According to a story in The Grocer, retailers are rationalising their fresh produce offers in response to rising prices caused by a lack of labour and increasing input prices.
Lee Stiles, secretary of the Lea Valley Growers Association said the move was being taken to drive down costs for consumers. “They are cutting the amount of tomato lines they buy, and they are cutting the amount of processed fresh produce they buy, like cut and packed fresh [lines],” he said.
He added that they were also adjusting packs to avoid passing on increased costs to the consumer. “They might not have as many in a pack, so the pack sizes might be smaller; they might not be offering as many varieties, so they may not be offering cherry [and] sticking to vine tomatoes, [or] they might not be offering the round ones anymore,” he added. “Anything that needs additional labour in weighing or packaging or that type of thing they are cutting.”
There are fears that as British growers cut back on what they grow, more and more product could be imported just as the government has said that it wants to increase self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables.
Other observers also say that supermarket buyers have become more conservative in their approach to buying fresh produce lines in recent months. “We have seen a trend, driven by uncertainty around volatile sales performance, that has resulted in a cautious approach to store wastage risk,” said Rob Harrison, commercial director at Berry Gardens. “The result has been a reduction in retailers pushing stocks into stores, which has left shelves empty for significant periods.”