Iceland says it is looking to work with new producers, packers and growers as part of its strategy to increase sales of fruit and vegetables.

Brigid Davidson, Iceland’s category controller for fresh produce, told the FPJ that the budget retailer now wants to change the perception among the fresh produce industry that it’s only focused on frozen foods.

She said: “As a business we’ve grown our sales of fresh fruit and vegetables by 12 per cent this year and we’re definitely interested in adding new people to our supply chain; I think the next step is to build a network of growers across Europe.”

The retailer has over 15 suppliers, adding to it could help to increase its 0.7 per cent share of the UK’s fresh produce retail market. “We want to speak to suppliers, growers and packers who are ready to step up to the Iceland challenge.

“That challenge is all about offering consistent quality, and popular products that have growth potential; we don’t put any fruit or vegetables on our shelf that can’t grow in sales as we have limited space.”

Davidson also revealed that Iceland has been working with new potato producers this year, and will continue to stock Florette-branded salad bags after the partnership produced “massive” sales. It was the first time the retailer had teamed up with a branded fresh produce product and has been delighted with the results.

Meanwhile, Paul England, Iceland’s fruit and vegetable buyer, said it has not had as many issues as other retailers through this year’s wet weather due to its “simplistic” business model and consistent varieties.

“Our growers know what to expect from our prices and we have worked with them closely to utilise their whole crop. Bigger supermarkets have had massive availability issues; we’ve had few,” said England.

With a two per cent share of the grocery market, Davidson describes fresh produce as the “biggest opportunity for the business,” and confirmed that Iceland’s small, three-person produce team will now look to become more familiar faces among the industry.

She concluded: “We are so immature in market size and we have loads of opportunities to grow; building good relationships with innovative growers and producers is key.”