Tesco creates seedless hybrid fruit as UK tastes change

The supermarket giant has been working with Spanish and Moroccan growers on a breeding programme to produce so-called mandarin hybrids.

Tesco is launching a range of new hybrid easy-peelers, as UK shoppers tastes change.

The supermarket giant has been working with Spanish and Moroccan growers on producing so-called mandarin hybrids which have fewer pips.

Growers in the two countries have been reducing their production of satsumas because the European market traditionally prefers seeded clementines.

But, according to Tesco, Brits are bigger fans of satsumas, which are unseeded.

In response, the superstore it is now launching four varieties of hybrid mandarin – Meiravit, Havva, Orit and Sigal – which have fewer pips, are less susceptible to early season greening and have a longer shelf life, as well as having a vibrant colour and being more aromatic.

The popularity of mandarin hybrids is growing each year in the UK, and last year Tesco shoppers bought roughly twice as many as they did in 2017, the supermarket said.

The hybrids could take over from clementines completely in the next decade, it added.

Supplier AMT Fresh is one of the UK’s biggest importers of citrus fruit and has been working with Tesco.

“A hybrid is a cross between two varieties, and in this case that could be other mandarins, clementines, satsumas, oranges or even grapefruit,” Bennie Smidt, head of agronomy at AMT Fresh said.

“A cross means taking pollen from a certain variety and pollinating a flower of a different variety.
The resulting seeds within the fruits are the hybrids, which will need to be grown, selected, screened and propagated if successful.”

Tesco is working with growers to create the hybrid mandarin. / Credit: PA

He said that it could “take up to 20 years before it reaches the market in commercial volumes”.

The reduced number of satsumas being produced had led to some changes in UK tastes towards clementines, Mr Smidt added.

“As a result of their stronger taste, consumer preference switched over from satsumas – when they were available – to clementines.

“But there was still the matter of seeds.

“Mandarins also had seeds but were overall the better quality easy peeler to select for varietal improvements.”

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