Pioneering vertical farm, GrowUp Farms, has won two accolades at the food and drink industry’s most prestigious awards.
GrowUp Farms’ Unbeleafable rocket and baby leaves scooped the Champion of the Deli award at The Grocer’s New Product and Packaging Awards 2023 this week.
The rocket and baby leaves are one of three new bagged salads in the Unbeleafable range, which is the first-ever salad range produced by a vertical farm to be sold in a major supermarket. As well as rocket and baby leaves, there are crisp green leaves and mixed baby leaves and the full range of three salads is available in selected Tesco stores across the UK.
The panel of judges said they were won over by the concept of Unbeleafable – a longer life ready-to-eat bagged salad, produced by a vertical farm and grown all year round in the UK. They applauded GrowUp Farms for their ambition to reduce the UK’s reliance on salad imports. They also said that they enjoyed the story, design and personality of this “fab innovation” and that the inclusion of rocket gave the salad a great peppery kick and “flavour hit”.
GrowUp Farms’ second salad brand, Fresh Leaf Co. red + green baby leaf salad, which is available to buy in selected Iceland stores, won the Silver Award in the Deli Category.
Both salads are grown without using pesticides and are not chlorine washed unlike other bagged salads; processes that degrade the quality of salad leaves. And for this reason, the leaves are tastier, crisper and stay fresher for longer than other ready-to-eat salads sold in UK supermarkets, which means Unbeleafable salad is less likely to be thrown away, helping people to cut down on food waste linked to bagged salads.
The salads are also longer lasting as they are grown and packed in Kent, thereby shortening the supply chain, and are grown using 94% less water than bagged salads produced from a field or greenhouse.
Reflecting on GrowUp Farms’ success at the awards, Kate Hofman, founder of GrowUp Farms, said: “It has been a fantastic year for the team at GrowUp Farms with the launch of Unbeleafable, the first salad range to be grown commercially in a vertical farm and stocked by a major supermarket, such as Tesco. Also, getting Fresh Leaf Co. on to the shelves in Iceland has been a great coup too.
“The Grocer New Product and Package Awards are the most respected awards in the food and drink industry, and all of the brands want to get their hands on a New Product gong – and we have two! It’s also a real boost to see that the judges were unanimously impressed by our ambition to play a role in reducing the UK’s reliance on salad imports. What a way to end the year.”
The Grocer editor-in-chief and event host Adam Leyland said: “Innovation is alive and well. There is some fantastic innovation in grocery FMCG and it makes me feel excited about the future.
“These awards are an incredibly important reminder to retailers – and shoppers – of the fantastic innovation in which brands big and small are engaged: enriching the lives of customers, who look to brands, as much as they do to the supermarkets, to innovate and excite them, while providing much-needed revenue, and differentiation, and quality, to the grocers.”
Unbeleafable rocket and baby leaves is part of the Unbeleafable salad (90g) range, which includes crisp green leaves and mixed baby leaves. All three products retail at £1.50 and are available at Tesco stores.
Fresh Leaf Co. red + green baby leaf salad (70g) retails at £1 and is available at selected Iceland and Food Warehouse stores.
Instagram – @Unbeleafableuk
TikTok – @Unbeleafableuk
Facebook – @Unbeleafableuk
X (formerly Twitter) – @Unbeleafableuk
Fresh Leaf Co.
Facebook – @freshleafcouk
Instagram – @freshleafcouk
Members of the Lords Horticultural Sector Committee visited pioneering Kent-based vertical farm, GrowUp Farms, in Sandwich this week to find out about how vertical farming will play a key role in the future of farming.
Lord Carter, Lord Colgrain, Lord Coles, Baroness Fookes, Lord Redesdale and Baroness Walmsley visited the farm – called Pepperness – which is leading the charge in vertical farms in the UK as it was the first to sell its salad ranges through UK supermarkets.
The House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee was created in April this year to produce a report on the horticultural industry. A 12-strong committee from all parties including crossbenchers is considering the challenges faced by the sector, which is worth billions to the UK economy and is a significant contributor to UK food security.
GrowUp Farms is the UK’s leading vertical farm, and launched its Unbeleafable salad range in Tesco stores in July this year.
A vertical farm is an innovative agricultural system, designed to grow crops in vertically stacked layers in a controlled indoor environment. The growing process means that salad can be grown year-round in the UK and uses up to 94% less water than traditional growing.
Pepperness grows the salad without the need to use pesticides of any kind, nor does it need chlorine-washing, in fact the salad doesn’t need to be washed at all before eating – all processes which degrade the quality of the leaves. The supply chain is significantly reduced, so the salad only travels from Kent to UK supermarkets, rather than from overseas. It tastes fresher and crisper and lasts longer than other salads, which means there’s less waste produced too.
“We’re very proud of what we are achieving here at Pepperness, and the part we’re playing in the future of food security for the UK” said Kate Hofman, founder and Chief Brand Officer of GrowUp Farms. “Currently the UK imports around 67% of its salad from warmer climates, and this rises to 90% in the winter*, so vertical farms can help the UK to be more self-sufficient in producing food.”
“We were delighted to welcome the House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee to Pepperness, and we very much support the inquiry into the considerable challenges facing this sector, not least the effects of climate change.
“We grow, harvest, and pack our salads for supermarkets across the UK, all at Pepperness in Kent. The farm’s highly controlled environment simulates a beautiful Mediterranean spring day, every day, providing the perfect growing conditions for salad.”
Lord Redesdale, Chair of the Committee, said: “Horticulture is worth billions to the UK economy. From healthy fruit and vegetables to the multitude of crop and plant varieties that can be grown in the UK, it is a fundamental component of a secure food supply, supports the wellbeing of millions of people, and could provide innovative solutions to the challenges presented by climate change. Despite this, horticulture has been continually overlooked and undervalued.
“As part of our inquiry, we were delighted to visit Pepperness and see how GrowUp Farms is putting real innovation into practice to build resilience into the UK horticulture sector.”
Pepperness was originally a brownfield site. Following £100m investment, GrowUp Farms is building the equivalent of 1000 acres of Grade 1 farmland on the site and has recently got the green light to further expand the farm, which will increase its output by 40%.
GrowUp Farms was the first vertical farm to sell a salad in a UK supermarket when it launched its first salad brand, Fresh Lead Co. into Iceland in February 2023. It is also the first to sell a vertical farm produced salad range in Tesco, with the launch of Unbeleafable in July.
Kate Hofman does have a wider message for the Government: “Although we are already producing food and selling it through the UK’s biggest supermarket, we are at a disadvantage compared to traditional growers when it comes to access to incentives. Vertical farms are treated as emerging technology which means we cannot benefit from the ‘Sustainable Farming Incentive’ in Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS), which traditional farmers receive to improve their practices.
“If vertical farming continues to be treated as an emerging technology, the government is missing an opportunity to grow the industry, create a sustainable supply chain and deliver the outcomes laid out in the government’s Environment Plan. The extension of ELMS to include vertical farming would create a level playing field for more farming techniques that produce high-quality food and take care of the environment.”
*British Retail Consortium
Kate Hofman, Founder and Chief Brand Officer of GrowUp Farms, has been shortlisted for the prestigious 2023 Great British Entrepreneur Awards in two categories: the Sustainability Entrepreneur of the Year and the Equity-backed Entrepreneur of the year.
Now in its 11th year, and previously described as “The Grammys for Entrepreneurship”, The Great British Entrepreneur Awards recognise exceptional entrepreneurial spirit, dedication, and remarkable achievement within their industry. They celebrate the outstanding individuals and businesses that drive innovation, generate employment opportunities, and contribute to the growth of the UK economy. These awards serve as a platform to honour the remarkable stories of entrepreneurs who have overcome challenges, demonstrated resilience and made significant contributions to their communities.
In the past 10 years, the pioneering founder of GrowUp Farms, Kate Hofman, has taken the concept of vertical farming from a small aquaponic unit in London, to a significantly larger vertical farm, Pepperness, in Kent. This farm, which is backed by £100 million investment, is the first vertical farm to sell a branded bagged salad in a major UK supermarket. GrowUp Farms is also unique among UK vertical farms because it uses on-site renewable energy and can therefore grow food with a lighter environmental footprint.
The growth and success of GrowUp Farms has taken place in a decade of increasing concern about UK food production. The UK relies on importing 67% of the salad we eat each year, and over 90% in the winter. This year saw a 40-year low in domestic salad production – due mainly to soaring energy costs – and that, coupled with the UK’s over-reliance on other countries for its salad vegetables supplies, led to high-profile shortages in UK supermarkets.
Kate was honoured to be a guest at 10 Downing Street recently, at the Prime Minister’s Farm to Fork summit, at which industry experts discussed these challenges facing UK food production, and the international supply chain.
Talking about her nominations, Kate said: “I am thrilled to be shortlisted in two categories for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. It’s a great feeling to receive recognition for the work that has taken place to get GrowUp Farms from a small unit in east London 10 years ago growing leaves to supply London restaurants, to securing a site for a significantly larger vertical farm and launching a salad brand into UK supermarkets.
“And along the way, so many people and businesses have believed in me and the brand and have played a really important role in helping GrowUp Farms go from success to success.”
The Great British Entrepreneur Awards have become one of the most coveted accolades for entrepreneurs across the UK, celebrating the nation’s diverse entrepreneurial landscape. The awards ceremony will take place on 20 November at London’s Grosvenor House, where industry leaders, innovators, and influencers will gather to celebrate the achievements of the finalists.
Founder of The Great British Entrepreneur Awards Francesca James says “Every year I am blown away with the quantity and quality of applications we receive, and this year is no exception. The Great British Entrepreneur Awards receives thousands of applications annually and the competition is tough. I am truly inspired by the remarkable accomplishments of this year’s finalists. Their collective achievements of generating over £2.7 billion in turnover and employing over 33,000 people demonstrate the exceptional impact they have made in their industries and communities. These entrepreneurs exemplify the spirit of innovation, resilience, and growth that drives the entrepreneurial landscape in the UK.”
For more information about the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, please visit www.greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com
GrowUp Farms, the first vertical farm in the country to supply UK supermarkets with a branded salad product, is celebrating 10 years in business this week – just days after Founder and Chief Brand Officer Kate Hofman was a guest at 10 Downing Street.
The growth and success of GrowUp Farms has taken place in a decade of increasing concern about the downward trend of UK food production and the welfare of the planet. Both concerns that GrowUp Farms was originally founded to tackle.
In the past 10 years, the pioneering founders Kate Hofman and Tom Webster, have taken the concept of vertical farming from a small unit in London using aquaponic methods, to a huge vertical farm, (called Pepperness) in Kent which, backed by £100 million investment, is supplying UK supermarkets with a branded bagged salad.
But GrowUp Farms is unique among UK vertical farms because it uses on-site renewable energy and can therefore grow food with a lighter environmental footprint and a more resilient supply chain and has not been exposed to energy price hikes that have affected other growers so badly.
The farm’s success has led to Hofman being invited to the Downing Street Farm to Food summit as an industry expert, and to the farm itself being featured heavily recently on ITV and BBC TV news reports into the vertical farming industry.
“GrowUp Farms has spent 10 years developing the technology and expertise to get to this point: growing salad leaves in the UK all-year-round commercially” says Kate Hofman.
“Now we have nailed that and are the first vertical farm to supply a branded salad product to UK supermarkets, we are working hard towards launching a range of salads this summer, as well as expanding the variety of produce we can grow at Pepperness. Our R&D team are already solving some of the challenges that will allow us to grow other crops such as identifying heritage seed varieties that can’t be grown conventionally and improving the growth cycle of certain plants. Vertical farming is very much a long-term solution to the problems we are seeing.”
Hofman and Webster started the company in response to some of the huge problems with food production and sustainability they could see in this country, not least the fact that the UK relies on importing 67% of the salad we eat each year, and over 90% in the winter.
“In the 10 years since GrowUp Farms began its journey, these problems have, if anything, worsened” says Hofman.
This year saw a 40-year low in domestic salad production, due to a combination of soaring energy and other production costs, and subsequent shortages in UK supermarkets, because of the country’s dependence on overseas for food. In the past month the NFU has warned that time is running out to safeguard UK farming, and only last week the Prime Minister held an emergency food summit at Downing Street, which Hofman attended. This is all against a background of a cost-of-living crisis which is affecting everyone in the country and has seen food inflation soar to record highs.
“We worked hard to bring down the cost of production and perfect the ideal conditions for our crops to thrive” says Hofman. “And, in February this year GrowUp Farms became the very first UK vertical farm to supply a branded salad to UK supermarkets with the launch of Fresh Leaf Co., and we’re excited about bringing more products to market in the coming months.”
These launches demonstrate the role that vertical farms can play in helping the UK become more self-sufficient and being able to grow a variety of fruit and vegetables all year round.
“In addition to creating a more resilient supply chain in the UK,” continues Hofman, “our bagged salads are ready to eat, don’t need to be washed in chlorine, aren’t grown with any pesticides or chemicals, are affordable, and last longer than other bagged salads, due to the way they are grown. Longer lasting leaves mean less waste which is better for purses and better for the environment.
”We want to continue to play a key role in helping the UK to end its over-reliance on imports of salads. We solve problems in food production by growing food better, in perfect conditions. We can grow the best quality crops year-round in this country, and our controlled environment means we’re resilient to climate change and its impacts on farming.
“We’re part of the evolution of the great British farming tradition, helping to build a more sustainable food system for the UK. We are doing things differently and making it mainstream, and businesses like ours have never been more needed for UK food production.”
GrowUp Farms is delighted to have been recognised as one of The Sunday Times Best Places To Work 2023! This award recognises organisations that consistently demonstrate high levels of employee experience and well-being in the UK. We are always striving to improve not only the environment for our plants to thrive, but also our employees and workforce.
GrowUp is constantly evaluating what makes our employees happy inside and outside of work. We believe there is no time like the present to bring our employee fulfilment and harmony.
The Sunday Times have partnered with WorkL’s to create a digital 26-point survey that collects data to provide a comprehensive, in-depth picture of the workplace. We are one of the top 100 in the UK in the small business category to achieve this recognition!
We are delighted that our employees’ voices are being heard and that we can help nurture a motivating, collaborative, and happy workplace.
To apply for current positions and to become a valuable part of our team, please follow this link!