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British-grown seedless grapes to hit UK stores in 2016

British table grapes are set to become an industry wide initiative by 2018, reducing reliance on imports and significantly decreasing its carbon footprint, Asda said.

British supermarket chain Asda says promising trials growing seedless table grapes in England make it confident of having at least two varieties on its shelves as of early 2016.

It said this would be the first time British seedless table grapes have been on sale. Furthermore, British table grapes are set to become an industry wide initiative by 2018, reducing its reliance on imports and significantly decreasing its carbon footprint, Asda said in a press release. 

It sells 1.4 million punnets of grapes a week and currently imports the fruit from 15 countries, mainly Spain but also from as far away as India, Brazil and Chile.

The grapes grown in the UK will be harvested between August–October, meaning they’re ready to go on shelf to coincide with the Spanish grape season ending,” Asda said.

Its trial took place over the last three years in Kent, in South East England, and originally 8 varieties of grapes were planted – a mixture of red, green and black. This is the first year the grape vines have been full of edible produce, Asda said. It is confident at least two varieties suitable for everyday consumption can now be grown successfully in UK soil.

Asda’s category manager for grapes Alberto Goldbacher said the main challenge in the trial was getting the sweetness right because of a lack of sunshine and light needed for this to develop within the grape. “However, we’ve now seen great promise and are happy to move forward with this trial on a much larger scale.”

“Grapes grown in the UK have previously only been suitable for making wine as they’re typically very small, have a thick skin and have a large seed in the middle. For the first time ever in the UK, these new table grapes are exactly what you’d expect to see on a supermarket shelf, in both look and taste,” Goldbacher said.

Asda said it hopes to educate growers across the UK with its findings, “to give them the skills and knowledge they need to help this become an industry wide initiative by 2018.”  

“The grape project has been made possible thanks to Asda’s ownership of IPL, the biggest single importer of produce in the UK. IPL operates a unique sourcing model which works directly with growers at source rather than going through third-parties. IPL has technologists based around the world who have built close relationships with growers; for this project IPL’s Spanish grape supplier provided the grapevines and their chief agronomist also supervised the planting,” it said.

About Asda

  • 18 million customers a week
  • 616 stores: including 32 supercentres, 332 superstores, 34 Asda Living stores, 201 supermarkets & 15 standalone petrol stations
  • 650 click and collect sites
  • main office is in Leeds, Yorkshire
  • since 1999 has been owned by Walmart

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Asda extends ‘wonky’ fruit & veg range

After a successful trial this year, UK supermarket chain Asda is adding sweet potatoes and garlic to its ‘wonky’ fruit and veg range and selling the range in more stores.

UK supermarket chain Asda is adding sweet potatoes and garlic to its ‘wonky’ fruit and veg range and selling the range in more stores.

The grocer said in a press release that the move is part of its ongoing efforts to cut food waste across the supply chain and to help farmers.

“Labelled Beautiful on the Inside, the wonky veg range currently includes crooked carrots, knobbly pears, bumpy apples and citrus fruits, all sold at reduced rates in their own dedicated in-store fixture. There will be different sizes of wonky garlic, and it will be a bit scruffier, but the garlic inside is still the same. Our wonky sweet potatoes will be all kinds of strange shapes – and by selling these, we’ll save 10% of the crop from being wasted. We’re planning to increase the range even further in 2016, so watch this space,” Asda said.

The wonky veg trial began at the start of this year in 5 stores – Grantham, Coventry, Dagenham, Bedminster (Bristol) and Wallington (Croydon). “It proved so popular that we’ve added it to more stores and the range is now sold in 25 stores,” Asda said.

Asda’s produce technical director Ian Harrison said the range has proved a hit and has also enabled Asda to flex its specifications across a wide variety of its standard produce lines.

“For example, we’re taking 340 more tonnes of standard and organic carrots which would previously have been out of spec. We’ve also relaxed specifications on other produce like green beans, chillies and standard sweet potatoes which has put a further 300 tonnes of produce onto our shelves, which is good news for farmers.

“We have more work to do and we’re committed to working with our growers to ensure we utilise more of their crops whether that’s in Wonky or in our standard ranges,” Harrison said.

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Big ad spends help Aldi, Lidl grab more of UK market

Screenshot 2015-04-13 at 11

German discounters Aldi and Lidl now hold an 11% slice of UK grocery sales.

According to Nielsen figures for the 12 weeks to March 28, Aldi’s sales grew 17.9% year-on-year, to reach a 6.2% share of the grocery market, and Lidl’s sales rose 10.8%, for a 4.9% share – cementing their positions as the UK’s 5th and 7th biggest supermarkets, respectively.

Lidl biggest spender on TV & press ads

In the four weeks to March 28, Lidl spent the most on TV and press advertising (£5.9 million) – up 160%  on the same period last year – followed by Asda (£4.0 million) and Aldi (£3.5 million).

“Aldi and Lidl have become the fifth and seventh biggest supermarkets partly due to their large ongoing investment in advertising. Not only do they consistently spend the most in relation to each percentage of market share they hold, their advertising has changed the perceptions and expectations of UK shoppers,” Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight Mike Watkins said.

Bad month for the Big Four

Over the same period, all of the big four supermarkets saw a decline in year-on-year grocery sales. Asda’s slipped 1.7%, Tesco’s 1.1% and Sainsbury’s and Morrisons 0.6% each.

However, Tesco remained in top ranking, with a share of 27.5%, followed by Sainsbury’s with 16%, Asda with 15.7% and Morrisons with 10.7%.

Outlook for next 3 months more positive

Watkins said the current trading environment is challenging for the supermarkets. “…people (are) spending less on groceries than they used to.”

“Consumer spend continues to be impacted by a combination of record-low food inflation and supermarkets’ competitive pricing policies – good news for shoppers but not retailers, whose margins are continually under pressure. However, the outlook for the next three months is more positive than we’ve seen for some considerable time,” he said.

Read the Nielsen press release.
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ASDA braces for hard year


UK supermarket chain cuts prices and also aims to cut waste with promotion of ‘wonky’ fruit

At the start of what it says will be the “toughest year yet” in UK retailing, Asda announced its biggest ever investment in price cuts and a campaign to reduce waste of ‘wonky’ fruit. The Walmart–owned UK supermarket chain is spending more than £300m (€391.6m) to lower 2,500 prices for fruit, vegetables and other basket essentials.

Among the changes: 750g of Russet apples cut £0.25 to £1, cucumber halves down £0.05p to £0.30, £0.77 off banana 10-packs to £1.35, and bell peppers cut from £0.77 to £0.57 each.

Asda said the price ‘rollback’ is part of its five-year strategy to invest £1bn in lowering prices and £250m in quality to cement its role in “redefining value retailing.”


‘Beautiful On The Inside’ promotion of ‘ugly’ fruit

Also in January, Asda launched a campaign in five of its stores to sell ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables at a discounted price.It said this would help reduce food waste, support farmers and offer better value for money.

Crooked carrots, knobbly pears and wonky spuds will be labelled ‘Beautiful On The Inside’, bagged separately and sold at a reduced rate.

Asda produce technical director Ian Harrison said the campaign is the latest in a series of initiatives to show Asda’s commitment to helping reduce waste throughout its supply chain.

How Asda locked in low prices for seedless table grapes

Another example of supply chain improvements is Asda’s achievement last year of a 52-weeks a year seedless table grape supply.

Alberto Goldbacher from ASDA buyer International Procurement and Logistics Ltd (IPL), said this means much more than grapes on ASDA shelves year-round. Based in West Yorkshire, IPL’s grapes and stone fruit category manager said it had allowed the retailer to lock in low prices, too.

While other retail chains at times offer heavily discounted grapes, Asda is committed to stable, affordable prices through most of the year, “and that is what the consumer prefers.” Customers essentially want “simple prices” – low prices that are fixed, he said.

Consistent low prices spur sales growth

At the time of his presentation at ‘Grape Attraction’ last October in Madrid, Goldbacher said Asda had been selling 500g of seedless table grapes for £1.50 (€1.90) for 17 months. This followed 4-5 years when the price was around £2.

Other retailers would like to follow, but in terms of supply chain optimisation “we’re 16 months ahead of them.” They can offer grapes at that price for 1–2 weeks, but not consistently, he said.


This is an abbreviation of an article which appeared on page 34 of edition 135 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read it for free here.



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Asda says its “no tears” sweet red onion is a UK first

Asda onion


Asda has just started selling what it calls the UK’s first sweet red onion.

The UK retailer said in a press release that a total of about 40 tons of Sweet Reds are now on sale at selected Asda stores.

It claims the onion’s lower pungency levels means less tears while chopping and an odour that doesn’t linger on the breath as long as that from a regular onion. The new bulb is also said to boast a milder, juicier and crunchier flavour.

Asda said the sweet red is the result of work spanning more than 20 years by Bedfordshire Growers farmer Alastair Findlay, who evaluated 400-500 bulbs per season in order to cultivate the new onion.

Asda’s vegetables buyer Andy Wareham said the company is proud to have supported Findlay on the project. “Introducing the UK’s very first sweet red onion is a fantastic achievement.” Wareham said that like in the USA, people in the UK tend to have a sweeter palate “so will appreciate the same tangy flavour, without the strong acidity of some onions.”

“It’s funny to think that prior to the 1990s, there were no red onions grown within the UK. However due to the popularity and versatility of the variety, they now account for 20% of the total onions sold within the UK,” Wareham said.

Findlay is already working on an improved version of the onion to launch next year. “There are so many interesting flavours just waiting to be discovered,” he said.

Read more about Asda on p34 of our latest edition, number 135.