British asparagus sales slumped almost 7% this season as a result of bad weather and issues over availability.

In the 12 weeks ending 15 June, sales were down 6.9% to £16.5m, according to TNS, with market penetration static at 12.4%.

Poor growing conditions last summer combined with a cold start to this season were blamed for the dip. “Demand remained high this year but the crop needs sustained warmth and sunshine to thrive – both of which were in short supply in the second half of last season,” said James Hallett commercial director for salad and veg at Mack Multiples and chair of the British Asparagus Campaign.

The shortage led to 400 tonnes of asparagus being imported from Peru to bolster supplies. About 2,000 tonnes of the crop were sold in total.

The news is a blow to British asparagus growers after several years of consistent growth. However, trip spend and volume per customer increased, reflecting continued interest in the vegetable, said Hallett. Producers were confident of a better season next year, he added. 

Growers, meanwhile, are developing techniques aiming to extend the season further in a sustainable way. This year, the earliest-ever British asparagus hit retail shelves in mid-February as supermarkets fought to be first to market.

The promotional campaign backing British asparagus generated almost £1m of print coverage, as well as TV and radio features on high-profile programmes.

The theme of the campaign was ‘Quick & Easy’ and sought to debunk the myth that asparagus is both difficult and time-consuming to cook.

As well as website support, a series of recipes were drawn up with the aim to ‘impress in 10 minutes or less’.