Ensure quality in fresh herbs
01 January 2017
We can help you to be the best in a fast growing trend…..
There has been a rapid rise in the use of fresh culinary herbs in recent years. Food trends such as Clean Eating and Root to Shoot encourage consumers to get rid of the added salt, sugar and fat, and consider adding herbs for flavour and health benefits. Social Media is introducing us to daring food combinations such as Basil Chocolate and Lavender Biscuits. As people are becoming more adventurous with their cooking, the popularity of Eastern and Mexican cuisine has added to the increase in demand for fresh herbs in the supermarket.
Sales of fresh herbs in pots are at record levels this year, with coriander, parsley and basil at the top of the list in the UK.
Herbs are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, so in a good visual display the customer will be drawn to fresh looking, bright coloured leaves, with plenty of volume. In terms of quality, customers are looking for a strong aroma, good flavour and a decent shelf life. It can be disappointing to buy a pot of basil, only for it to wilt after three days.
Customers can have unrealistic expectations here – the herb pot contains many seedlings, which are forced into maturity in about 20 days. They are grown to be used within a week or two of purchase, unlike the Garden Centre plant with a strong root system, which will last all summer.
Potted herbs are grown to offer better value than cut herbs in packets, and there is less waste. But how long do the herbs that you sell really last? What is the flavour quality like?
When we purchase and analyse fresh herbs, we normally see huge differences between stores. In a pot of basil, the leaf volume can differ from 20 to 55 grams per pot. There can also be a vast difference in taste – sometimes we have samples with no flavour at all.
Leaf quality is one of our most important parameters – the colour, and the balance between stems and leaves. Just as important are our appreciation scores of aroma and taste. In our laboratory in Sweden we carry out shelf life tests in order to help our customers to be the best in fresh.
Our programmes can give the supplier and retailer insight into the quality, taste and aroma of their herbs. Are their consumers really happy, and if not, what should be worked upon?
Do they really have the right variety, supplier or origin? What is the difference between parsley grown in a field, compared to the Greenhouse product? Is there some improvement that can be made in the long supply chain to the store, where good in-store care and management of the crop is essential.