Producers expressed concern this week that a Friends of the Earth survey had been based on the number of apple lines in stores, rather than considering shelf space and the fact that only a handful of English varieties are actually commercially viable.
In its report, FoE said “nearly two thirds of apple lines on supermarket shelves are sourced from overseas”.
The claim was based on a
survey of 181 stores belonging to the big five multiples.
Tesco came out worst in the survey, with 28% of its apple lines English, while Somerfield and Sainsbury fared best, with 42% and 40% respectively.
But Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples and Pears, said: “Measuring the number of varieties can be misleading as only a limited number can provide profitable returns in today’s highly competitive market. Allocation of shelf space is a much more accurate measurement.”
Barlow admitted that support for English apples from retailers was variable, and there were instances of “inadequate” retail shelf space being allocated to home-grown varieties.
But he added: “The reason for this is usually that individual stores sometimes fail to devote sufficient shelf space to English fruit, despite the intentions of those based in head offices.”
Barlow urged multiples to follow Sainsbury’s lead. This season a merchandising team is checking in stores that English apples are being displayed according to its policy.
He added: “The result of this, according to both our own and TNS data, has been a massive increase in Sainsbury’s share of English apples - and also an increase in their share of the total apple market.”