When my friend Jenny from Cheetahs in my Shoes asked me if I was free one evening I thought she might be thinking about a few drinks at a pub in town, or maybe even trying to catch a film or something mad like that. When she then followed it up with "would you like to come to Tesco with me?" I honestly thought she'd lost the plot! What sort of mum goes to wander up and down the aisles of their local supermarket in an evening through choice? But it seems Jenny had something else in mind…
Our local Tesco store, which happens to be one of the super big ones and is also a stone's throw from part of their head office, have been trialling a few evenings where they get customers in to the store and talk to them about some of their ranges and on the evening Jenny invited me along they were talking to local bloggers about berries. Suddenly this was a lot more interesting than doing the weekly shop
Now when you first think about berries my mind instantly goes to strawberries and then a bit later raspberries and maybe blueberries too. Whilst I do love a good strawberry, I'm a simple girl at heart and normally just eat them with some ice cream or cream and if I'm really pushing the boat out a dribble of limoncello on them too. Tesco were wanting to use the evening to tell us a bit more about all the different berries that they sell, how they choose them, and also to give us some hints, tips and recipes to help us enjoy them even more.
I was amazed to hear that there are actually 35 different varieties of British strawberry and Tesco actually sell them from all over England, Scotland and, more recently, Wales. I'm a big fan of trying to keep my family's food miles down, so do always try to buy British strawberries, but I had no idea that there were so many varieties grown here.
I also had no idea just how much work goes into choosing strawberries for sale in a large supermarket. The company even has a full time "berry technologist" to work on ensuring that their customers get the finest berries that can, in tip top condition. Tesco's aim is to get all berries from farm to fridge in just 24 hours – an impressive feat when you consider all the processes that they have to go through en-route.
What I found interesting was a blind testing of the three different "grades" of strawberry that Tesco sell in their three different price ranges. Whilst the cheaper ones may not look quite so pretty and be a bit firmer when you bite into them, the top range all looked like your perfect strawberry whilst having a nice texture too. We got to try all of them with a mix of things on the side – ranging from the classic clotted cream (my favourite) through to balsamic vinegar and pepper!
Tesco were also keen to tell us about some new berries that they are bringing to market here in the UK over the next year: Mac Black Raspberries, Kiwi Berries and Aronia Berries. All three are things that I hadn't heard of before, but I'll certainly be looking out for them in store. It was also good to hear that some of all three will be coming from the UK – excellent news for keeping those food miles down.
My evening at Tesco really did inspire me to be a bit more creative when it comes to berries and so it was ideal that the goodie bag that they gave us to take home had in it loads of ingredients to make some of the berry recipes on the Tesco Real Food website. The next evening I made the summer berry tart with lemon cream and was delighted and surprised by just how quick it was to make. Definitely something to remember the next time we have people round for a summer meal and I need pudding inspiration.
It should be said that the other thing that I really, really liked about the event was actually getting to put a human side to a company which many of the media make out not to have one. It was a pleasure to talk to some of the Tesco staff and hear about how they want to understand their customers better, talk to them about their shopping and cooking experiences and give them more of what they want in store. I encourage Tesco to keep engaging with their customers, and bloggers, more in this way as it has really changed my perception of the company as a result.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Tescos's at their Berry Evening and also received a goodie bag and gift card from them.