While the avocado continues to enjoy the spotlight of trendy restaurant menus, cookbooks, and fad diets, the pineapple appears to be outpacing the fat-friendly fruit in terms of growth, at least according to major UK supermarket, Tesco. Pineapple sales rose almost 15% in 2017, which made the pineapple Great Britain’s fastest growing fruit.
Pineapple Tops Avocado as UK’s Fastest Growing Fruit
“Pineapples have become the fruit taste of the moment and could soon rival the avocado as a once niche fruit suddenly gaining mainstream popularity,” comments Tesco buyer Morgan Jaquemet. “In the last few years we have seen demand jump because of the fruit’s rising popularity as a versatile and healthy food.”
In addition to surging fresh pineapple sales, Tesco also reports a rise in other pineapple products. Pineapple juice rose by over 20%, Hawaiian pizzas were up over 15%, sales of tinned pineapple chunks increased 5%, and pre-cut snacking pineapple fingers were up 30%. “We’ve been focused on making it easy for our customers to enjoy this fruit, and have introduced a range of prepared snacking pineapple cut into finger sized shapes which are popular as a healthy lunchbox treat for schoolkids,” Jaquemet adds. “Last year we even sold pineapples at Halloween as a rival to the pumpkin for kids to carve into a scary face.”
Like the increase in popularity of pineapple as a brewing ingredient, growth ultimately translates back to the arrival of the MD-2 pineapple on the global market. The MD-2 was originally developed by the Pineapple Research Institute, a Hawaii-based organization funded by pineapple giants Dole, Del Monte and Maui Pineapple Company to breed new varieties for improved sweetness, uniformity and consistency.
Before 1996, “you took a risk when you bought a pineapple,” writes food writer Joanna Blythman, “fruits that made it to the UK—a variety of pineapple known as the Smooth Cayenne—were scarily spiky, green on the outside and, more often than not, off-puttingly sour and fibrous within.” That all changed with the introduction of the “Gold”, or MD-2, just over 20 years ago. MD-2 (named for Millie Dillard, the wife of Frank Dillard, Del Monte’s general manager at the time of development) was twice as sweet, contained four times the vitamin c present in earlier “green” varieties, and had a significantly longer shelf life.
It is appropriate that the MD-2 has revitalized England’s interest in the pineapple, as it was British horticulturalist David Williams who is credited with the breeding of the MD-2. While working at the PRI, Williams and colleagues noticed that “Specimen #73-114” had brighter color, less acid, more sweetness, and more resistance to rot and parasites than the Champaka variety they were attempting to improve. “We knew we had a remarkable pineapple,” Williams told the Wall Street Journal of that day in a Hawaiian hothouse in the 1970s. In 2010, Williams was awarded a medal recognizing the MD-2 as the American Society for Horticultural Science’s Outstanding Fruit Cultivar.
Over 20 years since the MD-2 went mainstream, the prized variety continues to find its way into new fields and new markets. In 2017, the UK imported US$148 million in 2017. While Costa Rica is by far the dominant export to the island country (accounting for approximately $110 million), alternative sources are growing to meet market demand. Panama accounted for $2.5 million of the UK’s imports (up 13.7%). Colombia surged by 501.9% to support $1.3 million of Britain’s market; and the UK’s number-two importer, Ghana, posted an incredible 16,370% increase since 2013.
Last year, FreshPlaza reported the global pineapple market has grown an average of 3.3% per year for the past nine years. If the UK is any indication of global taste, 2019 may be an anything but average year for the golden fruit.