Florette has set up Angflor with a salad supplier, Jepco

Florette is set to ramp up its supply of British-grown salad through a joint venture that it predicts will reduce its reliance on imported baby leaf and lambs lettuce salad by up to 10%.

The bagged salad specialist has set up Angflor with Jepco, one of its key salad suppliers. Together, Florette and Jepco will build 10 hectares of polytunnels on Jepco’s Anglia Salads site in Frating, Essex this autumn, to be harvested by May 2014. They plan to expand this to 40 hectares by May 2017, following a total investment of over £2m.

Angflor will focus on growing baby leaf crops such as rocket, chard and Peppercress - Florette’s branded variety of watercress - as well as lambs lettuce.

The JV was being launched as part of Florette’s strategy to replace more imports with UK-grown crops, said Neil Sanderson, MD of Florette’s parent company, Soleco UK.

It would also enable Jepco to plan more effectively for the future, he added. “As an industry, we have to try and support British horticulture to grow more, and that’s about giving growers the ability to invest for the long term.”

This summer, Florette was forced to substitute lambs leaf with spinach in its Classic Crispy salad bags because it was unable to secure enough lambs leaf due to poor weather in the UK and Continental Europe.

The JV would reduce the likelihood of such incidents in the future because it would ensure better availability. “You’ve got more crop closer, and in protected areas,” said Sanderson, adding that bringing production closer to home would also improve freshness.

By May 2017, Florette hopes to reduce imports of baby leaf and lambs lettuce by up to 10%.

Patrick Bastow, currently raw materials supply manager at Florette UK & Ireland, will become MD of Angflor.