For a while avocados had it all their own way as Britons smashed them on toast and whizzed them up for smoothies but there is a new pretender to the fruit crown – 2018 is shaping up to be the year of the pineapple.
Supermarkets say demand for the tropical fruit is at an all time high after a dramatic reappraisal by shoppers who increasingly view it as as an ingredient for curries, barbecues and cocktails as well as fruit salads.
Such is the fervour, the pineapple has overtaken the avocado as the UK’s fastest growing fruit, according to supermarket giant Tesco, with sales surging nearly 15% last year.
“Pineapples have become the fruit taste of the moment and could soon rival the avocado as a once niche fruit suddenly gaining mainstream popularity,” said Tesco’s fresh pineapple 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.”
The rise of the avocado – sales in Tesco still increased by nearly 10% last year – was fuelled by social media as trendy restaurants created Instagram-worthy brunch dishes and its reputation as a superfood won it a place in numerous fad diets. The interest in health is reflected in fruit sales which rose more than 5% to £5.6bn in the year to end of February, according to the grocery market experts Kantar Worldpanel.
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Customs data shows the UK imported more than 168,000 tonnes of pineapples in 2017 compared with 148,000 tonnes in 2016, an increase of almost 14%. The vast majority came from Costa Rica which has more than trebled its production of the fruit over the last 15 years, leading to concerns about environmental degradation as well as the pay rates of plantation workers.
“There has been a big increase in fresh pineapple exports into Europe,” said Neil Murray, head of processed commodities at Agribusiness Intelligence. “People like it and a lot of it is coming from Costa Rica, but production is probably peaking there now, as they are getting worried about the amount of land under pineapple.”
Britons still have a way to go if pineapple sales are to overtake the avocado. Britons munched their way through £175m worth of avocados in the last 12 months compared with spending about £44m on pineapples.
Tesco said pineapple flavours were popular across the board with demand for juice up by more than a fifth and sales of tinned pineapple chunks up 5% (80g of tinned or fresh pineapple counts as one of your five a day). The controversial Hawaiian pizza is also staging a comeback, Tesco said, and whether down to laziness or fears of avocado hand-style injuries, sales of ready chopped pineapple “fingers” were up 30%.
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The national hankering for pineapple has probably been fuelled by subliminal cues picked up on social media and the high street. The motif was one of the hottest trends of last summer, plastered on everything from kitsch T-shirts to pool inflatables, cushions and knick knacks.
In the Georgian era, pineapples were a status symbol which could be hired from “pineapple merchants” to dress a house for a party. By Christmas 2017 that trend had come full circle with entire pages on Pinterest devoted to pineapples that had been adorned with fairy lights and were being used as alternative Christmas trees.