Vegetable-inspired carbohydrate substitutes are taking centre stage in the fresh produce aisles of Tesco as the supermarket rejigs the positioning of certain food which is predicted to have a “profound effect” on the shopping habits of customers.
The new Tesco fresh produce lay out is also geared towards driving down food waste and saving shoppers’ time by positioning popular spiralised and freshly prepared meals in the same spot as fresh fruit and vegetables.
It was traditionally the supermarket aisle where shoppers purely bought their fruit and vegetables –– but following the changes, the fruit and veg aisles now offer more than 400 fresh, healthy ready meals, snacks and side dishes, many of which have been made using so-called wonky veg and produce that would have otherwise gone to waste.
These include healthy carb alternatives such as Butternut Fusilli and Leek and Cavolo Bake; side dishes like Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms; snacks like Mexican Spiced Bean and Fruit Salsa; and dessert crumble mixes with fruit.
Demand for these types of freshly prepared foods has increased 10% in the last two years, according to Tesco which says that equates to an extra 1.5 million items.
The popularity is also advantageous for the anti food waste movement because many of the dishes allow growers and producers to utilise all of their crops, such as cauliflower, carrots, swedes, broccoli and butternut, leading to less discarded produce.
One example is when a cauliflower is considered too small to sell on its own, but can be used to make cauliflower couscous –– a popular and healthy carbohydrate alternative.
And wonky shaped carrots are now being used to make carrot spaghetti.
“These tempting new fresh fruit and veg foods are not only offering shoppers a far wider choice in healthy, nutritious meals but are also helping tackle food waste through greater crop utilisation,” says Tesco prepared produce buyer Elizabeth Hall.
“For growing numbers of shoppers the fruit and veg aisle is now the first destination they will head to, to find innovative and delicious new meals if they are pressed for time and looking for fresh food they can cook quickly. Until about five years ago the main prepared fruit and veg items were stir fry mixes, sides like roasting trays of vegetables, and fruit snack packs.
“These have been so popular that we began to expand the range in order to further help customers who are short on time but still want to experience the joy of cooking fresh food.”
Over the last two years Tesco has seen demand for spiralised vegetables such as courgette or carrot spaghetti, go up 40%, while demand for edamame bean salads has soared by more than 100%.
Organic prepared salad sales are up by almost 90% and healthy fruit snacks like melon and mango ‘fingers’ have spike by 400%.
To keep pace with rising demand, Tesco is on the verge of extending its range of prepared vegetable, fruit and salad dishes.
Among the new lines about to be launched are the UK’s first ever mushroom burgers as well as beetroot burgers; potato wedges with katsu dip and crunchy quinoa; and fajita mix with peppers and onions.
“It’s not only time-pressed shoppers that we are catering for with these new fresh ready meals and snacks,” adds Hall.
“Healthy foods such as butternut fusilli and butternut lasagne sheets are meeting the needs of customers wanting to cut down on carbs and look after themselves through simple alternatives.”