They are sweet, juicy and healthy but kiwi fruit have one obvious drawback when it comes to enticing children to eat them – a coarse skin that is tricky to peel.
Now that problem has been solved with a new smaller, smooth-skinned version that hits supermarket shelves this week and is being aimed at school lunchboxes.
The bite-sized variety of the fruit is the same size as a strawberry and can be popped in the mouth straight away without peeling.
They have been welcomed by dieticians as a way of encouraging children to eat more healthily.
Asda and Marks & Spencer are introducing the fruit after parents complained that kiwi fruits were too fiddly for children to eat.
The mini kiwis – dubbed ‘kiwees’ – are part of a trend for child-friendly, more convenient fruit. They follow baby pears and tangerines as fruits recently introduced to supermarket aisles.
Standard kiwi fruit have a hairy brown skin that has to be removed before eating, but the mini kiwis, which are generally green but can also turn red, have edible skins.
The baby kiwis – officially called Actinidia arguta – have not been genetically modified.
They were spotted growing wild in China in the 19th Century but were not popular because they were hard to pick and did not ripen consistently.
They also rotted quickly, which made them hard to transport. But scientists in New Zealand cross-bred the best specimens to produce plants with hardier and easier-to-harvest fruit.
Helen Lear, Asda’s fresh-produce buyer, said: ‘They’re packed with Vitamin C, they don’t need peeling and they’re bite-sized, which makes them perfect for healthy snacking.’
M&S fruit buyer Bill Davies said: ‘They look great, taste delicious and are good fun to eat as kids don’t need to worry about the usual furry skin – they can just enjoy them straight out of the box.’
Kiwis and ‘Kiwees’ are very high in antioxidants, Vitamins C, A and E, potassium and magnesium.
Bupa’s lead dietitian Christina Merryfield said: ‘Clearly, anything that gets families, and children in particular, more interested in fruit and veg is good.’
At Asda the baby kiwis will cost £2 for a 125g punnet of ten to 12 fruits. At M&S they are priced at £2.99 for a 150g pack of 16.
Growers say that for the best flavour they should be allowed to ripen at room temperature and eaten when the skin is very dark and slightly shrivelled.