'Jamie factor' drives increase in herb and vegetable sales

Large increases in the sales of herbs and vegetable seeds are being attributed to the influence of the celebrity chef.

Predictions that vegetables would be one of the year’s big sellers for garden centres appear to be bearing fruit, with vegetable seeds and herbs popular additions to shoppers’ baskets. Many retailers feel the “phenomenal” demand is due to the “Jamie Oliver influence”, with many believing the celebrity chef’s School Dinners TV programme has spurred parents into reconsidering the food their children eat. Garden Centre Association representative Gillie Westwood said the combination of Oliver, various health-conscious television programmes and the Government’s Five-a-Day campaign have boosted sales. “People are more conscious about eating healthily,” she added. Notcutts Garden Centres marketing manager Sally Reed said the expanded kitchen garden at the company’s Woodbridge centre was popular with many customers other than the traditional gardeners. Scotsdales managing director Caroline Owen said herbs and vegetable seeds at the Cambridge garden centre were selling particularly well. She said their popularity was reaching beyond allotment growers because growing bags, designed for patios and those without plantable gardens, were also in demand. Farplants sales and marketing director Nick Richards said herbs were one of the plant groups driving a record April, when the West Sussex co-operative sold £4m worth of plants. “We are one of the UK’s biggest herb growers but this year, they have gone particularly well. There is a good level of interest in culinary products — and Jamie Oliver certainly uses a lot of herbs.” The herb trend has reached the Chelsea flower show this year, with a third of the 19 show gardens planning to have herb patches.

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