Photo courtesy of Tesco

Concerns over pumpkin and squash volume, size not impacting Tesco

Produce Business report

Tesco supplier Oakley Farms said its crop of pumpkins this autumn is not only similar to previous years but high calibre, as well.

Because of drought and then heavy rains, there are worries across the UK that this year’s harvest will produce only about 10 million pumpkins, down from 15 million which is typical this time of year. The British Growers Association also warned of a smaller-than-average season.

But Oakley Farms is not seeing that.

“The quality of the pumpkins that have started arriving at our stores this week are as good as ever and we have a wide variety of choices available,” Tesco buyer Emily Hampson said. “Interest in Halloween continues to grow and last year we saw an all-time record demand for pumpkins. This year we anticipate at least equalling that and thanks to our close partnership with Oakley Farms we are on track to do just that.”

Steve Whitworth, Operations Director at Oakley Farms, said they grow about five million pumpkins every year. “While we had the summer heatwave and subsequent downpour in early September, we’ve had no issues with our pumpkins and there is full availability,” he said.

Much of the successes or failures this season appear to depend on location, as Oakley Farms in Cambridgeshire may have been able dodge some of the weather issues that others have experienced.

There have been reports that the sizes of pumpkins and squash in some cases have been reduced by as much as 30%. Coupled with the struggles to maintain labour and keep costs low, the combination sent up warnings from the British Growers Association.

But Tesco is not only pressing forward as if supply will be normal, it is also talking up what to do with excess pumpkins, pressing the need for donations to FareShare or for consumers “to use pumpkins to feed garden wildlife.”

Tesco’s range this year feature several varieties, including medium, large and giant-size pumpkins; munchkin, sweet culinary, novelty and autumnal squash.

One way to get around chatter about smaller pumpkins is to actually promote and pitch smaller ones. Morrisons has cleverly made munchkin pumpkins a focus, helped by pricing that is certain to get customers’ attention.

“From large pumpkins to munchkins and ghost pumpkins, there is a pumpkin for everyone at Morrisons this Halloween,” said Pete Lawrie, Pumpkin Buying Manager. “With prices starting from as little as 59p, our British grown pumpkin range is perfect for building autumnal displays, carving pumpkins with family and friends, and for cooking pumpkin dishes this spooky season. New this year, our in-store Halloween photo spots will make for some playful pictures with friends and family when picking out pumpkins.”



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