Sales are up thanks to consistent product selection and new varieties, reports Tesco

New technology and more palatable varieties are giving a boost to Brussels sprout sales, according to Tesco.

Agro-scientists at R&K Drysdale, which supplies around 70% of Tesco’s Brussels sprouts, report that investment in an ultra hi-tech grading machine, nicknamed the ‘Sproutatron’, is helping them select perfect sprouts. The machine allows Drysdale’s to accurately size the sprouts with the push of a button.

By matching sprouts according to size, consumers find their packs have more consistently sized veg within each bag, making the cooking process more even. That should prevent the issue of some people at the dining table getting small and overcooked soggy sprouts, while others crunch through harder big ones, due to the time that they have been boiling in the pan.

New, milder and sweeter sprout varieties are also giving the sector a boost, Tesco said, citing one called Cobelius which is said to be more palatable than the traditional, widespread Doric variety.

Popularity rising

A recent survey by Tesco indicates that the number of 18-to-24-year-olds who claim to ‘love’ sprouts has risen from 26 per cent in 2021 to 44 per cent in 2022 – an uplift of 69 per cent.

Tesco produce buyer Sam Miller explained: “Thanks to the latest technology, our customers will be able to buy some of the very best tasting and freshest sprouts available. These machines also speed up the grading procedure, which drastically cuts the time it takes to get the sprouts from the field to our shelves. That means the sprouts our customers take home this Christmas will stay fresh for even longer.

“And judging by the survey we undertook a few months ago, last year’s perfect sprouts have already led to a major increase in younger people now liking the vegetable – something many thought impossible just a few years ago.”

Drysdale's Gavin Milne with the 'Sproutatron'

Drysdale’s Gavin Milne with the ‘Sproutatron’

Drysdale’s machine works by taking eight photos of the sprout as they move along a catwalk-like conveyor belt, identifying any that need processing such as having yellow leaves taken off.

That means being able to pack even-sized sprouts, ending the traditional problem of having some that are large and others that are small once they reach supermarket shelves.

The massive popularity of TV cooking programmes has also had an impact, with innovative new ways to enjoy sprouts such as roasting or frying them and even shredding them in salads.

Drysdale’s general manager Gavin Milne added: ”We work closely with seed houses on varietal development and taste, with the aim being to eliminate varieties that are more bitter than others. Research into creating new varieties with low bitterness levels and an attractive mild taste has been going on for a while and Drysdale now have many of these varieties in their growing plans every year.”