Israeli importer MTEX UK is ramping up efforts to build up the UK market for Medjool dates beyond the traditional Christmas ­period.

The company, which ­imports a range of Israeli produce into the UK, said it believed there was "a good deal of untapped year-round potential" in the date category.

Up to 70% of all Medjool dates sold in the UK was sold in the run-up to Christmas, MTEX said, but added it was now working to encourage its UK customers, which include Asda as well as wholesale market customers, to look past the Christmas peak.

"Throughout our customer base, there is also a strong component of ethnic consumers who purchase dates regularly. Dates are also linked in with other religious festivals, so we believe there is potential for demand to spread more evenly across the year," said MTEX UK general ­manager Marius du Plessis.