The birth of a new industry within the fresh produce market has been hailed by HumberVHB, the UK market leader in fresh herbs and salad cress.
The company has formed a joint venture with Westland Nurseries to drive forward the development of microleaves. The venture, which is backed by a £3.2m spend, is claimed to be the first big-scale venture in what has up until now been a cottage industry.
Microleaves comprise a wide range of herbs and small-leaved salad varieties grown just to seedling stage that add flavour to bagged salads and can enhance any number of different dishes.
Their potential, says Humber, lies in the fact that they are smaller and more tender than babyleaf but their flavour and colour are more intense than that of fully mature leaves, and some of them are more robust than sprouts.
They can be purchased individually so that consumers can make up their own salads, or added to bagged salads. Westland is currently growing a range of microleaves, with ongoing development trials leading to the creation of a comprehensive range. HumberVHB will undertake all marketing and distribution, and a marketing campaign will be announced shortly.
Peter Prior, account manager for HumberVHB, said: "We have noted the huge success that microleaves have had in markets such as the US and Japan.
"Westland has spotted a great opportunity and we are confident that our logistics, marketing and technical expertise will ensure the success of this project.
"We believe that the taste will be of great interest to discerning consumers ."
Humber product manager James Seymour added: "This is the birth of a new industry. There has been some presence of microleaves in supermarkets, but people are now really cottoning on to this."