Waitrose is boosting its offer of wonky veg to help reduce food waste this summer.
The retailer has relaxed its size and shape guidelines for carrots, parsnips and asparagus to make sure as much of the UK crop is available to customers and help suppliers during a tough time.
Some extra trimming and finishing details have also been removed in order to help suppliers maintain social distancing on production and packing lines, Waitrose said.
Farms supplying Waitrose with carrots and parsnips will now have more flexibility when it comes to skin blemishes, with the move intended to allow British product that would have been destined for foodservice to be sold through supermarkets.
For British asparagus, the size range has been expanded to include sizes of product that would normally go into processing and catering. Due to social distancing measures, trimming specifications have also been relaxed to allow packing lines to run with less staff. This will help with wastage due to the quick nature of harvesting asparagus when it has to be picked within hours to avoid it being wasted, Waitrose explained.
The news comes as Waitrose reported sales of core vegetables up 31 per cent during lockdown compared to last year, with mushrooms and root vegetables up 28 and 26 per cent respectively. With more people cooking from scratch, vegetables and ingredients such as garlic have also seen significant growth, up 47 per cent on last year with more unusual items such as gourds also up 51 per cent.
Amanda Frisby, fresh produce technical manager at Waitrose, said: “We are committed to supporting our farmers through a really difficult time. 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.
"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.”