News

Hybrid ‘kalette’ combines kale, Brussels sprouts

Hybrid ‘kalette’ combines kale, Brussels sprouts

EAT YOUR VEGGIES: Though vitamin and mineral-packed kale has become trendy among health-conscious Americans, its marriage with Brussels sprouts in the United Kingdom was a product risk, said David Rogers, sales manager for Britain's Tozer Seeds, which created the hybrid after 15 years of research and development. Photo: Reuters/Rebecca Cook

By Harriet McLeod

(Reuters) – The prospect of eating kale or Brussels sprouts might make some people gag, but a British company is hoping a hybrid mix of the two vegetables called “kalettes” will appeal to taste buds when they start to hit the broad U.S. market this fall.

The tiny, curly-leafed purple and green sprouts are being promoted as the first major new vegetable product since broccolini, a cross between broccoli and the Chinese leaf vegetable kai-lan, was introduced in the United States in 1998.

Though vitamin and mineral-packed kale has become trendy among health-conscious Americans, its marriage with Brussels sprouts in the United Kingdom was a product risk, said David Rogers, sales manager for Britain’s Tozer Seeds, which created the hybrid after 15 years of research and development.

“Kale for a long time has just been known as a sheep food, really,” Rogers said of its reputation in Great Britain. “For a lot of people, the only time they’ll eat Brussels sprouts is at Christmas.”

The vegetable was introduced in the U.K. in 2010 exclusively to the up-market Marks and Spencer food chain under the name flower sprouts, and is now moving into other stores. Rogers said it was “catching on” with British buyers although prices are more than 10 times the cost of Brussels sprouts.

“New varieties of fruits and vegetables are introduced all the time, but they’re usually minor breeding tweaks that result in better flavor profiles or color,” said Ray Gilmer, a spokesman for the United Fresh Produce Association.

Those who have tried kalettes say they have a slightly nutty taste that is milder than kale and less earthy than Brussels sprouts.

“They look like a tiny little head of lettuce on a Brussels sprouts stalk,” said Lisa Friedrich, director of marketing for Golden Sun Marketing, the Minnesota company hired to promote kalettes.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Despite the big promotional effort, some Americans have already sampled kalettes, albeit under a different name.

The Tozer seeds have been available for several years in the United States but have been slow to catch on, in part because growers say the vegetable hybrid is labor intensive, heat sensitive and takes almost six months to cultivate.

Nevertheless, some smaller U.S. growers have been selling it as a niche vegetable to the restaurant industry under the names Lollipop kale sprouts and BrusselKale.

“They’re saying kalettes is a brand new vegetable. It is a brand new brand name,” said John Moore, president of Salad Savoy Corporation in Salinas, who says he has a good relationship with Tozer but will continue marketing his Lollipop kale sprouts.

Small organic grower Rock Garden South in Miami also plans to continue distributing its BrusselKale to food stores in Miami and California.

Tozer is hoping to clear up the confusion by working directly with large growers – mostly in California – settling on the name kalettes, and getting them into U.S. supermarket chains across the country.

“We will have distribution pretty much nationwide in Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s by September,” said Friedrich.

“Obviously, our preference is to have it all under one name for consumers to avoid confusion. But we understand (that the other U.S. growers) had already started and made headway with their own effort. That’s fine with us.””It is a new vegetable,” she said. “It will be brand new (this fall) to the majority of customers.”

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Jill Serjeant and Andrew Hay)

Recent Headlines

14 hours ago in Election 2016, National

Fiorina drops out of the presidential race

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina waits to be introduced at a campaign event at Maple Avenue Elementary School Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Goffstown, N.H. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The former technology executive announced on Twitter that she is suspending her campaign.

16 hours ago in Election 2016, National

Christie expected to end 2016 White House bid

Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie embraces his son Patrick during a primary night rally in Nashua, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. At left is Christie's older son Andrew and wife Mary Pat at right. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Christie had banked his presidential prospects on a strong finish in New Hampshire, but finished behind most Republican rivals.

17 hours ago in National

Yellen: Fed not likely to reverse course on rates despite risks

U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen testifies at the House Financial Services Committee in Washington February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Chances are slim the Federal Reserve would need to reverse the rate tightening cycle it began in December.

17 hours ago in Local

Paul Mark Considering Berkshire Senate Seat

paul mark

Mark had initially ruled out a run, but now admits he is "thinking about" since 4th Berkshire District Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli has taken himself out of the running.

17 hours ago in Lifestyle, National

Twitter to change homepage to customize tweet displays to individuals

A 3D printed Twitter logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration picture made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

The change to the timeline - as the homepage is known - is also designed to appeal to advertisers.