Mushroom specialist Greyfriars is planning to diversify into sweetcorn, garlic and cabbage to help Morrisons meet its post-Safeway acquisition produce needs.
The producer has unveiled a £300,000 packhouse near Ripon in North Yorkshire that will be largely dedicated to Morrisons, although other multiples will also use the facility.
Covering 13,000 sq ft, with a 5,000 sq ft cold store, the site has a hi-tech sweetcorn stripping line that uses air knives to minimise kernel damage and to improve the shelf life and appearance of the produce.
The line is capable of stripping 6,000 cobs an hour, a speed that enhances quality by ensuring the produce spends no
more than 20 minutes out of cold store, said the company.
Greyfriars’ diversification strategy is also a clear response to challenging times in the mushroom sector, which has contracted in recent years. And within this strategy, sweetcorn is poised to become a key product for Greyfriars.
The packhouse will process 10 million cobs this financial year and the company is running trials with Morrisons to evaluate the viability of growing sweetcorn close to its Ripon centre of operations.
If the trials are successful, Greyfriars will add Yorkshire-grown maize to its portfolio.
At the same time, Greyfriars has launched a disposable corn cob eating utensil to encourage consumers to view cobs as a convenient option and in doing so drive sales.
The Cob Nob, which will be included in Morrisons sweetcorn packs, is designed to dispel the notion that cobs are awkward to eat. Non-slip and with an off-centre pin, it prevents the cob rotating when eaten.
Greyfriars managing director C John Smith said: “We found that concerns over messy eating were putting many people off buying sweetcorn.”
Richard Clarke