The vitamin-rich pepper is deep red in color, yet has a distinctly darker hue and longer length than normal peppers. The ACE pepper took three years to develop and it was specially cultivated by Marks & Spencer scientists in the mild climate of Waltham Cross, Essex, without the use of pesticides. It is currently on sale through October only at Marks and Spencer stores throughout the UK for £1.99 (200g), or about $3.25.
"It is fantastic to have developed a vegetable capable of supplying all the vitamin A, C and E we need for one day," said Marks & Spencer Pepper Specialist, George Hebditch. "As people become more health-conscious, demand for fruit and vegetables which are high in vitamins and minerals has soared so we fully expect ACE peppers to be a big hit with customers."
Ordinary peppers naturally contain vitamins C and A, but this is the first pepper developed to contain vitamin E-a feat because vitamin E is typically only found in naturally fatty foods. According to the company, the ACE pepper's vitamin content meets current UK RDA standards for vitamin A (0.7 mg for men, 0.6 mg for women) and vitamin C (40 mg). The company also confirmed that the vitamin content does not dissipate with cooking, so it can be enjoyed in a variety of different raw and cooked dishes.
"We spend a lot of time and effort roaming the world trying to find new and inventive products," Dr. Simon Coupe, a fresh-produce technologist for M&S, said in an interview with the Daily Mail. "I would hope that in years to come we'd only be seeing this pepper as people become more healthy by boosting their vitamin levels. This is one of our healthiest products and it still tastes great, so I'm sure our customers will like it."
His colleague, M&S pepper specialist George Hebditch added, "ACE peppers have a lovely, sweet flavor as well as being extremely good for you. As people become more health conscious, demand for fruit and vegetables high in vitamins and minerals has soared. We fully expect ACE peppers to be a hit with customers."
For the record, Marks & Spencer stopped short of terming their produce "genetically modified" and opted instead for "nutritionally enhanced."
The ACE pepper is not the first nutritionally enhanced, specialty product developed and sold by the venerable UK retailer. Earlier this year, the chain unveiled the Kumato, a golf ball-sized, dark green-skinned sandwich tomato.
According to the company, when the Kumato's skin is dark green, it has a mild clean taste and is good for slicing. It then ripens to a dark brown skin and has "a sweet spicy aroma," then transitions to a dark red color whereby it becomes juicier and sweeter because its fructose level is higher than traditional tomatoes.
The Kumato originated from a "lost" wild tomato and developed via 10 years of intensive plant cross breeding by Syngenta, a Basel, Switzerland-headquartered company known for its interest in developing GM foods. The company issued a statement putting to rest fears that the Kumato was genetically modified in the laboratory. It said, "Many consumers, facing for the first time unusual vegetables such as Kumato tomatoes, might be induced to think that it has been obtained via futuristic genetic modification. But we can assure this is not the case."
Following the launch of the ACE pepper, Marks & Spencer launched Baby Lemons that measure about 1.5 inches and deliver the same pucker sour flavor as traditionally sized lemons.
The Baby Lemons, the company boasted, are perfect for Gin and Tonics because not only do they fit properly into a tumbler, but when normal sized lemons are used, drinkers are often left with wasted, unused lemon halves.
The baby lemons, which are grown in South Africa, will cost £1 ($1.60) for a pack of four.