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Tesco supplier works with scientists to put an end to ‘sprout lottery’

Tesco has partnered with agriculture scientists to help them select the perfect Brussel Sprouts this festive season.

Collaborating with scientists at R & K Drysdale, one of the UK’s biggest brassica growers, the UK’s largest retailer is on a mission to get young people to like sprouts.

As a result, the team have invested in a high-tech grading machine, nicknamed the ‘sproutatron’, which allows Drysdale to accurately size the sprouts with the push of a button.

Working with Tesco to supply around 70% of its sprout demand, the machine works by matching sprouts according to size, meaning customers will find their packs with more consistently sized sprouts within each bag.

It has also introduced new milder and sweeter sprout varieties, called Cobelius, which Tesco says is having a “positive effect.”

A recent survey by the retailer revealed 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.

Drysdale’s long-term relationship with Tesco allowed them to invest in the grading machine, which is also able to peel and pack the sprouts.

The 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.

“Thanks to the latest technology, our customers will be able to buy some of the very best tasting and freshest sprouts available,” Tesco produce buyer, Sam Miller said.

“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 general manager, Gavin Milne, commented: “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.”

The news comes as Tesco is reportedly set to scrap the remaining butcher and fishmonger counters in 279 stores as customers opt for pre-packed items as a result of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.


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