The UK's largest sweetcorn producer Barfoots has recorded a big jump in sales over the last five years. It has credited the performance to the popularity of the Portuguese chicken chain Nando's which serves corn on the cob.
Peter Barfoot, founder of the family-owned vegetable producer, said while it sold to all high street retailers, Nando's was its third-biggest customer for sweetcorn. In the past five years, it saw a 52% rise in sales of its corn on the cob, while consumption per capita doubled during the same period, according to The Telegraph.
The company also sells 30 tonnes of sweet potato wedges to the Portuguese restaurant chain and supplies 50% of the country's sweet potatoes. It is now betting on another vegetable – the chilli. "It's because of the Nando's generation. They love hot food just like they love their sweetcorn," Barfoot said. While historically chillies came from all over the world in small quantities, Barfoot has the ability to produce any variety of this vegetable at any time of the year opening up big opportunities in the marketplace for the company.
While the price of this hot vegetable has increased recently due to shortage, Barfoot opined that demand wouldn't reduce as "chillies are addictive. Young people are always looking for the next hottest thing".
It reported £113m (€161.1m, $170.5m) in annual sales in 2014 and expects this to increase to £200m in two years' time.
Located on the south coast of England near Bognor Regis, the company which initially started farming on 21 acres of land now grows a variety of vegetables on 1,000 acres of land, half of which is located in the UK and the remaining in the south of Spain. It now supplies to all major supermarkets excluding Morrisons and earns £100m in revenue from the high street and the remaining from food service and restaurants.
At any point in time, it grows between 12 and 14 vegetables and works with farms in 32 countries to ensure stable production across the year. Every week, it packs around 3,000 tonnes of vegetables from locations as far as Senegal and Peru.
Going forward, it will expand into Northern Europe and is scouting for parties for partnering with farm networks that supply directly to consumers.