Sweet redemption for brussels sprouts


12 June 2024

Brussels sprouts ignited debate last week when chocolate featuring the divisive veggies served to more than 3000 people at the nation’s annual Hort Connections event in Melbourne.

The chocolatey-offering was developed for the event by Hort Innovation, the grower-owned, not-for-profit organisation for the Australian horticulture industry, as an example of the innovative products that can be made from discarded fresh produce to combat food waste.

Brussels sprouts are undergoing a renaissance with more Aussies enjoying the plant morsels than ever before. In 2022/23, production value of the sprout jumped by 53 per cent to $42.1M according to the latest edition of Hort Innovation’s Australian Horticulture Statistics Handbook.

Hort Innovation research and development general manager Dr Anthony Kachenko said the figures show a quarter of Aussies are sprout fans.

“As the fastest-growing vegetable in 2022/23 in terms of value, there is no denying the humble brussels sprout is making a comeback,” he said.

“Our data shows that per capita consumption of brussels sprouts jumped 46 per cent in the past year.”

Food waste is a priority for the horticulture sector and was highlighted as an area of focus in the Australian-grown Horticulture Sustainability Framework developed through Hort Innovation last year.  

Dr Kachenko said getting your daily serve of vegetables through a sweet treat is just one of many innovative ways to encourage consumers to eat more fruits, vegetables and nuts while also reducing food waste.

“Research shows that 96 per cent of the population do not eat the recommended amount of five to six serves of vegetables each day, and less than one per cent of hard vegetables, such as brussels sprouts, are consumed as desserts – maybe this is an untapped market,” he said.

Tasmanian brussels sprouts grower Caitlin Radford praised the chocolate initiative as a creative way to reduce waste and generate additional income for growers.

"There is so much potential for what we typically consider 'waste'," she said. "Our primary goal as producers is to deliver high-quality produce. Innovations in alternative food products can help minimise waste by utilising excess or lower-grade produce."

Increasingly, Australian horticulture industries are channelling their research and development levies into food waste initiatives. Recently, Hort Innovation collaborated with End Food Waste Australia to develop Food Waste Action Plans for the melon and banana industries, outlining strategies to reduce waste throughout the supply chain.

End Food Waste Australia chief executive officer Dr Steven Lapidge said it was encouraging to see more innovation in the food waste space.

“Fruits and vegetables are Australia’s most wasted foods. More than three million tonnes of fruit and vegetables go to waste every year in Australia – enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground to the brim five times,” he said. 

“It is great to see some examples of innovative products at Hort Connections this week that seek to reduce food waste while also highlighting the nutritional benefits of delicious fresh produce.”