Grower MB Organics, packer Greenvale AP and Sainsbury took part in a Food Chain Centre-backed value chain analysis project earlier this year in a bid to strip out inefficiencies.
During the project, they found that almost one in three of the potatoes grown for Sainsbury’s organic offer ended up being further processed or used for animal feed because
they failed to meet its standards for fresh.
Supermarkets’ specifications for fruit and vegetables represent one of the most controversial issues in the fresh produce sector.
The multiples’ apparent obsession with uniformity of shape, size and colour frequently commands headlines and can cost growers thousands of pounds a year in downgraded and wasted produce.
But in a rare move, Sainsbury has agreed to assess whether it could loosen its stance on organic potatoes. And a small change in the specification could have a huge effect on grower and packer profitability, according to David Lawson of MB Organics.
“Pack-out, or the amount of a product that reaches the shelves, is one of the keys to farm profitability. The chance to discuss ways of increasing pack-out in the short, medium and long term is very important.”
Joanne Denney-Finch, chairman of the Food Chain Centre, said similar projects could benefit other organic fresh produce supply chains.
“If one in three organic potatoes is not ending up on the supermarket shelf, then there must be something that can be improved. There are many opportunities for growers and producers to cut waste and add value by working together.”