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Product innovation can help to grow Scotland’s festive vegetable economy

Product innovation can help to grow Scotland’s festive vegetable economy

It could be a green sweep when it comes to vegetables next Christmas, as mint-coloured and mint-flavoured, veg-based dishes, and heritage veg, make a play to be the main attraction in 2019. What insights do Scottish producers need to know about the sector to succeed?

Research from global food and grocery experts, IGD, shows that many shoppers use Christmas to discover and try out new food and drink products. Consumers are expected to spend around £21.6 billion on groceries over the festive period this year, with many splashing out on edibles that present adventurous tastes and flavours.

Vegan and vegetarian meal options are jockeying for a more prominent position at the table. How can innovation help the winter vegetable make it big at Christmas time?

The vegetable economy

Food and drink customers are looking for a wider selection of vegetable types and varieties in-store. They’re interested in experimenting with different colours, textures, formats, and flavours, and want to take advantage of the health benefits vegetables bring to their diets.

These are all key features when breeding and growing new types of vegetables and producing plant-based food products that will interest the shopper. Differentiation, new product development and product innovations are challenges that all producers face.

So, trialling new vegetable offerings at Christmas, when the consumer is more open to trying new things, is a great way to test what can be brought to market throughout the rest of the year.

Heritage veg on the rise

There’s an increasing interest in traditional foods and ingredients across the industry. This trend has already taken off in the meat and bakery sector, and now the vegetable category is feeling the effects too.

Ancient vegetables, like salsify, Fenland celery, and traditional turnips appeal to the experimental consumers. These veg lines offer the customer something new and different, and provide producers the opportunity to grow more produce locally.

Flavoursome veg and quirky looking varieties, such as sprouting and baby cauliflower, candy-striped beetroot, purple and yellow carrots, have all grown in popularity. And one ‘neglected’ root vegetable is definitely about to have its profile raised significantly.

The comeback of salsify

Salsify is a root vegetable common across continental Europe and it's a chefs' favourite. In the UK, salsify was popular during the Victorian era and then somehow fell out of favour. But thanks to its use on TV cooking programmes such as the Great British Menu, salsify is going through a revival.

It helps that it’s a very versatile winter root vegetable with a distinctive taste, and that its harvest period covers September to December. Some liken it to the flavour of mild artichoke with a trace of liquorice, while others experience an oyster-like taste.

Albert Bartlett, a Scottish potato company from South Ayrshire, hopes to reintroduce salsify to the Scottish diet. And this November, launched the veg into 100 Waitrose stores.

The vegetable colour trend

Believe it or not, colour trends that affect industries like home interiors and furnishings also affect the vegetable market.

2017 was the year of the purple vegetable, when the likes of purple carrots, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and potatoes, took up pole position on the vegetable podium.

2018 was the year of black veg, with black radishes, black corn, black kale, and black potatoes, as well as black and aged garlic, all proving popular. And the colour of vegetables ‘theme' will continue to develop over the next couple of years.

It’s predicted that food and drink in 2019 and 2020 will be all about the neo-mint, inspired by the popularity of pastel mint in the home furnishing, fashion and packaging markets. So, what mint-coloured and min-flavoured vegetable dishes can producers dream up and present for Christmas next year?

Innovation support for Scottish food and drink companies

If you want to understand more about the growth of innovative winter vegetables in Scotland, get in contact with our Make Innovation Happen team.

Make Innovation Happen is a single source of innovation support for businesses involved in the Scottish food and drink supply chain.

Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise work in partnership across academia, the public sector and the industry to deliver a comprehensive innovation support service.

Make Innovation Happen can help your business by providing:

  • Access to 'connectors', who can offer support, advice and mentoring, as well as direction to appropriate support
  • Ideas and insights on how to innovate through articles and events
  • Funding through the Collaborative Innovation Fund
  • Help to access other innovation services provided by Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Interface and others

Looking for innovation support?

Our Make Innovation Happen service can help you improve employee, product and process productivity.