Source: Unsplash

From migrant labour shortages to highly volatile growing conditions, fruit and veg had to battle a host of challenges this year.

Take apples. Having suffered a poor harvest in 2018 due to adverse weather, Britain’s favourite fruit was hit by labour shortages this autumn, with some 16m left unpicked, according to a British Apples & Pears survey.

But supply difficulties weren’t borne out in these numbers. In fact, volume sales of apples rose, with a dramatic drop in average prices responsible for the fruit’s value decline this year. It was a similar story elsewhere in fresh fruit, which shed £27m in total as the mults continued their price war with the discounters. Grapes lost £13.7m in sales despite a slight increase in volumes, for example.

There were some exceptions. Bananas added £9m to become the nation’s second best-selling fruit (stealing the title from grapes). That added value is largely down to price rises, according to Simon Trewin, commercial director at importer Compagnie Fruitiere. “Volume is stable year on year, but there’s a little bit of price inflation, and that’s mainly driven by the weakened pound over the past couple of years,” he says.

Inflation also drove a £54m uplift in sales of fresh veg. The ‘Beast from the East’ and subsequent drought in 2018 pushed up retail prices for some crops this year, says British Growers Association CEO Jack Ward. “There has been a concerted effort over the last year to recoup some of the additional costs of what was a really difficult season with very late starts and then four months of prolonged drought,” he adds. “There was a recognition that production costs had increased.”

Onions (up 8.2%), broccoli (up 13.2%) and carrots (up 7.4%) were among those seeing big sales value increases despite relatively stable volumes.

With heavy rainfall and severe flooding disrupting growers this autumn, fresh veg could face further price inflation in 2020.

Supermarkets might also be forced to hike prices on apples, which will be in tight supply unless labour issues are urgently addressed, according to executive chair of British Apples & Pears Ali Capper.

So it’s likely to be another turbulent year ahead for fruit & veg.



The Top Products

 In association with nielsen

Top 10 Fruit     
      £m change (£m) change (%)
Volume change: 0.6% Total Category: 4804.1 -27.0 -0.9
This year’s rank Last year’s rank   £m change (£m) change (%)
1 1 Apple 597.7 -27.7 -4.4
2 3 Banana 583.5 9.0 1.6
3 2 Grapes 573.4 -13.7 -2.3
4 4 Strawberries 552.0 18.1 3.4
5 5 Blueberries 383.8 18.1 4.9
6 7 Raspberries 318.5 18.5 6.2
7 6 Clementines 313.0 -7.8 -2.4
8 9 Fruit Salad 153.1 3.8 2.5
9 8 Pear 150.4 -13.4 -8.2
10 10 Orange 139.8 5.6 4.2


Top 10 Vegetables     
      £m change (£m) change (%)
Volume change: -1.0% Total Category: 5091.0 54.0 1.1
This year’s rank Last year’s rank   £m change (£m) change (%)
1 1 Potato 766.3 -8.9 -1.2
2 2 Tomato 649.7 -13.1 -2.0
3 3 Dry Leaf Salad 438.2 -27.8 -6.0
4 4 Mushroom 300.2 6.8 2.3
5 5 Pepper 271.0 3.5 1.3
6 6 Avocado 227.2 1.6 0.7
7 7 Onion 208.1 15.8 8.2
8 9 Cucumber 206.5 25.8 14.3
9 8 Broccoli 206.4 24.0 13.2
10 10 Carrot 167.8 11.6 7.4

The Grocer’s Top Launch

Love Beets

Love Beets G’s Fresh

Having first launched in 2010 in the US, the Love Beets beetroot brand is finally available to Brits. Exclusive to Tesco, it comes in four variants of cooked beetroot: Salsa, Sweet & Smoky, Honey & Ginger and No Vinegar – the last of which comes in resealable pouch. The rollout marks a massive endorsement for a vegetable not currently among the UK’s best-loved. The brand is hoping its convenience and striking flavours will be enough to persuade consumers to ‘Live colourfully, Love Beets’.

The Grocer’s Top Products 2019: Brand on the run?