The fresh prepared food manufacturer, together with grower Hammond Produce, has created a ‘Garden of Innovation’ featuring purple cauliflower, yellow carrots, stripy beetroot and red sprouts.
The garden in Nottinghamshire boasts more than 50 vegetables and herbs, many of which have not previously been available in this country on a large commercial scale.
Some of these unusual varieties will be used in limited edition fresh prepared products due to hit the shelves later this year.
‘Key driver of our success’
Ivan Clingan, md of fresh convenience at Bakkavor, said the garden reflected the company’s drive to push boundaries through new fresh produce, products, processes and technology.
“Innovation remains a key driver of our success and leadership in fresh prepared foods,” Clingan said.
Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss visited the garden on Friday (August, 14) and described it as an example of the industry “embracing new approaches” to boost productivity and meet global demand.
“The UK is experiencing a food revolution powered by creative ideas putting a twist on traditions–just like the colourful vegetables that will be grown in the ‘Garden of Innovation’,” Truss said.
Last week Dr Carol Wagstaff, an associate professor at the University of Reading, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that her team had worked with Bakkavor on improving the quality of vegetable ingredients.
“They see that one of the keys to their success is to take a whole chain approach to the quality of the raw material going into their factories,” she said.
Bakkavor on innovation
“Innovation remains a key driver of our success and leadership in fresh prepared foods.”
- Ivan Clingan, md of fresh convenience at Bakkavor
‘Something on every manufacturer’s radar’
Wagstaff said plant scientists aim to improve the appearance, nutritional value and taste of crops, which are only “going to get worse” once harvested.
“Raw material quality is something that is on every manufacturer’s radar now and they appreciate you cannot improve the product from the point it arrives at the factory,” she said.
There was also growing research into innovative packaging which creates the right environment to improve the shelf-life of fresh produce.
“We are getting more sophisticated in terms of gas exchange in packaging,” she said.
“We have had perforation around for some time now, but it’s been one size fits all. Now things are being optimised for individual commodities.”
This task was being complicated by the innovation of products with mixed ingredients such as salads containing chicken, noodles and dressing.
She said: “The whole package is only as good as the weakest commodity. Food safety has to come first, then we start to look at other qualities like appearance, flavour and possibly nutrition.”
Earlier this month Bakkavor revealed that its turnover increased by 3% in the first half year, with its international business making up for a decline in UK sales in the second quarter.
Garden of Innovation at a glance
- Based at Hammond Produce in Arnold, Nottinghamshire
- 15-acre garden boasts over 50 varieties
- Varieties include yukina savoy, red kale, purple cauliflower and red sprouts