JR.G. Abrey Farms supply Morrisons with 8,000 tonnes of onions throughout the year, 7 per cent of which go into the Wonky range
The business – three brothers and three sons – has been supplying the retailer for about 15 years and was one of the first to supply Wonky.
Based in Norfolk, they grow onions, potatoes, carrots and parsnips, across 1,740 hectares (4,300 acres).
A further 1,214ha (3,000 acres) are cropped to wheat, sugar beat, rye and maize, which help form a minimum six-year crop rotation with the root vegetables.
Tom Abrey, one of the sons who manages the onion enterprise, says: “Our land is very sandy and great for onions when irrigated.
We produce high quality onions, but we always get grade-outs.” Small onions are separated out using a grader, while skinless and double-bulbed onions are picked out by hand.
All these out-graded onions are packed for Wonky, says Mr Abrey, and are just ‘less pretty’.
Those unsuitable for consumption are fed to the farm’s anaerobic digestion plant to make biogas.
“Food service and processors do not want small onions,” says Mr Abrey “Previously we sold them to markets but the price only covered the cost of their nets, so there was no profit on out-grades before we sold to Wonky.” “Hopefully customers can save a bit of money and realise an onion is an onion.
We can now utilise the whole crop, reduce waste and get a better return.” Mr Abrey admits though that he was sceptical when Morrisons first approached him with the Wonky range idea.
“I was nervous we might devalue our crop – might everyone just buy Wonky instead of the main range?,” says Mr Abrey.
“But the way Morrisons has done it is really good because once we’ve run out of grade-outs, we just tell them and that’s it – we don’t rob the higher grade bags to make Wonky bags.” Even during the pressures of lockdown, this rule stood, says Mr Abrey, who has had to change processes.
Lorry drivers must now stay in their cabs, households are working together and staff are segregated.
“We have 180 staff and are proud they’ve continued working to get the onions out during this time,” adds Mr Abrey.
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