Supermarkets have rallied to the call to accept "ugly" fresh produce, says NFU

Over 300,000 tonnes of British fresh produce which would otherwise have been rejected as being of substandard appearance, has reached supermarket shelves this year after retailers relaxed specifications, the NFU has said.

imperfect apples - image: Keith McDuffee
imperfect apples - image: Keith McDuffee

The figure is based on estimates from 12 growers on the NFU’s horticulture and potatoes board that around 15 per cent of crops which would normally be rejected have this year been taken by supermarkets.

Among them, Pembrokeshire potato grower Walter Simon said: "I am delighted that retailers have responded to an exceptional growing year by relaxing their specifications on potatoes and, importantly, telling consumers about the reasons for any slight changes they may notice in the potatoes they buy."

Fellow board member and Worcestershire apple grower Ali Capper of Stocks Farm said she had benefitted from changes in specifications applied to apple colour and skin finish.

"It’s reassuring that retailers have recognised what a challenging year it has been for growing tree fruit throughout Europe," she added.  "Supply is very short so a sensible approach to specifications that allows more perfectly edible fruit through supermarket doors is welcomed."

So far this season, concessions made by the major retailers include:
•    an early move by Waitrose to accept shorter carrots, thinner parsnips and smaller strawberries;
•    a decision by Morrisons to incorporate smaller than usual versions of broccoli, leeks, sprouts, swedes, apples and pears into its value ranges;
•    a commitment from Sainsbury’s to use all fruit and vegetables that meets regulations and stands up on taste, also incorporating them into products such as ready-prepared salads, mash in ready meals and fillings in bakery products.

NFU chief horticulture and potatoes adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons said: "Let’s hope that retailers carry on with this sensible approach to sourcing so that more of the food we produce in Britain can actually make it onto the shelf."

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