Sainsbury’s has admitted setting guidelines for its Basics range of pears at too high a level.

The retailer’s Theresa Huxley was put under the spotlight last week at the East Malling Research Association’s conference, ‘Pear growing for the future’, when a delegate quizzed the product technologist about the supermarket’s generous grading scheme for pears.

The delegate highlighted to the conference that a pear is not “an impulse buy” and is a choice decided before the consumer walks into the store. The pear grower then put to Huxley: “As your presentation has pointed out, wealthier consumers buy pears in general. The Basics line [of pears] prevents people from buying the better product, which makes growers money. It would be better to have higher value rather than volume.”

Sainsbury’s launched a Basics line of bagged pears 12 months ago and Huxley concurred that the specification had been set too high, inadvertently encouraging customers to ignore premium ranges.

She said: “The specifications for the Basics offer were too good and we are working on making sure that the Basics range is the one that gets the... less good-looking fruit than the premium ranges. On reflection... we shouldn’t be putting Class I fruit into a basic line.”

Another delegate asked Huxley if the retailer’s customer base needed a discount offer for pears. He suggested that customers would buy English pears in Sainsbury’s regardless of the price and that growers were missing out on healthier returns as a result of the Basics line.