Shoppers should brace themselves for more “ugly fruit” on supermarket shelves this year - as bad weather threatens to increase the amount of fresh produce with blemishes.
Although it is still too early to tell how big a problem will be, growers have started talking to buyers about the possibility that some produce could look less than perfect this year.
Apples and pears, in particular, could end up with more scabs than usual, warned CEO of English Apples & Pears Adrian Barlow, as growers had struggled to spray trees in wet orchards.
“We are aware that there could be a need to look critically at specifications,” he said. “I’ve discussed it with all the multiples and I know they are going to look sympathetically at this.”
Concerns are also mounting in the potato sector, which is already facing dramatically reduced yields as a result of the wet weather. “Consumers may notice a few more minor marks on the potato’s skin, but this should not affect the taste or quality,” said a spokeswoman for the Potato Council.
Richard Arundel, group MD of potato supplier AKP, said quality and appearance had been fine to date but there could be problems if the weather did not improve. “A big concern would be blight, if growers are unable to spray because it’s too wet,” he said.
If supermarkets did have to lower their aesthetic standards for British produce, they would need to educate consumers that there was nothing wrong with “ugly fruit”, said one retail source.
However, Barlow cautioned against retail buyers and technologists going too far in lowering their specifications.”We don’t want people selling or trying to market apples that aren’t going to give consumer satisfaction,” he said.