Tesco turnip sales rise by 75% year on year

Turnips are making a comeback as Tesco has reported a 75 per cent year-on-year increase in sales of the root vegetable.

A representative for the supermarket told Grower that the credit crunch has prompted consumers to acknowledge the value of the low-cost vegetable. He said: "Unusually, we've had a 75 per cent year-on-year increase. The popularity of traditional vegetables is on the increase, especially in these times - they are very versatile and offer great health benefits."

In Tesco, turnips retail at £1.39/kg, compared with £2.16/kg for parsnips and £4.63/kg for Brussels sprouts.

Manager Richard Parry of Suffolk-based AW Mortier Farms - one of the country's main turnip producers, growing some 150ha of turnips and supplying all the major supermarkets, including Tesco - told Grower that celebrity chefs have helped raise turnips' profile.

"I think people are looking at the option of getting away from pre-prepared foods and are instead cooking from scratch," he said. "They are cooking food that they have not done before.

"This trend is mainly down to celebrity chefs using (turnip) in their recipes - it has become a lot more fashionable."

Despite the vegetable's rise in popularity, Parry said growers are not necessarily reaping the benefits of its raised profile.

"Our pay is not disastrous but it's not amazing. We are trying to work with our customers on increasing the profile of our production to get more economy through sales and work on prices ... but at the end of the day, people are only prepared to pay so much for the vegetable so we can only push prices so far."

He added that the farm - which supplies turnips for 10 months of the year and also grows onions, carrots, parsnips, dwarf beans and potatoes - has had an average harvest so far.

"It's not been a vintage year - it's been an average year. We have been lucky on the east coast as the weather has not been as bad as in other parts of the country."

Brassica Growers' Association chairman Phillip Effingham, who is also a director of Marshall Bros (Butterwick), Lincolnshire, agreed that there are good increases being seen in the turnip business.

"We think the actual retail value has gone up by 20 per cent, with a corresponding lift in volume."

He added that data from researcher TNS reveals that the vegetable's market value is £6.25m - up 19.6 per cent in the year ending August 2008 - and volume is at 5,414 tonnes - up 14.2 per cent.

"What this might suggest is that the vegetable is being used a lot in stews and casseroles. So if people are returning to basic eating then it would suggest that the credit crunch is increasing demand."

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