Is it a coincidence that the blueberry fits in the raspberry perfectly?” he asks. “I think not.”
Last week, Timberlake reiterated the idea in a commercial for the beverage company Bai. The spot is misguided, however, in that it implies braspberries are a dumb idea while Bai is delicious.
The truth is quite the opposite. Blueberries are just what raspberries have been missing: the juicy, satisfying center that evolution in its capriciousness did not see fit to grant them. The combination is a study in gustatory complementarity. Raspberries, soft and lumpen and hairy; blueberries, crisp and smooth and shiny; each plumbing in its own way the tangy borderlands between sweet and sour.
Timberlake was surely not the braspberry’s inventor, but an inventor wasn’t what it needed. It needed an evangelist, a popularizer. And now Driscoll’s is prepared to put it in grocery stores across the country. Braspberries are officially happening, reminding us that corporate America for all its decadence and abuses is still capable of the occasional stroke of genius.
“From a social media perspective, we saw the braspberry craze take off, and it was only logical that Driscoll’s as the berry market leader would innovate the opportunity,” a Driscoll’s marketing director told Food & Wine. The spokesperson’s nonstandard use of “innovate” as a transitive verb only underscored the company’s disdain for orthodoxy.
There is, as there must always be, a catch. Driscoll’s acknowledged to Food & Wine that braspberries are at present being packaged only “for promotional purposes.” That makes sense when you find out that the conglomerate has yet to find a better way to create them than to hand-pick and hand-stuff them one by one. Rest assured, however: “Driscoll’s is working quickly to look for ways to scale for potential retail sales,” a spokesperson said.
Then again, perhaps it’s better this way. Driscoll’s has, as this fascinating New Yorker profile of the company makes clear, always been a berry innovator. Recently, however, it has been accused by some of conspiring to stifle competition from rival growers. And it has indisputably played a leading role in the globalization of the fruit industry and commoditization of berries, at the expense of smaller growers serving local markets. It has also been accused of labor abuses, despite its efforts to cultivate a labor-friendly image. A member of the family that owns Driscoll’s acknowledged to the New Yorker that rivals think of the company as “the Evil Empire.” Driscoll’s did not respond to Slate’s request for comment Friday afternoon.
If Driscoll’s can’t master braspberry production at scale, we may look back at its Instagram launch as an example of vaporware. And yet we’ll all be better off for having been reminded of the combination’s sublime potential. The best braspberry, after all, is the one you make yourself.