Vitacress Herbs MD talks about the rise in demand for fresh herbs

Over the last year, the total herb market has seen a growth of 23%, so what has created this surge in the market? Our Managing Director of Vitacress Herbs, Simon Conway, shares some insight.

  • Why do you think there has been an increase in demand for fresh herbs?
    Throughout the past 12 months, during lockdown, more people have turned to cooking meals from scratch. Restaurants were closed which prevented people eating out, therefore households have become more adventurous with their home cooking and been more creative with their ingredients.
  • What are the main trends in herbs at present?
    2020 delivered a trend for ‘grow your own’ as lockdown gave many people more time to start cooking from scratch. This included the addition of herbs to their recipes which is a great value way of adding colour and flavour to food and drinks. Shoppers have really bought into this over the last year.

    People have also spent more time in their gardens and our new SEASON range is perfect as it works for both experienced and beginner gardeners alike.
  • Which herbs are proving popular now?
    Traditional herbs such as coriander and rosemary have done very well over the last year. Coriander continues to be the top selling herb line overall and has seen 35% growth in the last year. Similarly, curry leaves and lime leaves have seen a large year-on-year increase in sales as fresh ingredients have been bought for curries.

    Pot herbs have also done very well in the last year as they offer customers a great value option. They have a good shelf life therefore they help to reduce food waste, something which is important to us and becoming increasingly important to consumers.
  • In what new ways are herbs being used by consumers?
    Cocktail garnishes! A sprig of mint or rosemary can really spruce up a drink.

    We also believe people have been making purchases based upon the nutritional and medicinal benefits. Traditional cold and flu remedy Ginger is one ingredient which has seen large growth over the last year.
  • Is there anything new to report on Research & Development (R&D)?
    We are continually looking at ways to reduce the amount of plastic we use, as well as using more environmentally conscious ingredients. Vitacress was the first herb supplier to remove non-recyclable black plastic from living herb pots – this has meant over 176 tonnes of plastic pots per year are now able to be recycled. All our living herb sleeves are now in PE film which can be recycled in major stores in a similar way to the process used to recycle carrier bags. We’re also working closely with several major companies who specialise in sustainable, flexible packaging to identify a solution for our cut herbs.
  • Is there any progress on varietal development?
    Much of our varietal development has been focused on disease resistance as we have significantly reduced the level of protective chemical applications to our crops over the last few years.

    In terms of herb varieties, fresh curry leaves and fresh oregano now perform well. These used to be 100% dried herb offering.
  • What potential does vertical farming have to transform the herbs sector?
    Vertical farming lends itself to herb production as it is a relatively fast, high-value crop. The challenge is the requirement of high capital and increased running costs compared with a very efficient, low-cost, open field product which is harvested in the UK and Southern Europe. We are already working closely with a company in the UK where we supply Basil from their facility to our customers and we will continue to work with them to deliver a financial and environmentally sustainable solution in the long term.

To find out more about the herbs market, read the Fresh Produce Journal article.

 

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