The True Story of Baby Carrots - Origin and Evolution

Baby Carrots

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The Origin and Evolution of Baby Carrots

The Cut & Peel story - White Blush scare - Chlorine Issue   Watch a video of how the process works and how baby carrots are "made". Some statisticsBasic Process

Baby carrots first appeared in US supermarkets in the late 1980's.  There are two types - true baby carrots, and manufactured baby carrots.

baby carrots versus ordinary carrots

Despite many consumers’ confusion as to their origins, these carrots are now the single most popular form of the root vegetable sold in the United States. They are a staple of party trays and crudité plates and have upstaged carrot “coins” and other cuts as side dishes. And yet baby carrots have been around since the 80's.

Baby carrots have become a lunch box staple. Parents love them for their convenience and because they’re seen as a healthy food choice. Kids love them because they’re sweet and fun to eat. But what’s the real deal behind baby carrots?  After all, they’re not like regular carrots. They’re perfectly shaped with rounded edges; they don’t have the same thick core; and, even peeled, they are bright orange. A quick Google search of baby carrots turns up some frightening information, and mis-information, on how they are made and whether they are really “soaked in chlorine.”  

Strictly "baby" means immature, pulled from the ground before they reach full size. Originally that was the case, nowadays they have developed miniature strains which are mature when small in stature! Real baby carrots (miniature version of full size) are what they are, about 3 or 4 inches in length. Baby "style" cut carrots (those whittled down from larger carrots) started off by the "inventor" as being approx 2 inches in the 1980's, and have remained so, more or less, ever since.

USDA use weight to base its standards for nutrition etc - a small baby carrot is deemed 10 grams, a medium one 15 grams.

Note that prior to the "invention" of baby cut carrots in the 1980's,  engineer and inventor, Joseph T. Listner was early to recognize the appeal and convenience of bagged, ready-to-eat vegetables. In 1959, he designed and built a one-of-a-kind machine that sliced raw carrots into sticks. The machine enabled a small-scale producer like Listner, Inc., in Wallington, New Jersey, to slice an estimated one million pounds of carrots in sixteen years of operation. Listner sold his bagged carrot sticks and coleslaw to stores, including the Grand Union supermarket chain. Grimmways Long Imperator carrots to create baby carrots

The target which the main producers have is 4 babies from each long carrot.  The average length of the variety of carrot used (Imperator) is now about 10 inches, so after "topping and tailing" they achieve 4, 2 inch babies. The whole process is governed by computers and lasers and these machines decide on the optimum cut for each individual carrot - yes! The growers and seed companies and constantly working ion the development of longer varieties together with the desire to have a cylindrical carrot of even circumference all the way down.  That would mean less shaving and scrubbing required. Most of the goodness in carrots is in, or just below, the skin.

Grimmway's say that their processing carrots are approximately 10 to 14 inches in length and these can be turned into 4 to 6 "baby" carrots.

Photo (right) taken by Zach Wortiska, his Instagram handle @Seed_Farm_Table?

Here is the Carrot Museum take on the Baby Carrot Story:

True Baby Carrots

In the 1980's supermarkets expected carrots to be a particular uniform size, shape, and colour. Anything else had to be sold for juice or processing or animal feed, or just thrown away. One farmer wondered what would happen if he peeled the skin off the gnarly carrots, cut them into pieces, and sold them in bags. He made up a few test batches to show his buyers. One batch, cut into 1-inch bites and peeled round, he called "bunny balls." Another batch, peeled and cutTrue Baby Carrots 2 inches long, looked like little baby carrots.

Bunny balls never made it. But baby carrots were a hit. They transformed the whole industry.

A "true" baby carrot is a carrot grown to the "baby stage", which is to say long before the root reaches its mature size.  The test is can you see a proper "shoulder" on each carrot. These immature roots are preferred by some people out of the belief that they are superior either in texture, nutrition or taste.

They are also sometimes harvested simply as the result of crop thinning, but are also grown to this size as a specialty crop. Certain cultivars of carrots have been bred to be used at the "baby" stage. One such cultivar is 'Amsterdam Forcing'.  You will see them in the stores and are normally very expensive and displayed with some of the green showing to "prove" they are a "real" carrot.

There are also commercial baby varieties often called Thumbelina, or Paris Market, when grown to maturity are shaped like a golf ball.

Manufactured Baby Cut Carrots (the most common)

Baby Cut Carrots were invented by Mike Yorusek (Read the full story here.) Pictured right - Tired of the wastefulness he was seeing, Mike Yurosek whittled "babies" from grown-up cast off carrots.

Most baby carrots sold in U.S. and U.K. supermarkets are really what the industry calls “baby cuts” – made from longer carrots that have been peeled and cut into a smaller size. These carrots have been specifically bred to be smaller in diameter, coreless and sweeter than regular carrots.

"Manufactured" baby carrots , or cut and peel, are what you see most often in the shops. These are carrot shaped slices of peeled carrots invented in the late 1980's by Mike Yurosek, a California farmer, as a way of making use of carrots which are too twisted or knobbly for sale as full-size carrots. Yurosek was unhappy at having to discard as much as 400 tonnes of  carrots a day because of their imperfections, and looked for a way to reclaim what would otherwise be a waste product. He was able to find an industrial green bean cutter, which cut his carrots into 5 cm lengths, and by placing these lengths into an industrial potato peeler, he created the baby carrot. 

The much decreased waste is also used either for juicing, carrot powder or as animal fodder. Perhaps most important, the baby-cut method allows growers to use far more of the carrot than they used to. In the past, a third or more of a carrot crop could have been easily tossed away, but baby-cut allows more partial carrots to be used, and the peeling process actually removes less of the outer skin that you might imagine. They are sold in single-serving packs with ranch dressing for dipping on the side. They're passed out on airplanes and sold in plastic containers designed to fit in a car's cup holder. At Disney World, and MacDonald's burgers now come two ways:  with fries or baby carrots.

There is nothing "wrong" with manufactured baby carrots. They are a food that humans have enjoyed for centuries, probably millennia, chock-full of goodness that we need to keep our bodies functioning. Mr Yurosek died in 2005. Read the full story here.

It also helped lift the industry out of a rut. In 1987, the year after Yurosek's discovery, carrot consumption jumped by almost 30 percent, according to data from the USDA.

Today, baby cut carrots dominate the carrot industry. The packaged orange snacks are now responsible for over 50% of all carrot sales.

A 2007 report by the USDA detailed many ways in which baby carrots have morphed the entire carrot landscape in the United States. Baby carrot products have been the fastest growing segment of the carrot industry since the early 1990s and are among the most popular produce items in the supermarket aisle – more than potatoes and celery, according to the report.

The development and rapid consumer acceptance of packaged fresh-cut carrot products during the 1990s has helped the carrot industry evolve from a supplier of low-value bulk products to marketer of relatively upscale value added products ... fresh-cut carrot products have been the fastest growing segment of the carrot industry since the early 1990s. Within the $1.3 billion fresh-cut vegetable category, carrots account for the largest share (about half) of supermarket sales, followed distantly by potatoes, celery, and others.

Yurosek eventually sold his company to Grimmway Farms, which along with nearby Bolthouse Farms, now produces more than 85 percent of the carrots eaten in the United States. The introduction of baby-cut carrots into the market has increased consumption of the vegetable in all its forms nearly 30 percent in twenty years. In 1986 the average American consumer was eating around 5 pounds of carrots per year. The current figure (2018) has levelled off at around 8.5 each.(54% of this figure is baby carrots) (source)

The rapid rise in popularity of baby-cut carrots compelled carrot producers to adapt quickly to meet market demand. The owners of Grimmway began to build a processing facility to handle vast quantities even before they actually saw the orders come in. Their anticipation paid off; now occupying more than one million square feet of space, their carrot processing plant is the largest single-crop facility in the US.

How a typical carrot is processed to maximise use for human consumption

If you were to divide up a typical 8 and ½ inch carrot it would typically be processed in such a manner that only about the very top half inch goes to animal feed. This is at the crown end.  The point end quarter of the remaining carrot goes to making those tiny, baby carrots.  The central portions are processed either to make “standard” cut or peel baby carrots or sent for juice making.  The thickest part goes off to be processed into juice concentrate to be further sliced or diced into fresh pre-packs.

Diagrammatical Representation - © Photo Copyright  World Carrot Museum.

How a Carrot is processed - copyright World Carrot Museum

Transformed to the core The baby-cut boom also transformed the industry from its roots up. Before, growers were more interested in a bulky carrot with more of a tapered shape. But those were hard to chop into baby shape, so plant breeders worked to create varieties that were longer and narrower, allowing a producer to get four cuts instead of three on each carrot root, which is the part of the plant we eat.

They also found they could limit the diameter size of carrots by increasing the density with which they were planted — a discovery that helped them harvest more carrots per acre. (This sort of change wasn’t new for carrot growers: Up to the 1950s, when carrots were sold with their leaves intact, they were bred for hearty leaf growth. That stopped after grocers started selling just roots.)

Today’s carrot is also now bred for uniform colour. Because the cutting process exposes much of the root to the buyer’s eye, producers don’t want their bags of carrots to be collared like a paint palette. With baby carrots or cut-and-peel carrots, you can see the core of every chunk,. The growers would like every carrot in that bag to look like every other one. Growers also obsess about texture and taste. You might find carrots far sweeter than they were in the past, and that’s intentional. Researchers found much of their appeal as a snack came from their sweetness, especially for perennially sweet-toothed kids, and bred them to have more natural sugar and less of the harsh taste that comes if you do a poor job of peeling.

Today specific cultivars are grown to create the now ubiquitous baby carrot. Farmers want a carrot that is about five-eighths inches in diameter, 14 inches long that they can cut into four pieces to make baby carrots.

In order to create thinner vegetables, baby carrots are planted closer together than traditional carrots. In as little as 120 days from planting, the carrots are dug up and trucked to the processing house to be cut and peeled. But before packaging, all carrots receive a brisk scrub accompanied by a wash in a chlorine (or organic alternative) solution.

Grimmway Farms, whose labels include Cal-Organic, uses a chlorine solution on all its carrots – organic and non-organic -- to prevent food poisoning, before a final wash in water.  Grimmways say the chlorine rinse is well within limits set by the EPA and is comparable to levels found in tap water. 

Ashley Bade, nutritionist and founder of Honest Mom Nutrition, says the chlorine bath is a standard practice in many pre-cut food items. “The chlorine-water solution is a needed step in the process to limit the risk of food-borne illnesses such as E.coli,” she says.

The new varieties’ names reflect the change in growers’ needs: Prime Cut, Sweet Cuts, Morecuts.

What is perhaps most important, the baby-cut method allows growers to use far more of the carrot than they used to. In the past, a third or more of a carrot crop could have been easily tossed away, but baby-cut allows more partial carrots to be used, and the peeling process actually removes less of the outer skin that you might imagine - in part because growers, who are selling by weight, don’t want to take off more than they need to.

And what’s left over after the initial processing can still be used in even smaller products (e.g. baby food, soup, powder), or squeezed for juice.

There is no doubt that baby carrots are a fun snack and are a great way to introduce healthy foods into the often French fry, and fast food driven diets of children and teenagers, because from the snacking perspective, they are convenient and satisfying, for all ages.

Read more here on the processes involved in the production of baby carrots. "Where do baby carrots come from? Behind the scenes at a baby carrot harvest."

How the root has been transformed, through science

Carrots’ relatively recent growth in popularity as a snack food (in large part due to marketing efforts by the big processors) has spurred growers to produce a vegetable that is more palatable to American consumers. Philipp Simon, a professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin– Madison, heads the USDA’s Vegetable Crops Research Unit on carrots. Although there are other carrot improvement projects in the United States and other nations, he estimates that his unit is the largest public-sector breeding effort in the world. Because his research unit is the dominant project in this country, the work done by Simon and his team influences nearly every carrot eaten in the United States. Much of Simon’s work focuses on improving the flavour and palatability of carrots. American consumers prefer a sweet, juicy carrot that bursts in the mouth rather than a bitter one with a woody texture.

His unit has made significant progress in increasing sweetness and reducing the harshness in flavour that many consumers dislike. They are still working on improving the texture, as consumer preference for a juicy carrot must be balanced with the grower’s need to harvest the roots mechanically. Carrots bred to be too juicy and soft-textured may break apart as they are pulled from the soil, and as Simon notes, “if the grower can’t get it to your plate, you’re not going to eat it.”

The demands of the machinery used to process baby-cut carrots have influenced carrot breeding as well. Different carrot breeds vary widely in terms of size and shape. The Imperator variety is the long tapered “Bugs Bunny variety,” as Simon calls it, while the Nantes variety tends to be shaped more like a cigar, cylindrical and blunt at the ends. To achieve the perfect carrot for feeding into the machinery, traits from the Nantes are used to “improve” the Imperator and make the carrot more amenable to mechanical slicing, peeling, and polishing into uniform pieces.

According to Simon, the sweetest varieties of carrots have a sugar content that is comparable to some melons. In fact, because the glycemic index of carrots is relatively high, he cautions that people who need to watch their sugar intake would be wise to count carrots among the foods they monitor.

Another peculiar consequence that may follow from the carrots-as-snack phenomenon is the introduction of carrots in colours other than orange. The original wild carrot varieties were white and contained none of the pigments that give the root the colour we’re used to seeing. Carrots have long been bred specifically for orangeness, so the work by Simon and his team to develop red, purple, and yellow varieties is not genetic modification but merely an application of classical breeding techniques.

Both of the major California processors have expressed interest in novel-colored varieties and the "rainbow packs" are ever increasing in poularity. The pigments that make a carrot red or purple affect their nutritional content as well. Just like a red tomato, a red carrot contains lycopene, and a purple carrot contains antioxidants of the same type found in dark chocolate and red wine. It is not difficult to imagine "technicolour" carrots being marketed as functional foods that provide nutrients in addition to the vitamin A with which they are traditionally associated.

The Future

The story of the baby-cut carrot’s success and popularity among consumers tells the larger story of what is happening in the supermarket produce section and in the home kitchen. The preparation and labour that used to be done by home cooks is moving into enormous factories and processing plants, while the raw ingredients many people cook with are becoming less "raw."

To appeal to time-crunched home cooks, food magazines increasingly publish features about assembling quick meals from prepared foods rather than cooking from scratch. As the basic preparation of ingredients continues to move from the kitchen into the processing plant, it is not unreasonable to expect that in the near future a common tool like a vegetable peeler may become a relic.

Baby carrots owe their success to many factors that are already shaping both the infrastructure and the contents of the supermarket produce section. One factor in the popularity of baby carrots is the fact that consumers are clearly willing to pay a premium for convenience, and fresh-produce suppliers are glad to peel, chop, segment, or julienne their raw product if it will boost their profit margins.

The margins on fresh food have traditionally been lower than those for processed food, as the latter is considered "value-added" and carries a higher retail price. Retailers and suppliers will likely embrace adding value to (i.e., preparing) any and all fresh produce if it means they can charge more for it.

Another factor in the success of baby carrots is that for millennia humans have been selectively breeding for desirable traits in crops and animals, and we’re only getting better at it. Our ability to sweeten a carrot, alter its shape to accommodate a machine, change the colour of its skin and flesh, and give a root vegetable the texture of a crisp apple hints at the directions our foods may go in millennia to come. Finally, one of the most important factors in the success of these tiny vegetables is branding.

A brand is a powerful selling tool that will no longer be confined to cereal boxes and other packaged foods. Many researchers have pointed to branding as a potentially positive force to encourage children to make healthier food choices. If food companies can apply the same marketing strategies (and budgets!) to selling fresh produce as they do to selling processed and convenience foods, the power of the media may be able to turn our appetites to the benefit of our health.

The Basic Process:

To make "baby-cuts," large carrots are machine cut into 2-inch sections, then abraded (scraped) down to size, their ends rounded by the same process:

In the field, two-storey carrot harvesters use long metal prongs to open up the soil, while rubber belts grab the green tops and pull. The carrots ride up the belts to the top of the picker, where an automated cutter snips off the greens.

They are trucked to the processing plant, where they are put in icy water to bring their temperature down to 3 °C (37 degrees Fahrenheit) to inhibit spoiling.

They are sorted by thickness. Thin carrots continue on the processing line; the others will be used as whole carrots, juice, or cattle feed. An inspector looks for rocks, debris or malformed carrots that slip through.

The carrots are shaped into 2-inch pieces by automated cutters. An optical sorter discards any piece that has green on it.

The pieces are pumped through pipes to the peeling tanks. The peelers rotate, scraping the skin off the carrots. There are two stages: an initial rough peel and then a final "polishing."

To reduce microbial contamination, "baby-cut" carrots may be treated with small amounts of a weak chlorine solution. Those that are will be subsequently rinsed with potable water to remove the excess chlorine before being packaged. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the use of a weak chlorine solution as an antimicrobial treatment (similar to the chlorination of drinking water) is a current accepted practice in the processing for all fresh-cut ready-to-eat vegetables.

The carrots are weighed and bagged by an automated scale and packager, then placed in cold storage until they are shipped.

The white blush sometimes visible on the surface of "baby-cut" carrots is caused by dehydration of the cut surface. "Baby-cut" carrots are more prone to develop this because their entire surface area is a cut surface. Low-temperature, high-humidity storage can minimize the white appearance.

Of course mis-shapen carrots are good for a cheeky joke - for example:

joke - how baby carrots are made

Vanmark Equipment LLC is one of the world's leading manufacturers of carrot processing equipment.  Millions of pounds of carrots processed in the United States go through Vanmark’s peelers/washers before making their way to consumers. Vanmark makes equipment for cleaning and polishing carrots of all sizes as well as processing and shaping product sold as baby carrots. Our equipment can use a two part process to first remove material from full size cut carrots and then shape and smooth the pieces into a rounded, distinctive baby carrot shape. (Source Vanmark equipment website)

What happens to the left over pieces of carrots?

The 0.84 % left over mainly goes to animal feed, though I also know of some, where it can go to juice and for pulping into baby foods/soups etc. There seems to be two attitudes - 1. it is "waste" (for animal feed). 2. It has a commercial value and is passed on to the food processing industry.

The problem is that the cutting down/shaving process is designed to do just that, it is rarely commercially viable to ensure the shavings are collected effectively to remain clean and safe to pass on to the food industry. It's ok for animals!.

Because it is not a consistent left over, in terms of size, the cuttings do not go to salads or other fresh products. The carrot cake producers buy shredded carrot made from whole big carrots as it easier to process that way and you get more for your money.

The "waste" is becoming less and less as the machines get more efficient. For example many of the modern computer/laser guided machines can make 3 babies out of one carrot.

Some Statistics:

bullet  In the US over 172 million tonnes of carrots are processed into baby peeled carrots.
bullet  In the US baby peeled carrots sales exceed US$400 million per annum.
bullet  Overall carrot consumption in the US has increased by 33% through the introduction of baby peeled carrots.
bullet  In the US annual consumer spending on baby peeled carrots exceeds US$2.00 per head.
bullet  In 1999 baby peeled carrot purchases passed whole carrots. 94% of US consumers purchased baby peeled carrots
bullet  90% had  bought whole carrots. Purchases of baby peeled carrots were even ahead of fresh salad mixes.
bullet  Baby peeled carrots have the lion's share of the carrot category accounting for over 80% of all retail carrot sales.
bullet  Up until 2000 baby carrots have dominated US produce department's with excellent growth ahead of all other produce items.

From Field to Supermarket Shelf

 In the field, two-storey carrot harvesters use long metal prongs to open up the soil, while rubber belts grab the green tops and pull.


 The carrots ride up the belts to the top of the picker, where an automated cutter snips off the greens.


 They're trucked to the processing plant, where they're put in icy water to bring their temperature down to 37 degrees to inhibit spoiling.


 They are sorted by thickness.


 Thin carrots continue on the processing line; the others will be used as whole carrots, juice or cattle feed.


 An inspector looks for rocks, debris or malformed carrots that slip through.


 The carrots are shaped into 2-inch pieces by automated cutters.


 An optical sorter discards any piece that has green on it.


 The pieces are pumped through pipes to the peeling tanks.


 The peelers rotate, scraping the skin off the carrots.


 The carrots are weighed and bagged by an automated scale and packager.


 Finally  placed in cold storage until they are shipped.

People sometimes find that baby carrots turn slimy in the fridge, very soon after storage. They are going off due to poor storage conditions, post harvest. If you eat them you run the risk of food poisoning (usually from ecoli or salmonella bacteria). It happens to baby carrots more than normal carrots because of the additional processing involved.  Baby cut carrots are made from longer carrots. The skin is taken off and then longer carrots are cut into smaller "baby" carrots.  The skin (as in humans!) is there for a reason, a protective layer. These baby carrots are then washed in a chlorine solution before a final wash in potable water.  This process is an attempt to ward off early degradation of the baby carrots. 

Most carrots are kept and processed in near freezing conditions and once they leave the packing plants experience warmer temperatures which encourage bacterial growth.   Storage conditions in supermarkets is far from ideal, in many cases.In the case of slimy carrots (baby or otherwise) one has to err on the side of caution and throw them away.

Here is the full story of the popular Baby Cut & Peel carrot:

It all began in the mid 80's ago when Mike Yurosek of Newhall, California got tired of seeing 400 tons of carrots a day drop down the cull chute at his packing plant in Bakersfield. Culls are carrots that are too twisted, knobbly, bent or broken to sell. In some loads, as many as 70% of carrots were tossed. Yurosek tried to be resourceful. He used some of his cull as animal slop, but his farm was so big and he had so much waste -- 400 tons a day -- that his pigs’ fat turned orange. He went on this way for decades, enduring the daily tragedy of the cull, and dreaming of a better world.

Yurosek had always been a "think outside the carrot patch" guy. In the 1960s, Yurosek and Sons was selling bolthouse baby cut carrot bagcarrots in plastic bags with a Bunny-Luv logo, a cartoon that got the farmers in trouble with Warner Bros., which was protective of its Bugs Bunny brand. Instead of bringing in lawyers and spending a fortune, Yurosek recalls, "I said to my wife who is a pretty good drawer,  'Hey, draw me up about 50 bunnies, would you? Then we'll send them to Warner Bros. and ask them to tell us which ones we can use.' "

The entertainment giant picked one, and Bunny-Luv lived on for the price of a pencil. The farmer continued growing carrots, and throwing them out, for decades. But in 1986, Yurosek had the idea that would change American munching habits. California's Central Valley is dotted with farms, fruit and vegetable processors, and freezing plants. Yurosek knew full well that freezers routinely cut up his long, well-shaped carrots into cubes, coins and mini-carrots. "If they can do that, why can't we, and pack 'em fresh?" he wondered.

First he had to cut the culls into something small enough to make use of their straight parts. The first batch was done in a potato peeler and cut by hand. Then he found a frozen-food company that was going out of business and bought an industrial green-bean cutter, which just happened to cut things into 2-inch pieces. Thus was born the standard size for a baby carrot.

Next, he sent one of his workers to a packing plant and loaded the cut-up carrots into an industrial potato peeler to take off the peel and smooth down the edges. What he ended up with was a little rough but still recognizable as the baby carrot of today.
After a bit of practice and an investment in some bagging machinery, he called one of his best customers, a Vons supermarket in Los Angeles. "I said, 'I'm sending you some carrots to see what you think.' Next day they called and said, 'We only want those.'

The babies were an economic powerhouse. Stores paid 10 cents a bag for whole carrots and sold them for 17 cents. They paid 50 cents for a 1-pound package of baby carrots and sold them for $1. By 1989, more markets were on board, and the baby-carrot juggernaut had begun.

Today, these "babies" come from one main place in the US: Bakersfield, California. The state produces almost three-grimmways carrot bags imagesquarters of U.S. carrots because of its favourable climate and deep, not-too-heavy soil. Every day, somewhere in the state, carrots are either being planted or harvested (20 million pounds in 2006).

Which is why Bakersfield is home to the nation's top two carrot processors: Grimmway Farms and Bolthouse Farms. In the early 1990s, Yurosek sold his company to rival Grimmway.  The Bunny-Luv logo still can be found on Grimmway's organic carrots. But it's Bakersfield's other carrot producer, Bolthouse, that carries on the Yurosek tradition. Yurosek's grandson Derek is Bolthouse's director of agricultural operations.

The Industry calls them "Minis" and have brought about a carrot-breeding revolution, says the USDA's Phillip Simon, who also teaches horticulture at the University of Wisconsin. Carrots originally were sold in bulk, straight from the farm. The first advance was the "cello" carrot. Introduced in the 1950s, these were washed and sold in newfangled (at the time) cellophane bags. "Cello carrots had to look like a carrot, and that was enough," Simon says.

Enter the baby carrot. Suddenly carrots were "branded." Instead of just carrots, they were Bunny-Luv or Bolthouse or Grimmway carrots. Consumers could remember the name, and if they got a bad carrot, they wouldn't buy that particular brand any more. Breeders got to work, getting rid of woodiness and bitterness. They also bred for enhanced length, smoothness and a cylindrical quality that lets processors clip off as little of the tip as possible. Balancing these with the desirable sweetness and juiciness is a delicate task, Simon says. The faintly bitter taste is essential to what makes a carrot taste like a carrot. "I've had carrots that have more of a flavour note of peas or corn," he says.

Get the carrot too juicy and it breaks in the field. "There are some carrot varieties so succulent they're amazing, but they're like glass," Simon says. "Consumers like juicy carrots, but if they're all broken, you can't sell them." None of this was done with fancy genetic engineering. "You just grow lots of carrots and look at them and taste them," Simon says. Breeders started experimenting with seed from varieties culled in the past for being too long to fit into the plastic bag.

"Prior to baby carrots, the ideal length for a carrot was somewhere between 6 and 7 inches," Simon says. Now they're typically 8 inches long, a "three-cut" that can make three 2-inch babies. And breeders are edging toward fields of even longer carrots. "You make it a four-cut, and you've got a 33% yield increase," Simon says.

The baby-cut boom transformed the industry from its roots up. Before, growers were more interested in a bulky carrot with more of a tapered shape. But those were hard to chop into baby shape, so plant breeders worked to create varieties that were longer and narrower, allowing a producer to get four cuts instead of three on each carrot root, which is the part of the plant we eat. They also found they could limit the diameter size of carrots by increasing the density with which they were planted — a discovery that helped them harvest more carrots per acre.

Mr Yurosek  is often referred to as the "Father of Baby Carrots". By simply cutting carrots into 2-inch sections, he won a well-earned place in agricultural history. Equally deserved is his legacy in business lore. Yurosek transformed an industry by addressing a common problem. Whereas most growers focused their energies on production excellence, Yurosek addressed another ingredient required for success: customer relevance.  Sadly he died of cancer in 2005.

bolthouse carrot bag - matchstix bolthouse carrot bag - chips bolthouse carrot bag - petites

The Baby Carrot industry has been successfully rejuvenated in 2010 by the introduction of "Eat'em Like Junk Food" campaign, following the recent trend of fast food outlets trying to gain new customers by extolling the virtues of the healthiness of their offerings. Read more here.

Here's what Grimmways say about their baby carrots -

Are baby carrots grown to be so small, or are they just regular carrots that have been cut to size?

Baby carrots begin as full-size, long and slender carrots. The variety that we use for our fresh, peeled baby carrots is a hybrid that combines the best qualities of more than 250 known commercial carrot varieties. Because taste is very important to us, we allow the carrot to grow almost to its full maturity before harvesting. Prior to selecting which carrots will become baby carrots, we eliminate any that are greater than 7/8-inch in diameter. The smaller carrots are then cut into two- inch pieces, peeled, polished and packaged. We use no food additives or preservatives in this process.

What is the shelf life of your peeled baby carrots?

If the carrots are stored at 33 to 40 degrees, they should maintain fresh for four to five weeks.

What causes the white coating on carrots?

Dehydration causes a white coating on carrots. When carrots are peeled, they lose some of their natural moisture barrier, begin to dehydrate and may eventually develop a white color on the carrot surface. We use no chemicals or additives that would cause the white surface. Often, you can restore that “just-picked” color and freshness by soaking the carrots in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes before serving.

How are peeled baby carrots processed?

We create our fresh, peeled baby carrots by first cutting the carrots into two- inch segments. After inspection and grading for defects and size, the carrots are peeled and polished. This mechanical process uses no chemicals, food additives or preservatives.

The carrots are then washed in water that is treated with a small amount of chlorine, then soaked and rinsed with potable water before being packaged. Baby carrots, like bagged salad mixes and other “ready to eat” fresh vegetables, are rinsed in this diluted chlorine solution to inhibit bacterial growth that naturally occurs in water. Carrots are then hydro-cooled to 34 degrees. Just prior to packaging, we inject less than half-an-ounce of water into the bag to help keep the carrots moist.

Can I freeze the carrots?

We don’t recommend freezing them. If you do, blanch the carrots first. Otherwise, they will turn mushy when they are thawed.

Can I use the carrots after the “best if used by date?”

We don’t recommend it. If the carrots are still firm and crisp, you can use them for up to two weeks after the date on the bag. However, if they have become slimy, mushy, black, or have an off odor, you should not use the carrots.

Do you use any GMO’s?

We do not use any genetically modified organisms.

Do I need to wash and peel the carrots?

The specialty cut carrots (baby, chips, shredded, etc.) are pre-washed and “ready-to-eat” directly from the bag. We do recommend that you wash whole carrots. Peeling is personal preference.

Where are Grimmway carrots grown?

Most of our carrots are grown in California. However, we do have some fields in Colorado.

What is the difference between organic and conventional carrots?

Organic carrots are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. In addition, organic fields must be free from the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers for three years before being considered organic. Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards that have been set by certifying agencies.

- See more at:

Why is one little carrot so important?

Some children refuse to eat vegetables and many won’t touch a carrot unless it can be used as a sword during playtime. Sometimes it can feel like it’s just not worth the bother to try and feed them vegetables at every meal. But according to the World Health Organization, eating vegetables like carrots can help prevent blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency.

organic carrots bagVitamin A deficiency partially or totally blinds nearly 350,000 children from more than 75 countries every year. Roughly 60 percent of these children die within months of going blind. However, vitamin A deficiency is preventable. One cooked carrot has approximately 150% of the Recommended Daily Amount of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A helps to prevent night blindness, dry skin, poor bone growth, weak tooth enamel, diarrhoea and slow growth.

The greatest health benefits come from eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The American Institute for Cancer Research has estimated that a diet high in a variety of fruits and vegetables may prevent 20 to 33 percent of lung cancers.
The carotenoids found in greens, broccoli and spinach may help protect against other cancers. Eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables supplies a whole range of nutrients, which provide the kind of protection originally attributed to betacarotene alone. Unfortunately, most children are not interested in cancer and disease prevention so it is parents who have to resort to sneaking nutrition in the foods kids love. And the Baby Carrot plays it part.

Over 40 brands are sold, marketed under such names as Premier and Bunny-Luv,  and more modern names to reflect what the consumer wants, like Prime Cut, Sweet Cuts and Morecuts.  The market now also covers things such as baby-cut but also sticks, chips, dipping packages, shredded carrots and juice.

The Future

Researchers are always looking for ways to spice up the carrot. Producers want to darken the colour of carrots, not just for aesthetics but also because the deeper orange signals more beta-carotene, an antioxidant that serves as one of the best sources of vitamin A, for which carrots are renowned.  Scientists are pushing has pushed the colour curve - producing white, red and purple carrots that are actually the colours of the roots were originally grown 1,000 years ago. The rainbow colours give growers still more marketing options - especially for kids, who seem drawn to items that look like someone was having fun with crayons - and could even be mixed together in a variety pack. Look for a Rainbow Pack at a store near you!

Eat 'em Like Junk Food Campaign

In  2009, after a decade of steady growth, Bolthouse's carrot sales went flat. Sales of baby carrots, the company's cash carrot, actually fell, sharply, and stayed down. Nobody knew why. This was a big problem. After a series of focus groups and surveys something interesting was discovered. People said they were eating as many carrots as they always had. But the numbers clearly showed they were buying fewer. What people meant, it turned out, was they were as likely as ever to keep carrots in the fridge. When the recession hit, though, they became more likely to buy regular carrots, instead of baby carrots, to save money. But people used to eating baby carrots weren't taking the time to wash and cut the regular ones. And unlike baby carrots, which dry out pretty quickly once a bag is opened, regular carrots keep a long time. So people were buying regular carrots and then not eating them, and not buying more until the carrots they had were finally gone or spoiled.

eat them like junk food baby carrot campaign

Bolthouse had never marketed its baby carrots. It just sent truckloads to supermarkets, where they got piled up in the produce aisle. A new advertising campaign was needed.

The concept was "To have a great advertising idea, you have to get at the truth of the product. The truth about baby carrots is they possess many of the defining characteristics of our favourite junk food. They're neon orange, they're crunchy, they're dippable, they're kind of addictive - They're just cool and part of your life. If Doritos can sell cheeseburger-flavoured Doritos, we can sell baby carrots."  A new jazzy packaging portfolio was created, aimed primarily at junk food addicts and it soon became a roaring success.

(The above information is taken from a more detailed piece by Douglas McGray writing for the Fast Company - read the full article )

$25m campaign to Get Kids to Eat Carrots by branding them like junk food - According to USA Today, a group of producers will unveil a sophisticated media campaign designed to drive a wedge between the munching public and our snack foods, a wedge in the shape of a carrot. This campaign will include repackaging carrots for school vending machines in bags that resemble Doritos (both orange, little-finger size, crunchy, so consumers probably won't even notice the difference, right?) (Left, Halloween "Scarrots" 2010).

vending machine baby carrot bags

A few words of warning,  and the viable alternatives - Citrox and O3

Baby carrots are not as nutritious as full whole carrots, because a lot of the goodness in carrots is contained in the skin and just below it. This is removed in the baby carrot making process.

After harvesting, the carrots are mainly washed in chlorinated water, just like our drinking water, and cleanBaby Carrots Vending Machine 2010ed to remove dirt and mud. Some finished baby carrots are washed, or dipped, by a further chlorine solution to prevent white blushing once in the store.  There is no evidence that this is harmful, but it is worth knowing about!.  The truth is that baby carrots are no different from packaged lettuce or any other prepared produce -- like bagged lettuce—you find in the grocery store.

However organic growers use a citrus based non toxic solution called Citrox (The ProGarda™), the natural alternative to synthetic biocides for the decontamination of fresh produce, food and beverages. Citrox technology incorporates a truly holistic approach designed to increase the effectiveness and profitability of food and beverage production processes.  A brief overview of this product here.

All Citrox products are made from natural extracts or naturally derived compounds. Some of them are permitted for use in organic production (e.g.: fruit & vegetable decontaminant) or certified organic (e.g.: pre-harvest treatment products). All the Citrox derivatives are completely non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-corrosive, and non-tainting in use. They can actually be added to foodstuffs. They are formed by the bioflavonoid extracts and a range of completely natural organic acids, this combination having highly synergistic effects in all their many applications. The ProGarda™ decontaminant range has been specifically formulated for the decontamination of fruits and vegetables. These products are viable alternatives to the use of chlorine (or other compounds or systems) for decontaminating fresh fruits and vegetables.

O3 - another "safe wash" product. They use a product called O3. One Polish farmer, In respect of carrots, said that after the washing and peeling is done, you can spray the produce with the O3, to get rid of any bacteria or pests. The great thing about this is that it's 100 percent natural. A brief overview of the O3 product here.

Ozone (O3) is an unstable and highly reactive form of oxygen due to its extra oxygen molecule. It naturally tends to seek its normal, stable state, and in the process works extremely quickly destroy micro-organisms and disinfect food products and surfaces that may otherwise lead to food poisoning and illnesses. Ozone readily decomposes into oxygen and leaves no harmful residues, by-products, tastes, or odours, and thus does not require a final rinse. It is US FDA approved for direct food contact and is the most effective and safest disinfectant available. More information here - Biotek Ozone - a division of BES Group


Review paper - Trends in Biosciences 8(16), Print : ISSN 0974-8, 4031-4047, 2015 Ozone Technology in Food Processing: A Review Vithu Praba et al)

Study - Effects of ozone treatment on postharvest carrot quality, Lauana Pellanda de Souza et al  (here) Science Direct LWT - Food Science and Technology, Available online 5 December 2017 -  Volume 90, April 2018, Pages 53-60

The Chlorine scare

According to Randy Worobo, an associate professor of food microbiology at Cornell University, you need not worry. As reported in Prevention magazine, he says carrots are not preserved in bleach but rinsed in a chlorine wash that's recommended by the FDA to kill bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. Most pre-cut produce, including frozen vegetables and fruit salad, is washed with this or similar sanitizers.

Baby Cut and Peeled Carrots are treated with chlorine. It is used as an anti-microbial treatment to control potential contamination in the finished product. Carrots that are treated with chlorine are subsequently soaked and rinsed with potable water to remove the excess chlorine before being packaged. 

Sanitizers that can be used to wash or to assist in lye peeling of fruits and vegetables are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in accordance with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Ch. 1, Section 173.315. 

Chlorine is routinely used as a sanitizer in wash, spray, and flume waters used in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. Anti-microbial activity depends on the amount of free available chlorine (as hypochlorous acid) in water that comes in contact with microbial cells. The effectiveness of chlorine in killing pathogenic micro organisms has been extensively studied." 

Fact Check-U.S. carrots are not ‘soaked’ in bleach, chlorpropham is never used -

What about that chlorine reference? Some carrots are washed with chlorinated water. This water must have a pH (acidity) between 6.0 and 7.0. The concentration of chlorine in the water should be between 100 and 150 ppm (parts per million). The time of contact between the carrots and the chlorinated water should not exceed 5 minutes. This must be removed from the carrots by rinsing with potable water or using a centrifugal drier. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the use of chlorine as a antimicrobial treatment is a current accepted practice in the processing for all fresh cut ready-to-eat vegetables.

This ‘Chlorine’ is most likely sodium hypochlorite also known as chlorine bleach. It is used as a disinfectant and antimicrobial in many industries. It is made by reacting a sodium hydroxide solution (also know as caustic soda or lye) with elemental chlorine gas. All of these chemicals are made from sodium chloride, also known as salt. Next time do some research look up cholera if you want a glimpse of what the world was like before the wide availability of chlorine disinfection!

Like other ready-to-eat fresh vegetables, baby-cut carrots are rinsed or sprayed with very diluted chlorine to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination, and then thoroughly washed and bagged. This process is approved by the FDA and accepted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, with strict rules for what concentration of chlorine can be used and how long the carrots can be exposed. Chlorine is similarly used as a disinfectant in public water supplies and sometimes in poultry processing. It is toxic at high concentrations, but there is no evidence that trace amounts left on food and in water are harmful to health.

Is this dangerous? Chlorination is a well-known and well-tested way to disinfect food products. Our tap water is chlorinated as well. When you disinfect something, that means that you kill the bacteria that are present. Chlorine kills bacteria. It can also kill us, or be very bad for us. The bleach you use to clean and disinfect your toilet, contains chlorine. Do not drink it. This will kill you because it is far more concentrated than we can safely ingest. The diluted chlorine in your tap water and in your baby-carrots, presents no proven danger whatsoever. It is precisely to make the carrots safe that the chlorine is used.

As a side-note, it is interesting to know that the term "chlorine" is something of a misnomer. Chlorine, in its natural state, is a highly reactive gas that forms compounds with other products. When chlorine is added to other products, it will react virtually immediately to form compounds such as hypochlorous acid (when chlorine is added to water) and sodium hypochlorite (when chlorine is added to a sodium hydroxide solution). These compounds in turn disinfect the water. When we talk about chlorine, and even about free chlorine, these compounds are usually what we are referring to.

Note: there are certain compounds of chlorine that do cause cancer. Does chlorine cause cancer? No. While medical science is not an exact science, and we must always be vigilant, there is at present no evidence whatsoever that chlorine causes cancer or could be a facilitator for cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have not classified chlorine as to its human carcinogenicity.

The solution used to wash carrots is NOT the same as in swimming pools.

More on White Blush

It is caused by drying of the damaged (peeled) tissue as the carrots are exposed to air. During storage air can dry out the surface of carrots due to lack of humidity. The carrots may also shrivel due to the lack of moisture. In contrast, whole carrots retain their protective peel, so it takes longer for this problem to occur in them.

It is simply the carrot drying out. Try it out for yourself. Take a fresh, normal carrot and cut it in half. Wait. The same white covering (which is officially called white blush) will appear on the cut. Baby carrots will show a lot more white blush for a very simple reason: their skin has been removed and therefore, the entire carrot dries out. Methods of inhibiting the formation of white blush discoloration on freshly processed carrots.

When many fruits (i.e., apples, pears, peaches, avocados, and bananas) and vegetables (i.e., beans, potatoes, mushrooms and many root crops) are bruised, or are cut, peeled, or processed in any other way that causes tissue injury, a black or brown discoloration appears at the site of the tissue injury within a few minutes due to enzymes of the melanosis reaction. This discoloration problem has been the subject of much study, because of its obvious economic importance to the food processing industry.

Unlike other fruit and vegetables as detailed above, carrots do not develop black or brown discolorations after suffering tissue injuries due to enzymes of the melanosis reaction. Consequently, the carrot is an ideal vegetable to process shortly after harvest into a form that is ready for consumption. Of the estimated 3 billion pounds of carrots that are marketed in the United States each year, approximately 20% are peeled soon after harvest to be sold as fresh miniature carrots, carrot sticks, carrot coins, carrot shreds, and other forms of fresh processed carrots.

Whole, unprocessed carrots may be stored under refrigeration for many weeks without significantly deteriorating. However, freshly processed carrots that have been in refrigerated storage for just a few days begin to develop a whitish, chalk-like appearance on their abraded surfaces. In the carrot processing industry, this whitish, chalk-like appearance is known as "white blush."

The rate at which white blush appears on processed carrots is a function of the physiological condition of the whole carrots prior to processing, the degree of abrasiveness that was present in the processing, the chemical treatments that were applied to the carrots, if any, and the humidity levels and the temperatures at which the carrots have been stored. For example, variations in the physiology of the whole, unprocessed carrots caused by different degrees of environmental stresses during the growing period, such as heat stress and drought stress, will result in variations in the onset of white blush formation under given storage conditions. Carrots that were grown in poorly irrigated fields tend to form white blush discoloration more rapidly, than do processed carrots that were grown in well irrigated fields.

White blush discolourisation is unsightly and unappetizing. As a result, consumers invariably associate white blush with distastefully old carrots, even though the taste and nutritional value of processed carrots are not affected by the appearance of white blush. This fact leads to significant commercial waste when processed carrots are pulled from the shelf due to the appearance of white blush even though taste and nutrition are not being effected.

To date, white blush has been controlled primarily by washing freshly processed carrots with chilled water, usually in a hydro cooler, followed by refrigeration and/or by packaging of the freshly processed carrots in specialised containers, including some that maintain modified atmospheres within the containers. Chlorine has also been added to the chilled water treatments for sanitation purposes, and primarily to control microbial bacteria growth on the processed carrots. However, depending upon the above variables, the onset of white blush may only be delayed for a few days. Therefore baby carrots tend to have a shorter shelf life.

Main data obtained from USDA Agricultural Research Service and FOAStat of the United Nations.

Also - Bringing Up Baby (Carrots) Author(s): tina peterson Source: Gastronomica , Vol. 8, No. 4 (Fall 2008), pp. 55-59

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