Strawberry salad

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I love strawberries and cream as much as the next guy, but strawberries are a much more versatile fruit

The food and retailing agenda for the last few weeks and months has been dominated by three interwoven topics. First, the on-off saga of the government’s proposed HFSS rules; second, the cost of living crisis and its impact on business and consumers; and third, the government response to Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy.

The combination of these makes it feel to me like opportunity is in the air. It also seems to me the fresh category has a vital, often overlooked, role to play across all three.

Whatever the intricacies of the debate, it seems like there is broad agreement on one thing: it would be helpful for the national waistline to shrink. Removing, reformulating, restricting and replacing ‘bad’ all have a role to varying extents, depending on your perspective, but from where I sit there is enormous room for the re-evaluation of ‘good’ to also play a role.

Take the humble strawberry. In the UK, our growers and growing conditions are among the best in the world, and they produce superb fruit from April to November. For most of the season, however, these berries sit stubbornly in a single site in-store and have only ever been merchandised ‘traditionally’.


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Now, I love strawberries and cream as much as the next guy, but strawberries are a much more versatile fruit. They are delicious with pecans, pistachios, cashews and almonds. They pair perfectly with mint, basil, vanilla, cinnamon and chilli. They go perfectly with oats. They’re pretty sweet with honey. They’re great in soups, salads, smoothies and shakes.

Our big innovation for our 50th birthday this year is our new Berry Collective snack-size packs of mini berries and blueberries. These are a fantastic innovation which takes us into the on-the-go category in a whole new way, allowing us to compete with a sweet, nutritious alternative to crisps, chocolate, cereal bars and other ‘mobile’ propositions.

We’re also working with Dame Jess Ennis-Hill as our ‘variety ambassador’, an unexpectedly big name for fruit varieties, but one who has made a significant difference in just 18 months of working together.

So, yes: reformulate, remove, restrict and replace ‘bad’. But let’s also rethink ‘good’. Let’s think about the whole fresh aisle and range differently – different sized fruit, different pack sizes, different pack formats. Let’s merchandise more progressively in-store and online, tap into long-term consumer trends and tell a different story to consumers about pairing, recipes and occasions. Let’s find high-profile ambassadors and spokespeople. Let’s behave more like brands.

Fresh has a role in all the big national debates and retailers have a huge opportunity hiding in plain sight. It just requires some fresh thinking.