Waitrose says it will pitch in during the summer months by helping out British farmers, taking in vegetables of all shapes.
The UK retailer is relaxing its size and shape guidelines for carrots, parsnips and asparagus to serve customers during the Covid-19 pandemic. 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, the retailer is preventing a large amount of foodservice-tabbed produce from going to waste.
“We are committed to supporting our farmers through a really difficult time,” Amanda Frisby, Fresh Produce Technical Manager at Waitrose, says. “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.”
Removing the process of extra trimming and finishing also will help suppliers maintain social distancing on production and packing lines.
“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,” Frisby says.
Despite the challenges presented by coronavirus, Waitrose says its sales of core vegetables have increased 31% compared to last year, with mushrooms and root vegetables up 28% and 26%, respectively. Ingredients such as garlic have seen notable growth as consumers cook from home, with a 47% increase year on year. Even gourds are up 51%.
For British asparagus the size range has been expanded to include sizes of product that would normally go into processing and catering.
The specification changes fit into Waitrose’s overall initiatives to manage food waste. The initiative got kickstarted in 2016 with its ‘A Little Less Than Perfect’ range, which offered Grade 2 vegetables in larger bags.