In a bid to make sure locally grown produce doesn’t go to waste, Waitrose is helping out British farmers by taking all shapes and sizes of vegetables over the summer.
The retailer has relaxed its size and shape guidelines for its carrots, parsnips and asparagus to make sure as much of the UK crop is available to customers, in turn helping British farmers during a, particularly difficult time. Some extra trimming and finishing details have also been removed in order to help suppliers maintain social distancing on production and packing lines.
Sales of core vegetables have seen a 31% increase during lockdown compared to last year with mushrooms and root vegetables up 28% and 26% respectively. With more people cooking from scratch, vegetables and ingredients such as garlic have also seen significant growth up 47% on last year with more unusual items such as gourds also up 51%.
Farms supplying Waitrose carrots and parsnips will now have more flexibility when it comes to skin blemishes. By allowing more ‘ugly’ skinned carrots and parsnips (which don’t affect the eating quality) has meant more British produce is available for customers – much of which would have previously gone into food service.
For British asparagus the size range has been expanded to include sizes of product that would normally go into processing and catering. Due to social distancing measures, trimming specifications have also been relaxed to allow packing lines to run with less staff. This will help with wastage due to the quick nature of harvesting asparagus when it has to be picked within hours to avoid it being wasted.
Amanda Frisby, Fresh Produce Technical Manager at Waitrose says: “We are committed to supporting our farmers through a really difficult time. By changing and being flexible with our specifications it has meant we have minimised wastage of fantastic British produce and it has allowed us to take on even more veg for our customers. We keep reviewing specific specifications on all of our fresh produce lines to make sure we are getting the maximum crop available and working with our farmers to figure out new ways of working in these challenging circumstances.”
These specification changes are one of the ongoing steps the retailer is taking to help manage food waste. Back in 2016, the Waitrose Essential ‘A Little Less Than Perfect’ range was developed to help reduce food waste by offering customers grade two vegetables in larger bags. These specification changes are one of the ongoing steps the retailer is taking to help manage food waste. Working with suppliers to find creative ways to turn their fruit and vegetable by-products into creative packaging solutions is another initiative which has already produced Waitrose Duchy Organic tomato punnets made from tomato leaves.