Dixon On ... Fashioning a health role for cabbages

Lincolnshire's annual October vegetable breeders' open days demonstrated well how market fashions change.

This year sees the demise of round 'Primo' cabbage as fashion demands pointed-headed types. These are developments from Cornish spring cabbage that traditionally succeeded the leafy spring greens. Now a 'Points Programme'

developing from the original 'Duchy' cultivar extends supply throughout the season. Consequenly, the slightly later maturing 'Primo' is losing market share and quite probably will disappear from the supermarket shelves.

These changes demonstrate just how sophisticated fashions in the cabbage market are becoming. Educating the retail shopper's demands is an advantage ultimately for growers. Eradicating the perception that "all cabbages are the same" raises market awareness and increases demand. These effects are well borne out with the tomato and apple markets where shoppers now demand particular product styles.

Colour is another fashion demand. Consumers want sliced red cabbage added into fresh salad packs. This is visually very attractive especially when mixed with intensely green baby leaves coming from other brassicas and spinach. Adding red beetroot leaves especially the 'Bull's Blood'

types finishes the packs nicely. Cabbage is now an integral part of the healthy-eating culture. It has not yet reached the pinnacle occupied by green broccoli, the market leader.

But the challenge is on.

Declining overall markets was a key talking point in Lincolnshire this year. Vegetable consumption is still falling. This is a tragedy for the nation's long-term health. Almost daily there are reports highlighting the escalating dangers of obesity and consequential cancers, coronaries and strokes. Raising vegetable, and in particular brassica, eating is a key weapon in grappling with these problems.

Vegetables should be the dominant fashion item in all meals and snacks. Much good work is in progress with primary school children. But relentless pressure is needed.

Professor Geoffrey Dixon is managing director of GreneGene international

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Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon