‘Promising’ results for Morrisons wonky fruit and veg range

‘Promising’ results for Morrisons wonky fruit and veg rangeA trial range of ‘wonky’ vegetables in 75 Morrisons stores, introduced after pressure from celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, has produced ‘promising’ initial results.

As part of a two-part documentary series that aired on the BBC in November, Fearnley-Whittingstall visited a family-run parsnip farm that was going out of business due to cosmetic standards imposed by its main customer, Morrisons. The farm, which has since ceased trading, claimed that it was forced to dispose of around 20 tonnes of freshly farmed parsnips every week due to imperfections.

Later in the programme, the chef set up a stall outside a Morrisons store to illustrate how customers would be willing to buy misshapen produce at a slightly reduced price after store representatives had informed him that there was no market for the product.

Now, the retailer, the UK’s fourth biggest supermarket chain with more than 500 stores, has begun to pilot a range of potatoes, carrots, onions and parsnips that are misshapen, have grown cracks or are smaller or larger than average.

After one week of the trial, which is taking place in a selection of the Bradford-based retailer’s Yorkshire stores, initial results have been described as ‘promising’, with sales close to expectations. Morrisons estimates that sales have amounted to approximately £20,000, with potatoes and onions making up the bulk of the takings.

Morrisons says that the vegetables have been discounted by about a third in price to reflect that customers ‘may need to spend extra time peeling’ or may not be able to use the whole product.

Throughout the trial, wonky potatoes will be sold at £2 for a 5-kilogramme (kg) bag, carrots and onions will be available at 60 pence in 1.5kg bags and parsnips will be sold for £1 for a 1kg bag.

The trial will be rolled out to a further 75 stores and to online delivery in January.

Trial testing ‘genuine demand’

Drew Kirk, Morrisons Produce Director, said: “We are testing the sales of these vegetables in 75 stores to ensure that there is genuine demand and initial sales have been encouraging. If customers really like these products, we will roll them out to other parts of the UK.

“Clearly, the vegetables we have chosen are very seasonal. Carrots, potatoes and parsnips are often on the Christmas dinner plate. So we are giving customers the chance to help farmers out by giving their wonky carrots a home. Customers often want their festive meals to look and taste perfect so it is going to be very interesting to see whether they take to these wonky vegetables over the Christmas period.”

Wonky fruit and veg not putting off consumers

Research carried out by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers last year found that 80 per cent of British shoppers would buy fruit and vegetables that are ‘not perfect in shape or colour’.

This research has been supported by positive results from another wonky produce trial being carried out by Asda.

Following another television series, Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, which aired in January this year, Asda established its ‘Beautiful on the Inside’ trial in collaboration with the presenters, TV chef Jamie Oliver and Suffolk-based farmer Jimmy Doherty.

In November the wonky fruit and vegetable range was extended to include more types of vegetable. The range, first piloted in five stores when set up in January, was introduced to a further 20 stores over the course of 2015 due to its popularity.

Carrots, pears, apples and citrus fruits were included in the trial, with sweet potatoes and garlic now added to the selection. Asda said at the time that by selling inconsistently sized and ‘scruffier’ garlic and wonky sweet potatoes, it will save 10 per cent of the crop from being wasted.

A similar trial launched by French supermarket chain Intermarché in July 2014 was considered to be a success after all of the 600 pounds of ‘ugly’ carrots, apples and oranges were sold and footfall traffic increased by 24 per cent in the first three days of the campaign.

Learn more about the problem of worldwide food waste in Resource’s feature article.