British fresh-produce suppliers can learn from approaches in other developed markets about adding value to produce and making it more appealing to younger customers, according to Agritec International managing director Peter Gresty.
Selling carrots as snacks is well established in the USA and elsewhere, with large multinational produce firms such as Chiquita, Del Monte and Dole represented, Gresty told a conference at Warwick Crop Centre earlier this month.
"Organic is still a growing trend in the USA and brands such as Cal-Organic and Organic Girl sell produce in resealable bags, while Colorful Harvest sells carrot snacks in a mixed range of colours. And it's not just America - this is happening in countries as diverse as Israel and Poland."
He added: "In the USA, they even sell snack vegetables from vending machines in places like schools, which also offers another opportunity for us in the UK."
Gresty, who is also vice-chairman of the British Carrot Growers Association, said the prepared snack market also gets round the problem of wastage.
"We can't throw away 40 per cent of the crop any more on the grounds that it lacks finish," he said. "We need to engineer the product. Cavity spot can mean a crop is written off, but you peel them when you get home anyway."
Pre-diced onions could be an outlet for onions that are unsuitable for selling whole due to brown spot, Gresty added.
Peter Gresty was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship in 2008 to look at innovation in the international vegetable sector.
He said his impression from Salinas, California, known as "the salad bowl of the world", was that the profitability of the US sector has helped it avoid Europe's labour challenges.
"Mexicans are still prepared to work because they are paid well," he pointed out. "The labour is there, you just have to pay for it."