Morrisons’ Naturally Wonky fruit and vegetable range has been key during lockdown to meet the needs of customers and offer growers a new route to market.
As one of the UK’s biggest retailers, Morrisons faced several key challenges at the beginning of lockdown.
The retailer had to quickly address the sudden and large increase in demand from customers, many of whom were facing financial worries, while also looking after suppliers and making sure no food was wasted.
In stepped the Naturally Wonky range.
Launched in 2015 as a way to tackle food waste and help growers make the most of their crop, the range markets fresh vegetables, fruit and salads which would otherwise be graded-out for cosmetic imperfections.
Wonky, as it is affectionately known, has helped the retailer keep shelves stocked during the pandemic and provide a lower price point for customers, says Morrisons’ senior buying manager Gareth Cosford.
Existing Morrisons growers have been working flat-out, says Mr Cosford, with Wonky ensuring as much of their crop as possible is utilised, thereby reducing waste and improving suppliers’ returns.
The range has also been a lifeline to other growers who lost their market during lockdown, such as those supplying the food service sector.
The Naturally Wonky range is Morrisons’ value range, which sits alongside its core and ‘The Best’ (premium) ranges.
It was first launched with four lines – potatoes, onions, carrots and parsnips.
But its popularity – about 700,000 customers buy it every week – has seen it grow to 20 regular and 27 seasonal lines of vegetables, fruit and salads.
Last year, more than 45,000 tonnes of fresh produce was sold under the Wonky label, and now about 200 growers supply it.
Some growers sort the crop on-farm, but Morrisons has invested in grading facilities so it can sort loads on-site, simplifying the process for suppliers.
Mr Cosford says: “We talk to our contract suppliers throughout the year, as from season-to-season there’s always an element of the crop that’s not going to meet specifications for the core range.
“With Wonky, we try to give an extra outlet.
“About 4-5 per cent of the potatoes we buy now go to Wonky – before the range existed, these ultimately may not have found a market,” he says.
And with climate change making extreme weather more frequent, the Wonky range could become more important, adds Mr Cosford.
“There is enough risk in farming already, so having a Wonky range where we can help the grower convert the crop into something the customer wants, is going to be critical for dealing with the future challenges of farming,” he says.
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