For as long as Fredo can remember those who know the fruit business have always claimed that consumers ‘buy with their eyes’. This means that no matter what the fruit taste like, people will buy it as long as it looks good.

For many years the world’s major super markets have fuelled this notion by insisting on all sorts of conditions for what the fruit should look like. In the process a lot of fruit has stayed back on the farm, not because it did not taste good or have inferior health-giving qualities, but simply because of how it looks.

img_8303dsc02931As an example, apples from the Crisp Pink apple variety that did not reach a certain colour standard did not qualify to be included under the Pink Lady brand. The fruit comes from the same tree and tastes exactly the same, but some is sold as Pink Lady and some as Cripps Pink.

How refreshing it is to hear that some of the more ‘ugly’ fruits, be it because of a lack of colour or because it is slightly deformed, or, in the case of russet on apples which is not pleasing to the eye, are now actually being desired by the super market bosses?

funny-cucumbers-copyTwo stories which caught the eye on Fruitnet.com relates to snozzcumbers and wonky veg now entering the shelves of super markets. The UK retailer Morrisons is set to launch ‘snozzcumbers’ as a real-life version of Roald Dahl’s imaginary fruit to encourage children to eat their greens. In the other story it is claimed that according to a new survey most senior managers in grocery retail believe consumers would buy more wonky veg.

Wonky veg simply refers to imperfect fruit and vegetables. Senior managers at retailers across the UK, US, Germany and France believe there is scope to sell more wonky veg and cut food waste.

Morrisons’ giant wonky cucumbers are longer, thicker and heavier than normal cucumbers, measuring around 16in and weighing 21oz. But, although the snozzcumber will be wonkier and knobblier than a normal cucumber, it will retain the same taste.

Morrisons is reported to be selling snozzcumbers for a trial period that will coincide with Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday as well as the recent release of Steven Spielberg’s on-screen adaptation of The BFG. The supermarket chain, which sells around 115,000 cucumbers a day, is also donating to the author’s The Marvellous Children’s Charity for seriously ill children.

If the trial is a success, the supermarket will consider selling snozzcumbers year-round. Of concern is that the British Cucumber Growers’ Association is reported as saying that there is little money to be made from snozzcumbers, stressing that cucumbers should be retailed at 80p to cover production costs and profit.

Wonky veg made mainstream headlines earlier this year as part of celebrity chef and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new series War on Waste from TV chef. Two months afterwards, supermarkets started trialling wonky fruit and veg, Blue Yonder said, as the campaign to reduce food waste gathered momentum.

In more recent times consumers and retailers have also been looking for this that are different and perhaps closer to nature. Wonky Veg and Wonky Fruit falls in this category – so does apples and pears which have perhaps too much russet, at least according to the standards we applied in the past. They are looking towards going back to what is natural and close to the good earth.

‘Going back to nature’ is nothing new, however, at least as far as one Fickburg farmer was concerned, some years ago when he had hail damage to his apples. He simply branded his apples as ‘Blessed by the natural phenomenon of hail’ by inserting a leaflet in the carton on which he explained the marks on the fruit as a ‘natural occurrence‘ which happened when the hail was cleansed in the sky before it fell to the earth to ‘bless the fruit’. Just how successful this strategy was, we will never know. At least he would have got the sympathy of consumers who realised that he had a very severe problem.

stilbaai-239One such product which is unusual and something we have not been used to in the past – the so-called ‘flat peaches’ which have been gaining much ground in Europe. We have seen them in some South African super markets and local stone fruit growers are certainly interested in introducing them to the international arena as well. They do however have some challenges because these peaches have a little opening at the stem-end and it is difficult to keep them from developing decade on the long voyage overseas. On the other hand air freight is very expensive and if you cannot achieve very high prices it will not be economical to export them.

stilbaai-240The trend to the new and unusual is certainly there and going back to the earth is also a fact.

While the future for snozzcumbers and wonky veg may still be uncertain, it represents new thinking in a world where we perhaps have paid too much attention to artificial attributes, rather than the important things – just how tasty the fruit and veg are and how good they are for us, not what it looks like.