Purple carrots make 'first foray' into U.K. supermarkets
Purple carrots were a common vegetable across the U.K. until the 17th Century when Dutch breeders developed a new orange variety to honor independence leader ‘William of Orange'. Now going through their renaissance, we speak to British producer Freshgro about the success of the English-grown Chantenay cultivar that's hitting the local market.
"We have got a very limited amount of seed so it’s only a very short window of about six to ten weeks, depending on how well they sell. They will probably all be gone for Christmas," the company's commercial manager Alan Hunt says.
"Hopefully, every year we are going to produce more and more seed and extend the season and make purple Chantenay more of a core line."
Freshgro producers supply purple carrots via Produce World Group, one of the U.K.’s leading root vegetable specialists.
Aside from the new Waitrose deal, which began on Sept. 15 and will see purple Chantenay on the shelves throughout the fall, Freshgro also supplies the U.K. wholesale market.
"As far as supermarkets go, it’s just Waitrose," Hunt says.
"Going on last year’s supply to the wholesale market with the purple carrots, reaction was very good but I think that tends to be led by restaurants and chefs because they are always looking for something different to put on the plate and they [purple carrots] are considered quite trendy.
"So I think the wholesale market and food service quite like them, however this is our first foray into supermarkets, with Waitrose the first to take that leap of faith by trying to market them."
Hunt believes that although purple Chantenay carrots are considered a niche line, there is big potential because of their striking nature, combined with nutritional appeal.
"To be honest we don’t know what the statistics will be at this present time because they have only been on the shelves for one week or so, but we have got great faith they will become a big success and a much more common sight," he says.
"Although they will always be a niche product, over the years we will extend the season and therefore availability for supermarket consumers will increase."
As well as the vitamin A and beta-carotene provided by orange carrot varieties, purple carrots are also rich in anthocyanins, the antioxidant compounds that give blueberries their color.
"In many ways it’s the perfect combination in one product," Waitrose buyer Patrick Keane says in a statement.
"We know that people love the sweet taste of Chantenay carrots. The purple color is something of a novelty and these carrots will look fantastic on the plate, whether in a salad, stew or cooked as one of your vegetables.
"We’ll be stocking them in 120 stores for a six-week period and I anticipate that they will be very popular."