New Covent Garden Market has been a hub for produce wholesaling for 47 years - and its history dates back long before that. The ever-evolving interplay between traders and customers means that there is not only a constant eye on fresh products but also a pulse on developing trends.
The market, which helps serves some of London's best dining establishments, said in its newly released Fruit and Vegetable Trends Report 2021 that there will be a lean toward "exotic citrus such as the yuzu fruit, avant garde seasonal eating, new baking ingredients such as Medjoul dates and eating whole vegetables to reduce waste."
It also expects that frutis such as mangoes and pomegranates will find their ways onto menus, along with brassicas, as greens stay front of mind for health-conscious consumers.
“Aside from meat alternatives, we’re seeing a rise in the hero vegetable," said Hannah Turner from New Covent Garden Market’s Classic Veg Box. "It’s great to see vegetables celebrated as the star of the dish rather than as a side or addition. With the focus on staying fit and healthy to ensure your body is fighting fit we've seen a surge in sales of a whole range of brassicas. Consumers are consciously adding a lot more leafy greens to their diet, whether it be the main event, part of a dish, or as a snack, in the bid for a healthier lifestyle”.
Convenience is another trend expected to continue as restaurants, retailers and consumers fight through the limits of the COVID-19 pandemic. A return to home cooking has been especially popular, and the market's businesses have been keen to help with home delivery options. Traders expect to keep a steady pace for the first half of the year.
“The demand for our service was incredible throughout the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and we decided to continue the offering, as many people were still enjoying our service which delivered fresh fruit and vegetables along with many other food products," said Jason Tanner, owner of New Covent Garden Market based Premier Fruits and also new business The Menu Partners.
Rebecca Barrett, head of strategy, partnerships and communications for New Covent Garden Market, added: "Whilst it has been a tough year for the market with long periods when restaurants have been closed, we’re delighted to see so many of our traders innovating and introducing the public to what is on offer through their box delivery services. With an abundance of sustainably produced British and international fruit and vegetables, New Covent Garden Market is fast becoming a mecca for home cooks.”
The market’s report was gleaned from wholesalers that serve elite restaurants such as La Gavroche, Sketch, Soho House, Jikoni, Darjeeling Kitchen, Restaurant Story and Pho and more. New Covent Garden says, "This makes them absolute experts on the very latest culinary produce trends, akin to sommeliers of the fruit and vegetable world."
Some of the more unique items expected to be hits in 2021, according to the market's Pollen + Grace, are quince, celeriac and redcurrants, along with Medjoul dates that can be used in vegan dishes. The health benefits and flavours of citrus, especially clementine and yuzu, offer a more pungent twist than the more traditional lemon.
At New Covent Garden, trending items also will include British radicchio and wild edibles such as puntarelle, chicory flowers, edible flowers and sprout stems. I.A. Harris & Sons says round pale aubergines are an ideal meat substitute and will be craved by food connoisseurs.
But while exotics expect to see increased demand, old staples such as broccoli, kale and spinach are promising to be big hits. Local products are also likely to see continued high demand as consumers crave a return to home-grown, sustainable fruits and vegetables.
“We expect people to eat more British fruit and veg and seasonal eating as prices increase due to Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had its own impacts on the global supply of fresh produce," Jenny Irvine from New Covent Garden Market based Balance Box said.