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Independent magazine for the fruit and vegetable trade • Since 1986

FRUIT LOGISTICA 2019 English edition







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“As a sector, you want liberal global trade.” Mart Valstar, Best Freh Group

“Our people are our biggest asset.” Martin Scherpenhuizen, Scherpenhuizen


“Equal chances for colleagues and family members.” Maes Brothers, Special Fruit


“Our growers have a say in pricing.” Herwig Dejonghe



“Speed is the most important thing for fruit.” Yntze Buitenwerf, Seatrade



“Being distinctive by developing new consumer packaging.” Marcel den Hartog, NNZ

“We have to sell our organic produce where people go to buy it.” Rainer Carstens, Westhof Bio

“Challenge: showing consumers their way around mushrooms.” Stefan Wijns and Arie Verburg, Fresh Mushroom Europe

Inhaltssangabe Market for freshly cut herbs is growing Berto Levy


Potato industry opts for Western Europe Peter van Eerdt


Kenyan plantations: Tea and coffee make room for avocado


Social pressure for Fairtrade bananas increasing


The Greek fall: tradition, water and money


Greenstar and Arctic®: Two ways to a nonbrowning apple


European competition ruins Israeli bell pepper production


Drowning and getting up again, this defines our sector


Happy new year for plastics?


German wholesale markets have to reinvent themselves


New Silk Road: not (yet) for fresh produce?


Vitacress Real sees plenty of opportunities in the herb sector


We want to tackle challenges that come with a new market situation instead of avoiding the segment altogether Rick Marwitz


Cucumbers: challenge isn’t in plastic packaging, but in consumer communication 62

Fragmented sector ready for the future? Michiel F. van Ginkel, Royal ZON

Colophon AGF-PRIMEUR bv Stevinweg 2, 4691 SM Tholen The Netherlands Tel: +31 (0)166-698200 Fax: +31 (0)166-698219 info@agfprimeur.nl www.agfprimeur.nl

Publisher: Pieter Boekhout

Acquisition: Andries Gunter: andries@agfprimeur.nl

Editing: Jürgen Flügge, Izak Heijboer, Rudolf Mulderij, Thijmen Tiersma, Sharon de Ridder

Subscriptions: Sietse Hielkema Graphic Design: Martijn van Nijnatten

Das gesamte oder teilweise Kopieren van Inhalten ohne schriftliche Zustimmung des Herausgebers ist verboten. Die Redaktion übernimmt keine Verantwortung für eventuelle Unzulänglichkeiten.


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Quality Expertise Reliability

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Berto Levy:

"Market for freshly cut herbs is growing" Although basil has been at the top of the list of most sold herbs for years, more room is opened up to other herbs on the market. This was also noticed by Israeli company Gaia Herbs, which opened a sales office in the Netherlands last year. The company has a daily flight to Europe to supply fresh herbs.


o guarantee year-round supply, the company turns to Kenya in the summer months. “Israel has less production in summer,” Berto says. “We trade more from Kenya and Tanzania then. These are important countries to fill the gaps.” Besides, the company also trades herbs from Spain and Morocco. “We’re a company that operates internationally, so we have to be able to offer our customers a year-round supply.”

NEW MARKETS The company consists of two parts. The head office is in Israel, and they also have a sales office in the Netherlands. This Dutch office was founded last year and focuses on selling herbs, exotics and mushrooms in Europe. “We have a daily connection with the Netherlands for the fresh herbs. Because of this, we can supply fresh herbs every day,” Berto explains. At the Dutch office, Patrick Stoffels takes care of sales. “When you need something last minute, you have to call him, because he can take care of it,” Berto continues.

On the continent, the Netherlands, France, Swiss, Germany and the UK are the most important markets for the herbs. The company’s focus is on Western Europe, but “customers from Asia and the US are welcome.” The head office has more room to develop these markets now that the European market has its own sales office. Berto: “With the Israeli company, we can focus on markets in Asia and the US more.” PERMANENT AIRLINE Basil is the biggest product in the range, but the market for chives and mint is also rapidly growing. “The market for freshly cut herbs is growing. We’re seeing more and more users who want fresh herbs. The organic market is also growing, but the US is a good market for that category.” Besides the herbs, the company also exports exotic fruit of Israeli origin. Annually, between 170 and 180 tonnes of figs are exported, mostly to British supermarkets. Additionally, yellow courgettes, limequats and kumquats, passionfruit, Buddha’s hands and pitaya also have a place in the range.


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

Just as in other countries, the Israeli growers and traders are confronted with higher costs. “Costs are rising in all countries, and Israel is no exception. It’s not just the labour costs, transport costs are high as well,” Berto says. Gaia Herbs flies the herbs from Israel and Kenya to the Netherlands via a direct flight. “We only use air cargo for the export.” The office and warehouses in Israel are located at the airport. “Because of this we have complete control of each transport.” Although pressure for space in airplanes is increasing for other companies, Gaia Herbs isn’t facing this challenge. “We mostly work with a permanent cargo airline, and we have agreements for daily flights with an agreed upon amount of space in the aircraft.”  patrick@gaiaherbs.nl

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Kenyan plantations: Tea and coffee make room for avocado Mexico, Peru and Chile experienced a considerable increase in the export of avocado in recent years. A country reporting similarly impressive growth figures is Kenya. In 2017, 166 per cent more was exported than in 2013, amounting to 78,000 tonnes. Because of this, the export of the East African country increased faster in percentages than the export of Mexico in that same period. The government in Nairobi encourages the production and export. How large is production? How quickly is export increasing? What about worries about quality of European importers? We investigated. “This is a continuing process, but in the past ten years the sector experienced a rapid growth,” says Paul Kyalo, Operations Manager for BioFarms. Although there are differences in the avocado figures offered by databases, the trend is obvious: production and export from Kenya are growing. “Avo-

cado is an important commercial fruit that is mostly grown by small and mid-sized growers in Kenya,” Paul explains. “The biggest varieties we grow for export are Hass, Pinkerton and Fuerte.” Besides, Puebla, Duke and G6 are also grown. “The domestic market mostly asks for these varieties,”

Paul explains. “Hass and Fuerte are mostly grown for export.” Kenyans consume avocados as fruit, but also process them into juice or they use them as vegetables.

Because the season lasts from March until August, this is a gold mine for the Kenyan sector. Traditionally, supply is particularly difficult in Europe in the first few months of the Kenyan season. A short season follows in October and December. In that second part of the season, it’s mostly the western part of the country that’s on the market, in Nyanza and the Rif Valley. Surrounding countries, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi, have similar seasons, but Paul mentions that export from these countries isn’t very well developed yet.

Mango and passion fruit: other export opportunities Besides the green gold of the avocados, the yellow ochre of the mango export and the deep-purple and silver of the passion fruit export are also glistening. Just like avocados, the growers and exporters of this East African country have discovered these fruits. “The mango production is increasing due to rising demand from the fresh market, the processing industry and the health trend,” Paul explains. The Kenyan company mostly grows Apple, Ngowe, Kent and Tommy Atkins. In 2016, mango was grown on 49,098 hectares in Kenya, with an average yield of 779,147 tonnes per hectare. This production therefore represented 11.89 billion Kenyan shilling (about 100 million euro), compared to 12.2 billion Kenyan shilling (about 105 million euro) earned a year earlier by selling 806,575 tonnes of mango. “The decrease can be explained due to the shortage of rain in 2016. The mango production is mostly dependent on rain before irrigation.” The most important production regions can be found in Makueni, Mchakos, Kilifi and Kwale, which represent 30, 23, 16 and 8 per cent of the total Kenyan mango production in


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

total, respectively. “The biggest challenges in the production of mango are fruit flies, rust and disease-free plants.” Passion fruit is a second product with much commercial potential, considering demand for both the fresh product and juice surpassing domestic production, according to Paul. In 2016, the economic value of the of passion fruit amounted to 1.64 billion Kenyan shilling (about 14 million euro). This fruit therefore had a share of 2.54 per cent in the total value of the fruit production. The sector reported a growth of 35 per cent. The area also increased by 14 per cent, to 3,175 hectares and a production of 42,210 tonnes (+39%). “The production of passion fruit is faced with some challenges,” Paul says. “Including the increasing number of reports of fusarium wilt, dieback and woodiness virus.” The production is concentrated in the regions of Embu (22% of production), Kwale (17%), Elgeyo Marakwet (11%) and Nyeri (8%), according to figures of the Horticulture Crop Directorate of Kenya.

Avocado Avocado Kenya total in tonsin Keniaexport totaleinavocado-export



51507 46682

















FUERTE FOR RUSSIA, HASS FOR EUROPE According to figures from the Kenyan Horticulture Crop Directorate, the export of avocados contributed 4.63 billion Kenyan shilling (about 40 million euro) to the export of fruit in 2016. As a result, the avocados were good for eight per cent of the export value, and a growth of 4.2 per cent was reported compared to 2015. “The growth is attributed to the higher prices on the global market and the opening of the Russian market,” Paul explains the figures. Russia also turns out to be a good market for the Fuerte avocado, which is less popular in Europe. This growth can also be seen in export figures of the Trade Map. In 2010, 20,183 tonnes of avocados were exported by Kenya, but in 2017 they exported 51,507 tonnes. Export increased every year in that seven-year period. The area rose from 12,383 hectares in 2015 to 13,017 hectares in 2016, an increase of 6.1 per cent, according to the Horticulture Crop Directorate. New plants outside of traditional production regions in the Rif Valley contributed to the increase. Production rose from 230,984 tonnes to 246,057 tonnes in 2016, which amounts to an increase of 6.6 per cent. The majority of the production can be found in the Murang’a region, which is good for 53 per cent of the production. This is followed by Kisii (11%), Kiambu (9%) and Nuamira (4%). THOUSANDS OF SMALL GROWERS The government encourages companies to invest in the production of avocados, but there are more arguments, according to Paul: “The growing market on the side of demand and the favourable production circumstances in Kenya.” The Kenyan company also saw their area increasing. “Our company became operational with our own production in August of 2014,” Paul says. “We also work with growers and cooperatives based on contracts, and we support 8

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019





them with a stable and sustainable market, technical support, training to increase quality and quantity and a platform with a broad range of services from governments and other parties.”

Biofarms Limited is a mid-sized production and export company for Kenyan fruit. The company is specialised in the export of conventional and organic avocados, conventional mangoes and passion fruit. BioFarms recently received the European organic certificate for the avocados. “That’s a major achievement because of large demand for organic avocados in Europe.” The company currently has an area of about 180 hectares of avocados and 80 hectares of mangoes. This area grows every year. AVOCADO SPREADS UNCHECKED ACROSS EAST AFRICA Besides their own production, the company also exports the production of about 5,000 growers from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. “We mostly work with avocado growers in these countries. For the mangoes we only cooperate with Kenyan growers.” The majority of the growers, about 80 percent, is located in Kenya. The remaining 20 per cent is equally divided across the three other countries.

“We continue to expand our production region by working with other growers, firstly in Kenya, but also in other East African countries. The quality of the fruit provides us with chances on the European market,” Paul continues. About 200 containers are currently transported to Europe per week, both via air and sea cargo. “Our logistics are coordinated well from grower to final customer to guarantee freshness and quality of the fruit.” DEPOT NAIROBI To safeguard the quality of the products, an extensive structure has been set up to

support the growers with, for instance, knowledge. “We offer technical support by visiting the growers every two weeks, and we transport the harvest in refrigerated lorries,” Paul explains. “Our growers are GlobalGAP certified, and we conduct unannounced audits.”

The avocados are transported, using refrigerated lorries, from the growers to Nairobi, where the fruit is sorted and packed. “That’s challenging, but the transport sector in Kenya is rapidly developing. We work with good logistical partners.” The avocados are flown or sailed from the Kenyan capital to their destinations. “We work with a number of renowned shipping companies and forwarders.” QUALITY INSPECTION BEFORE EXPORT The company exports to Europe, Russia, China and the Middle East. Complaints of European importers regarding the quality of the fruit have been taken care of. “The export process has been strictly regulated by the Horticulture Crop Directorate in cooperation with interested parties to guarantee the harvest and export of ripened and good fruit.” The oil content and dry matter are controlled at various times. “The situation is under control.”

“It’s true the production of avocado is increasingly rapidly in Kenya,” Paul confirms the more general trend. “A number of growers is switching from traditionally profitable crops such as tea and coffee to avocados.” That trend is inspired by the good profits made as a result of the growing export markets. “The Kenyan government supports this and invests in a growing awareness and support of the growers and the private sector to increase export.” As of 2010, the national and local governments have dedicated themselves to supporting the growers. Besides, public bodies, the Horticulture Crop Directorate and Kenyan Plant Health Inspectorate Service work together to implement international standards in order to increase competitiveness of growers on the international market (RM)  paulk@biofarms.co.ke

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Martin Scherpenhuizen:

“Our people are our biggest asset” For Martin Scherpenhuizen, the name ‘cowboy of the sector’ is a proud nickname. “I hope we’ve still got it in us,” he says. In the past 20 years, the company grew rapidly, and a new building was taken into use last year. We look back on the first year in one of the most sustainable buildings in the Netherlands. Martin thinks it’s important to be good to his people, he’s investing in that. Besides, it’s his personal mission to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables..


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

You moved into the new building more than a year ago. How do you look back on the past year? “The beginning was troubling, that was a disappointment to me. You practically arrive in paradise, in the new, sustainable building with the right incidence of light, a good climate and everything is beautiful as it is. The first few weeks went fine, but early on in the season we started noticing it wasn’t all as it appeared. Walking and driving distances, for example, are twice as long, meaning the batteries of the electric cars were drained earlier. The people also had to get used to the changes. We had a few minor initial problems, and it’s tough when that occurs just as you’re headed into the season. The completion of the building was delayed, which was partly the cause, and we were closer to the season when we finally took it into use. This was soon followed by Easter, when a lot of Polish workers want to go home, so everything came at once.” “It started going well just before the summer holidays, and people were starting to feel the processes better. I’ve been satisfied with how things are ever since, and also with how we did in the first few months. We have a number of workers who have been with us since we had just 30 employees. They’ve experienced various moves over the years, and the management structure changes with each move. We had a turning point in 1997, with the founding of VDN, now Van Nature, and we also started using backward cooperation then. Since then, we grew by 10 to 20 per cent every year. A company with 30 people is very different from one with 100 people and even 500 people. More attention has to be paid to processes. We now have six members of the board and a layer of middle management.” How do you make sure your workers remain involved? “We’re a family company, that’s our strength. It’s not about the

nuts or bolts, but about the people making it possible. For us, that’s a proper core value for a family company. It’s very important that even when you’re growing you first make sure you’re not doing it for yourself, but for the customer and the grower.”

How do you do that concretely? “By consistently putting people on the agenda for every meeting. I think it’s important to know what people are thinking. Do they understand what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it? During the season from April to October that might not always go quite well, but we spend more time on that between October and March. We have to use that time. When your company doubles its turnover every five years, the company enters into a new phase. That has consequences for the people who work there. Considering the pressure on the labour market, it’s definitely important to take care of your people, and that will only become more important.” You had the image of being the cowboys of the sector, is anything left of that reputation? “I hope so. That’s a reputation you hope sticks with you forever. A cowboy initiates, sees opportunities, and makes the most of these, he’s a self-willed entrepreneur with a free spirit. We’re now large enough to do things differently. Looking just at all of the certificates and transparency, towards the growers as well, that we’ve attained, it requires a solid approach. I hope it will always be a part of us. You can also recognise it with other companies that we do business with. Not everyone has the same style, but that’s good.”

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How do you as exporter look at Brexit? “I think it’ll have a neutral effect for us as a company in the short term. As a major export company, we have an AEO-certificate, and we have experience with Customs formalities. That’s

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


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why I think we’re better equipped than anyone else to organise this. Besides, the British will always need food. In the long term, it won’t be good for the enterprise that is the Netherlands. It encourages the British to produce their own goods, and their chauvinism is considerable. Local-for-local, which is also a hot topic in Germany, will be reinforced once Brexit happens. After a hard Brexit, we’ll all fall into the swamp, but we’re capable of finding our way in that swamp. I’m not worried for our own competitive position, or that it’ll damage our position on the market, but it won’t be good for Dutch horticulture, and we’ll suffer as a result.”

Is local-for-local a trend that will continue, in other European countries as well? “As long as there’s consumer demand for it, the trend will continue. The only thing is that you can see it’s difficult for large supermarkets to join in on the trend,

because local volumes are too small. Local production isn’t just generated overnight. The Dutch have greenhouses, and product will therefore find its way to large European supermarkets. There will always be an imbalance between supply and demand. I also wonder how consumers will respond to price differences. I once heard German vine tomatoes have a cost price of one euro per kilo, while this is between 60 and 70 cents per kilo for Dutch vine tomatoes. I wonder what’ll happen to the expansion of local-for-local if prices for Dutch tomatoes become considerably lower due to market circumstances.” “Dutch horticulture won’t disappear either. We’re frontrunners when it comes to new techniques. Just look at the projects with total energy plants, geothermal energy and the exchange of knowledge among companies. That won’t just disappear. It could be that Dutch growers also start going abroad, of course. Example of this can already be

found. In the Netherlands, we have a culture of always getting things done.”

Your assortment became more extensive in recent years, what is your specialism? “We’re big in traditional Dutch greenhouse vegetables: tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber and aubergines. Additionally, we’re also showing a considerable growth in top fruit, particularly in pears. Outdoor vegetables are also doing better now, and we started with overseas import. Supermarkets are centralising their purchases at total suppliers more and more. In the past, we thought we had to be able to supply year-round, and that we had to take care of Spanish product as well. But European supermarkets have been going to Spain themselves to buy products for years now. Retail bundles its flows more and more. We’re a supplier for the Netherlands, supermarkets do all of their Dutch product via us. This includes import more and more, because a lot enters Europe via Rotterdam. We also do mango, AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



avocado, grapes, lemons and melons, for instance.”

Do you do your own importing? “We do Dutch products to begin with. The overseas products were added to that, in part to bridge the winter months. In other countries, just like in the Netherlands, you can see growers bundling their sales, or major growers doing their own exporting. The issues for fresh markets aren’t that different from those for Dutch product. Growers are looking for the shortest line towards end customers and transparency regarding costs and prices just as much.” Do you only import on customer demand or are you also actively looking for new products? “It’s a combination. We’re guided by our customers’ demand, but we also take initiative when we see a chance. That’s often how things happen. Early last year, we did the 14

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complete overseas programme of a European discounter for a few weeks. That meant 70 to 80 containers arriving per day. That went well. We’re also approached by parties looking for sales abroad. That’s what it means to be an entrepreneur. It all starts with seeing a chance.”

Why isn’t Scherpenhuizen located in a trade centre? “We used to be located at Veiling Veldhoven, but it has absolutely no added value for us to be located in a trade centre. All lines are direct nowadays. The auction was a way to gather all products, but that’s no longer the case. Commercial establishments now have more of a cross-docking function, and not so much an order-picking function anymore. A lot more full pallets are now done, and when transport can be done directly, that’s what you choose to do. We only drive with full lorries, and Eindhoven is the best option in that case, logistically: it’s close to

Aachen/Maastricht, Arnhem and Antwerp. The Eindhoven - Tilburg - Breda line is in my opinion the ideal location, logistically, for cross-docking.” Are you often affected by tailbacks? “Without a doubt. Roads are busier particularly between Eindhoven and Tilburg, but it’s not a major problem. It’s a bit more difficult. It’s fine when we drive at different times. But we’re also very capable of organising this well.”

How are logistics organised? “We own 25 lorries, and that number will be increased slightly. Besides, we work with permanent transporters whom we hire based on full cars. Because of this, we’re in charge of everything, and we know which customer is loaded into which car and where that cargo is at any specific time. It doesn’t matter who owns the lorry, but because of the large scale we have full cars,

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and we can coordinate the transport and decide the route ourselves. Volume is very important for efficiency. Our packing station is an important added value. It requires a lot of custom work for customers.”

The new building was sustainably built. Is that paying for itself? “Not directly. Customers don’t pay more because our building is sustainable. We invest in sustainability because we personally believe in that, and it’s for the people. The additional costs pay for themselves in appearance and job satisfaction. It is good for appearance and confidence. Customers can see we’re working sustainably with the environment and our surroundings. We’re now also sponsoring local sports club, which also shows that. The most important aspect is how we manage our people. The people have to feel happy when at work. We planted a garden for the company, so it looks nice in spring and summer. It’s a completely different experience, and people can take their breaks outside. You have to find a balance between doing business sustainably and the costs.” How do you deal with scarcity on the labour market? “It’s a difficult market, but we managed 16

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

to hire more people. We’re also managing to find more people for transport. The HR manager sits in on management meetings. When I hear how we manage to fill this many vacancies, it’s astounding. We’re even getting calls from drivers who saw our building or our lorries and ask if we have jobs for them. I think that’s because of the company’s appearance. I always say it isn’t the wheels and stones that make a company, but apparently these still radiate something of the people who work for us.” It’s also becoming more and more difficult to find seasonal workers, how are you dealing with that? “The disadvantage of this region is that the municipality is not doing its best in providing housing for these people, even though they need it. That’s why we personally invest in accommodation, we house them in good houses for four to six people. That’s important, because you can only get the best people if they’re also happy outside of their job. The flow of migrant workers is getting smaller, so you have to invest to keep up quality and flexibility. We’re looking for accommodation within a radius of five kilometres around the company, so that they can cycle to work.”

Who from the sector has been an example to you? “My father, who founded the company in 1973. But also the icons from the past, from the auctions. I was personally part of the auctions in Veldhoven and Breda. Huub van der Staak worked in Veldhoven, for instance, he was an icon in those days. When he pressed the button, the entire auction bench would shake. Teus den Hollander and Cor van der Spijk are also true traders of those days. Since 1997, after VDN was founded, commercial enterprises now exchange knowledge much more often, and we learned a lot from each other. Nowadays there are a number of prominent growers and growers’ associations that enter the market from a certain approach.” What is the biggest challenge for the sector? “Increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables, that’s my personal challenge as well. Bringing healthy products to attention, like we do with meal kits, for example. We’re also responding to that with our fresh kits, which we supply with herbs and sauces in addition to the fruit and vegetables. Our curry madras kit includes about eight ingredients, and 1,200 grammes of product in total. Consumers don’t have to



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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


do a lot, it can be eaten in about 15 to 20 minutes. I hope we can continue expanding this range, and that we can encourage more people to do their own cooking.”

“Fresh kits are now still a service article, because it’s difficult to make it profitable, but it offers a lot of potential for the future. I read in an article that the market share of meal boxes is under pressure because of the soup and meal kits. The pea soup kit is a frontrunner in this category. The meals actually taste good, and they’re easy to prepare.”

It’s not an option to automate these kits? “If it can be automated, it should be automated, but it’s too much manual labour for the fresh kits. The kits are never completely the same, and we have about ten different kits in our range. Ten more kits will be added to that this year. The market has a lot of ups and downs. Nothing is as fickle as the orders for the fresh kits. When the weath-

er’s cold the pea soup kits do well, but these do less well when the weather’s warmer. That cannot be automated. We have the largest, independent packing station in the Netherlands, so if anyone could do it, it would be us. The ingredients in the kits are as fresh as possible, because they come

directly from the growers. Freshness is crucial. A kit with bad product kills a young category.” (RM) 


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



The Greek fall: tradition, water and money

The days when Greece filled headlines and the news in Europe are in the past. Last summer, the country was disconnected from the financial drip. After 275 billion in emergency loans, Greece is now standing on its own two feet again, but how steady are they? And how is the Greek fresh produce sector doing?We traveled to Greece to find an answer to these questions. Two products, grapes and citrus, appear to exemplify the situation.. Unemployment is still high. In October, the Hellenic Statistical Authority published the latest figures: in July 2017, unemployment was at 19 per cent. That figure has been decreasing since the peak of 27.9 per cent unemployment in 2013, but Greece is still at the top of the list of countries with high unemployment in the EU. Highest unemployment is among young people. In the age category of 15 to 24, 37.9 per cent is unemployed. The decrease of the minimum wage to 500 euro, a measure the government hoped would employ more Greek people, didn’t have the desired effect.

A large part of the young generation crosses the border to find work elsewhere in Europe. According to estimates, 500,000 Greeks in their 20s and 30s have left in recent years. The majority of these emigrants found work in other EU countries. For the Greek economy, this brain drain is 20

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

an obstacle on the road to recovery. Particularly considering only a small percentage of the Greek expats says they want to return home in the short term. During the years of crisis, the tax system was considerably changed. The higher taxes and levies have resulted in an additional debit for the Greek companies. Traders are dissatisfied with the higher taxes, which caused margins to come under pressure. Because of this, there’s hardly any money left for investing, and there’s no room to raise prices. However, these stricter rules also have a benefit. Companies that never used to play by the rules and therefore disrupted the market, are now going bust because tax authorities are putting more work into inspections, and the black market has become less accessible. Healthy companies have seen their market share growing because of this.

FRAGMENTED AREA Greek growers appear to stuck in a triple trap: tradition, water and money. This can mostly be seen in the citrus sector. In the Nafplio region, about 90 minutes from Athens by car, a lot of citrus trees have been planted. Mostly oranges are grown here, which is the result of government subsidies in the 1990s. The government in Athens then subsidised the planting of orange trees, particularly Navels. Nowadays, more new varieties are available, but these won’t be found in Greece. Why are no investments in new varieties made? The answer: tradition. When the owner of a citrus plantation dies, that plantation is divided among the heirs. This is why the citrus production is as fragmented as it is, and why practically everyone in the region can call themselves a citrus grower. The areas vary from several hundred square metres to some hectares per grower. For most of the Greeks, the production of citrus is done on the side. Something similar can be seen in the production of tangerines. These areas are also fragmented, and mostly old varieties are grown. Clementines and Novas are the varieties found most often. Small growers are often lacking in financial means to invest in new varieties. For the export, the Greek are dependent on Eastern European coun-


Yiannis Kanakis, IFG, on a demonstration field. The company promotes the late grape varieties

tries, where these varieties still have a market. Western Europe is out of reach for the export of citrus. Spanish competition from new varieties such as Nadercott and Orri completely puts the Greek out of action.

It’s difficult to professionalise the production. When purchasing land, traditions and emotions also play their parts. For a lot of Greeks, the emotional value of a piece of land that has been in the family for generations is higher than the 20,000 euro a hectare should cost around Nafplio.

MOUNTAIN RANGE SPLITS GREECE IN TWO Climatologically, the region should also be suitable for the lucrative production of avocados. “We don’t have a lot of pressure from diseases, and Crete’s climate should allow for the production of avocados,” says Thanos Bobos of Argeas Fruits. “Traditions are the biggest problem. You have to change the mindset of the growers.” He uses the production of potatoes, which involves a myth, as an example. Long ago, when the Greek government wanted to introduce the potato production, the seed potatoes were handed out for free. However, the Greek growers weren’t interested in these, and so a trick

was devised. Soldiers were sent to guard the seed potatoes. The sentiment suddenly changed and all growers became interested in the seed potatoes, because if it’s being guarded by soldiers, it must be valuable.

Greece is divided practically in two by a mountain range. The western half gets plenty of rain, but because the rain remains on one side of the mountains, the eastern half is much drier. The advantage in the eastern half: pressure from diseases is low. The disadvantage: water supply is expensive. The opposite is true for the western half. There’s plenty of water, but quality problems occur more often due to the higher humidity. LATE VARIETIES SAVING GRAPE PRODUCTION The grape growers are succeeding where the citrus production is failing. Years ago, the growers chose the seedless Thompson variety. A bull’s-eye. With this variety, the Greek could be distinctive. Competition from Spain has now increased, but Western Europe still has a market for Greek grapes. Under pressure from increasing Spanish competition, particularly in the months of August and September, the Greeks will

Strawberries for distant destinations are a good market, but ask for adjustments from the breeder


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

George Saliaris-Fasseas, Griechische Traubenfirma (left) sieht viele Möglichkeiten für späte Rebsorten

have to come up with a trick to maintain their position. “Greece is in danger of losing its competitive position, And growers unfortunately lack the weapons to be more competitive,” says Yiannis Kanakis, regional manager Greece and Turkey for IFG. “Greece is known for its seedless, white grapes, we have to focus on that.” Although the area per grower is small, they do have room to invest in new varieties. The results of recent years also show growers the necessity to invest in the production. Not just in new varieties, but also in sheltered production. “It was the worst season ever,” George Saliaris-Fasseas of the Greek Grape Company says about last summer. “In July we had 15 days of rain in a row, and mould found fertile ground. It remained humid and warm after this, and this caused mildew to become a problem.”

Focus is firstly on an extension of the European grape season. With late varieties such as Sugar Crisp, Sweet Globe, Jack Salute and Sweet Celebration, the Greeks want to meet the Spanish season, which finishes mid-October. The Greeks want their harvest to peak in the last three months of the year, when the European grapes leave the

Nick: "Asian consumers want good and sweet quality, The market is completely different. "

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Sorting and packaging is still manual in many Greek packages. Mitrosilis invested in an optical sorting line for kiwis.

market and overseas grapes are just getting started. “Greece has the potential to be the final European producer in the season,” George explains.

STAGNATION AND PROGRESS This requires a considerable investment in new varieties and covers for the vines. In spring and summer, hail nets are necessary, and from August a plastic cover would protect the vines from rain damages. The first vineyards have now been planted. George

also expects to harvest the first commercial volumes next year. “We’ve planted all kinds of late varieties,” he continues. He chose the white varieties Sweet Globe and Sugar Crisp. Besides, the red varieties Sweet Celebration and Jack Salute were also planted. The grape area is also fragmented among a large number of small growers. For the breeding stations of grapes, Greece was therefore not an interesting market for a long time. That changed some years ago,


when IGF, among others, opened an office in the country. The major difference between grape and citrus growers is how the past is reverberating in the present. The grape growers made a name for themselves by being one of the first to market Thompson seedless. The citrus growers were stuck on older varieties and lost market share as a result. Opportunities for kiwi fruit and strawberry Besides grapes, other products can also be

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

Within the growing food cluster, North Sea Port is continuously looking for companies that can provide added value. They create unique winning combinations. Several fast container services call at the port to pick up cargo from various companies. Just like AGF. In addition, there is a special shuttle train serving the European hinterland. You can literally piggyback on the success of other companies in the port. This offers advantages for everyone. North Sea Port, a merger between Zeeland Seaports and Port of Ghent.

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Kiwis are one of the products where the Greeks stand out

The boxes of kiwis are automatically tipped, before they get into the sorting machine

The cultivation of citrus fruits in Greece is too fragmented to be competitive

Nick Nafpliotis from Greek & Fresh travels the world promoting Greek products

mentioned that the Greek can use to conquer a good position on the global market. Kiwi fruit is one example. Greece is in the top three of largest producers globally, not counting China, which produces practically exclusively for the domestic market. In 2017, Greece exported 129,527 tonnes of kiwi fruit. Italy, Spain and Germany are the top three destinations, combined these are good for 52,461 tonnes.

Export company Mitrosilis, among others, added kiwi fruit to its assortment last year. The company expects to export 2,000 kilos of kiwi fruit more than last year. “The kiwi fruit production is becoming increasingly important for Greek growers,” says Nikos Katsaloulis of Mitrosilis. “Growers see the opportunities offered by this market.” The Greek kiwi fruit is exported globally. The list of export countries includes, among others, the US, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the EU.

Nick Nafpliotis of Greek & Fresh sees opportunities for the strawberries. He facilitates the export to, among other destinations, Asia and the Middle East, two markets with a lot of potential. “Consumption is increasing there, and everyone is throwing them-

selves at that market. We saw a demand for strawberries.” The Greek strawberries are cheaper than the Korean and American strawberries available in Asia, so that there’s a market for this fruit. The Greek government is still negotiating with Chinese authorities regarding market access for strawberries. This process usually takes several years. GROWING WHAT THE MARKET ASKS FOR He warns exporters who think this is an easy market. Export to far-off destinations requires an investment. “Fairs have to be visited three or four times, visiting just twice won’t be enough,” he says. “Asian consumers want a good and sweet flavour, the market is completely different,” Nick knows. “In the west, we consume fruit because we want to. In the east, fruit can also be a gift or an offering. It’s important to know this before your start exporting fruit.” The strawberries are therefore not exported in 500-gramme punnets, for example, which are common in Europe.

improvements in the trade and investment climate on a political level, but the role of the victim doesn’t suit the Greek fresh produce sector. The examples of grapes, kiwi fruit and strawberries show there’s room for Greek products on the global market, even though it requires a change in the grower’s mentality. More should be produced because the market asks for it, and investments should be adjusted to that. That’s where the opportunities can be found. (RM)  ykanakis@ifg.world g@ggc.gr nick@nafpliotisgroup.gr

Despite careful growth figures reported by the country, the aftereffects of the crisis will still be felt in the Greek economy in the next few years. There’s still a lot of room for AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



The desert will bloom

Rise of web shops forces up prices of air transport

European competition ruins Israeli bell pepper production Israel is a country of extremes. Bell peppers are grown in the Arava desert, which is dry as dust. Annually, 30 millimetres of precipitation falls in the desert. Agriculturalists are also setting the bar high. That doesn’t mean the sector conquered all challenges. For growers, the challenge is the country’s export position. For agriculturalists, the illegal production of patented varieties is a worry.

Arava focuses more on niche products such as Habanero Pepe


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


or years, Israel had a large production of minneolas, but not much is left of that. “Minneolas are a cross between grapefruit and tangerines, which is why the minneolas were grown in the same regions as grapefruit,” says Tal Amit of the Israeli Plant Production and Marketing Board. “When Alternaria emerged in the region, the trees had

Sorting and packaging of peppers. The employees are mainly students from Africa and Southeast Asia and receive 1 year adult work permit. Employees from these countries receive a 5-year permit.


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3 hectares of red onions in the desert. Everything is irrigated with effluents from major cities and supplemented with water from underground storms

to be grubbed up.” In the seed improvement of citrus, tolerance of the mould is therefore an important characteristic for selection. “That’s the first characteristic we test for. If a variety isn’t tolerant enough, we won’t continue with it,” he says. The Jaffa Orri is one of the relatively new varieties that have a high tolerance against

the mould. The Orri had an unexpectedly high tolerance. In the 1970s, the development of this variety was started, but it would take decades before the first commercial volumes became available. The variety was only planted in large numbers in 2006/07. Israel currently has 5,000 hectares of Orri production.

Waschen und Sortieren von Avocados

SEEDLESS MUSCADINE The variety was initially developed for Israeli growers. “Nowadays, the variety is so popular we get demand from a lot of countries. Everyone wants a piece of the pie,” Tal says. The variety has been protected since 2013, under the European Plant Breed Rights, which protects the licences for the production. “With my 30 years of

Arab women are packing the fruits. You receive the legal minimum wage of 1270 Euro per month. In neighboring countries, that's $ 10 a day

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Lior (left) from Galilee Export with its product Sharon Fruit To its right breeder Barnes which continues to grow despite the general decline in the Sharon fruit area

experience in the citrus sector and my knowledge of a lot of varieties, I’ve never seen a variety that looks as well as the Orri,” he continues. Israeli companies have also taken up a good position on the

Caracara oranges. Orange from the outside and pink inside with a very sweet taste

market with the improvement of grapes. The ARRA 15 from breeding station Grapa is one of the successful varieties, according to Alexandra Sapir (Legal Manager) and Liz Shani (Client Relations Manager) of Grapa Varieties. The variety does

Oron Ziv in the popular Mineolas in the Netherlands

well in humid, warm regions. This white, seedless variety is the best known one, but the assortment consists of a broad range of varieties. Alexandra and Liz mention the ARRA 29, a red grape, the ARRA 32, a blue grape, and the Early Sweet varieties. They’re currently working on the ‘holy grail’ of the grape sector: a seedless muscadine. This variety is in the pipeline according to Alexandra and Liz. PATENT POLICE To protect the patents for varieties, Israeli companies invest a lot in legal matters. For the production of Orri or the ARRA varieties, a grower needs a licence. To prevent illegal production, the companies are making an effort to protect their varieties. For example, they work with European Customs authorities to stop any illegal products on the border. To that end, the Israeli companies supply data regarding the production regions, harvests and trade, and the Customs workers are trained to recognise patented varieties.

An exclusive variety isn’t always a recipe for success, as proven by Sharon fruit. Last year, the fruit had a bad start because frost destroyed the flowers. The loss of the European market is more structural. Spain took over the European market with kakis, so the Israelis are forced 30

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

to divert to Russia. It’s expected the Sharon production will continue to decline under pressure from cheaper kakis in the coming years.

The European market is more or less closed to other companies. Since Russia closed its borders in 2014 to European fruit and vegetables, among other products, Israeli growers have also been confronted with the consequences. “The market is divided. We export a lot to Russia, because Spain has taken over practically all of Europe,” says Eyal Sahar, CEO of Gilad Desert Produce. He explains the Israeli growers can’t compete with the Spanish production. The Israelis haven’t managed to find new markets yet. “Africa is a niche market, so that’s not an option for us,” Eyal says. “India doesn’t consume a lot of bell pepper either.”

COMPETITION FROM WEB SHOPS North America is an interesting market, but it has a short season of only two months. Export is only appealing in November and December, but then Mexico enters the market with large volumes. An additional disadvantage for export to the US is the high cost of transport. In the past two years, prices for air cargo have risen considerably. “Online sales are putting enormous pressure on the air

There are no street signs or company names. That's why the name of the owner of this Netkas splashed: Ori Porat and his product can be sent to the USA

transport of agricultural products,” he says. “Web shops pay five dollar per kilo for air cargo, we pay 1.50 euro per kilo.” The bell pepper growers have changed the desert into a green oasis, although a large

part is covered in plastic or nets. The production exists, but selling bell peppers is still difficult. It’s therefore not surprising the growers are looking at other products. Red and white onions are grown in the same region. Nearby greenhouses had to make

Owner Eyal Shahar of Gilad Produce and Ori Portal

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



What will 2019 bring to the packing sector?

Happy new year for plastics? In the past year, public opinion regarding plastic packaging changed. Images of plastic soup and street litter dominated the media. Steps towards sustainable packaging were taken by the sector years ago: materials are becoming thinner, recycling is encouraged more, and biodegradable plastics are becoming more popular. We look back on 2018 with Huib Burggraaf, Bio-based Specialist for Van der Windt Verpakking, but we mostly wonder: what will 2019 bring?


onsumers are more and more worried about the impact of plastics on the environment. “Because more information is available and because petitions are signed to deal with street litter,” Huib says. For the next elections for the European Parliament, street litter has been placed on the agenda. “The ban on single-use plastics is in its final phase,” he explains. A majority of the European Parliament is currently in favour of the ban. The Netherlands has built a solid structure for collecting litter. Governments have been working on this since the 1970s and 1980s. That structure is completely integrated for


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

paper and glass. Five years ago, collecting plastic was added to that. “That’s an enormous development, to collect the litter, separate it, and re-use it,” Huib explains. “In the coming years, we’ll become a circular economy more and more, and litter will be a material for new products.” That trend is partly encouraged by the government. The litter management contribution for plastic is divided into two tariffs. For non-recyclable packaging, the tariff is 64 cent. Recyclable packaging has a tariff of 38 cent.

Top-seal packaging 2018 Top seal isn’t just the packaging of 2018 for VDW. The packaging is used increasingly

more generally in the sector. “It’s a packaging we’ll be seeing more and more often,” Huib says. “Top-sealed trays use less plastic than a tray with a lid.”

“The Windscribe top seal has an additional feature: the packaging can be resealed, so that the contents don’t have to be eaten in one sitting. We have enthusiastic buyers who use the packaging for soft fruit, for instance. Our Windscribe consists of two identical films that are laminated against each other, with a lasered tearing pattern between them,” Huib explains. “This creates a mono-flow that can be recycled with the tray. The packaging is distinctive because of this. The versions on the market consist of a film with a label of a different material. The top seal film is therefore not suitable for recycling.” 2019: A year for communication For 2019, Huib envisions a major and important task for the sector: communication regarding the use and necessity

of packaging. It’s particularly important to tell the complete story now that public opinion is turning more and more against plastics. “Packaging is seen by a lot of people as superfluous, but packaging is actually very important in many cases,” Huib says. During transport, for example, packaging can prevent damages, but packaging also plays an important part for the recognisability of a product.

Besides, the packaging can be used to communicate about variety, grower or uses. “Consumers who buy a product they like, try to find the same packaging next time,” Huib emphasises the importance of recognisability. One example is the distinction between organic and conventional vegetables. The products don’t look different from each other, so a packaging should show the difference. It might not make sense that organic products are packaged at first glance. Supermarkets are obligated to show distinctions between these products, and it’s less expensive because the volume of organic products is smaller. End of life buzzword 2019 “For the shelf life of a product, plastic is often the best option,” Huib says. He mentions cucumbers, which can be found in

supermarkets wrapped in shrink film as an example. It has been scientifically proven that the shrink film extends the cucumbers’ shelf life. “Besides, much more energy is needed to grow the cucumber than to create the packaging. The decay of the cucumbers results in more damage to the environment than the packaging,” Huib explains.

Another trend that will still be seen is the reduction of thickness. “That term will be heard a lot this year,” Huib predicts. The trend to use thinner materials was started a few years ago, and will continue. “Besides, the end of life of a packaging is considered more. The entire supply chain should keep that in mind. The life cycle of a packaging consists of three stages: 1. what material is used for the packaging; 2. what is it used for and what does it add to the product to be packed; 3. end of life. This final stage should be kept in mind much more. Added value of packaging For Van der Windt, sustainability is one of the core values of the company. “We don’t just observe legislation, we also want to proactively help customers in their search for more sustainable packaging.” This is expressed in the LCA centre, among other things, which is part of PACOMBI GROUP,

which researches the impact of packaging.


“In future, the combination of packaging and product will be considered more often,” he continues. The biodegradable packaging of chicory in supermarkets is a good example of this. The chicory can breathe better tanks to the biodegradable packaging, which is good for shelf life. Besides, the consumer can throw the waste and packaging directly in the green bin. “The packaging has a proper added value because of this.” Finally, Huib mentions some new packaging materials that will be seen more often: palm leaves and sugarcane fibres. Two old familiars are also being used more often again: wood and bamboo. Looking beyond the fresh produce sector, the rise of durables becomes clear: cutlery made of plastic that can be used more than once, which are replacing single-use plastics in, for example, the catering sector. (RM) 


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Mart Valstar:

"As a sector, you want liberal global trade" In September, The Best Fresh Group celebrated its 90th anniversary. Colleagues, family and friends were invited to the party, but the press wasn’t. We join Mart Valstar in looking back, but mostly in looking forward. He gives his vision on the resilience of the trade, although he also signals the challenges in these times of boom and protectionism. How did you celebrate the jubilee? “We mostly paid attention to it internally. On 1 September we opened up our completely renovated office and warehouse for and to colleagues and their family and

friends. In the afternoon we had more than 1,500 visitors, and in the evening we had a party for the workers with more than 500 people.”

Looking back on the past 90 years, what are the biggest changes? “Generally, scaling up came with a lot of changes. During the open day, I showed old photographs in my office. One of these showed my grandfather with two colleagues checking one pallet of lettuce before the auction. Nowadays, full lorries are being traded, and the seller sometimes doesn’t even see the product. That’s possible because quality tends to be better and more homogeneous now as well. In the past, everything had to be checked, both AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


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Think global, act local


by the auction and by the buyers. Besides, transport and communication have become quicker, shorter and better. For example, in the past it would take two to three days to get to Scotland. The European unification and the ‘GSM’ naturally also resulted in a lot of changes. The world has become smaller. In the past it was unthinkable to export cucumbers or bell peppers to the US. Importing oranges by boat from Brazil

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was quite the adventure. Nowadays it’s easier to import a container of pineapple from Ecuador.” “The product assortment has also changed and become larger. In the past, the first product was in spring, but supply is now mostly year-round. Retail contributed to that as well, because they want to stock their shelves year-round. It’s been good,

thanks to retail, consumers can now spend more on better food. When Spain opened up and joined the European Community in the 1980s, production was expanded considerably and year-round supply of greenhouse vegetables became possible. At the time, the Dutch auctions talked about whether Spanish tomatoes had to be sold at auction. The flower sector said yes, the vegetable sector said no.”

Frutas y Verduras frescas desde y para España Fresh Fruit and Vegetables from and to Spain Groente en fruit van en naar Spanje Obst und Gemüse von und nach Spanien

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Did you start at the bottom of the company’s ladder? “Yes, I had to. We had a warehouse of 175 square metres and we could use part of the auction hall. There were five of us, and besides an agent-customer we had one other customer from London. When I was young, all my summer jobs were in the warehouse, and when I got a job after finishing my secondary education, I started by buying at auction, working in the warehouse and working in administration. I even once fell off the dock with a fork-lift truck in the chaos of unloading an early boat.” Do you ever miss the days of the auctions? “I did that for roughly ten years, but I don’t miss it. I thought it was time to continue growing in my job. First as a buyer and in the warehouse, then to full time office work, and I have now not worked in commerce for more than ten years.”

The Best Fresh Group consists of various companies. Can you tell us a little more about the company structure? “Each part focuses on a certain product segment. It’s my opinion that someone who knows oranges, doesn’t know tomatoes. I’m taking myself as an example, I’m not a specialist in citrus. You have to be experienced and skilled in that, and that can be better realised when the commercial enterprises are housed in separate units. Each company has its own identity and specialism, 38

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

that’s important. We could have sold organic products and exotics under Valstar, but we made a conscious decision to start BioWorld and Yex for these.”

What’s the relation between the various parts? “Each part is commercially independent. Best Fresh, since the new logo we’re no longer called Best Fresh Group, is the company’s back office. We naturally share costs in IT, HR, Finance and Quality Assurance pro rata. The commercial enterprises are front offices with each its own course, but where commercial synergy and logistics are optimised.” Do you have room for an expansion in the number of units? “We’re not in top fruit, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, tropical fruit or citrus. These could be quite an addition, but those units would then also receive their own identities. Convenience would be another option. I’m keeping all options open, and I’m open to suggestions, but we don’t have any actual plans right now. We’re growing quite well and we’re looking abroad, that’s keeping us quite busy.” With BioWorld and Valstar you also have branches in Germany and Spain, do you predict a continued expansion with foreign branches? “It’s working well for both those units. For organic, we can offer product from the

Netherlands, Spain and Germany, but also from other countries. We can offer our customers a year-round and complete range of greenhouse vegetables from the Valstar office in Spain. From Spain, we mostly deliver (logistically) directly to our customers, and it’s therefore easier to have our own people. We also import from Italy, France and Portugal, but to open a branch, the flow of trade has to be substantial. When that’s the case, we’ll consider it.”

More and more growers’ associations no longer use GMO subsidies. Was that subsidy a disruptive factor on the market for Dutch product for years? “The idea behind the GMO regulation wasn’t great for trade in theory. The idea is that you have to grow what the market asks for, and that sales become the growers’ responsibility more. To that end there’s a subsidy for marketing, packing and offices that are given to growers but not to trade. That could be disruptive. It’s a step in the right direction that the growers now take care of packing, but it’s also changed the sector. In the past, mercantile enterprises earned money creating, for instance, bell pepper mixes. Growers now do that themselves, so those entrepreneurs have to do something else. Is that disruptive? It’s started a shift, in any case, like there are now a lot of changes in sectors in which IT plays a major part. Through all of the changes and setbacks, the Dutch trade has always found solutions in order to survive. That

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Vision What role do you want to play in that? “That’s a job for generic promotion, like the CBT and the Dutch Productschap used to do, but as a private company there are plenty of initiatives we’re working on. One company isn’t going to get all of the Dutch to consume more vegetables. The turnover of fruit and vegetables is increasing, but tonnage isn’t. That’s mostly because of the popularity of more expensive products, like ready-to-eat.”

meant either a different product or a different sales region that had to be found. In the past, there was a lot of (better) butterhead lettuce, but that market was taken over by the cheaper Spanish iceberg lettuce. Russia also disappeared as a sales market, and a solution had to be found for that as well.” “A subsidy is an unfair means. As a company, you want an even playing field for all parties, but the same is true for import levies and closed borders, like China has, for example. The Chinese borders appear to be opening more, that’s a good development. As a sector, you want a liberal global trade.”

Is China an important market for you? “We import pomelos from China, but it’s not an export market for us. We have an overseas department, but we’re passive towards the Chinese market. That’s a choice, in part because the border is still practically closed. China has potential to become a large market despite the large production in the country. In North America they also have a large production, but there’s still room to complement the market in Canada, the US and Mexico. The same is true for China.” Do you see any other growth markets in emerging economies? “The Middle East is a small region with about 25 million people, that won’t grow substantially. A number of populations and their prosperities in Africa are growing, that could turn into a market. For example, an explosive rise in the population of Nigeria has been predicted, and a middle class will come into existence there as well. Kenya and Tanzania are also growing, in part because China invests a lot in infrastructure and the labour market there. India could be a good market as well, but that country also has a large production of their own. Times when we might complement production there could arise.” Although we’ve seen a consolidation in retail and production in the Netherlands, the number of commercial enterprises

remained stable. Do you expect consolidation in trade? “I don’t expect it, maybe if there’s a disaster or disruptive change, but I don’t expect that. I do think trade will evolve. The gradual process of scaling up, as mentioned before, will continue. Larger combinations will arise throughout the supply chain. It’s going well with the colleagues at the moment, so I expect an evolutionary process. Revolutions are seen during crises more, such as the EHEC crisis. A similar disaster can cause damages to the sector, but a disaster like that can’t be predicted.”

You’ve spent years at auctions. What do you think the future holds for auctions? “The day prices at auction didn’t correspond with weekly prices of retail. In the 1990s a search for a better model was started. Because of this, we had a merger of auctions in the Netherlands, and we grew into what the sector is now. If you ask me about the future of auctions, I’d say all the auctions will probably close. In spring and autumn they’re disruptive for the market, and the share of products ending up at auction will decline, so that pricing will become more volatile, and customers don’t want that. Auctions are a good tool for small products and batches, but it can also be taken care of differently, just look at our company Eminent. I’d be surprised if auctions still existed in 2028, when we’ll celebrate our centenary.” The Netherlands is facing an energy transition. What is the role you see for Best Fresh in that? “We’re very involved in this. The ABC Westland is full of solar panels, and our office is heated and cooled using geothermal energy. We encourage electric driving, which is why we have a lot of charging stations at our car park. We’re pulling our weight and I think the sector is paying a lot of attention to this as well. Geothermal energy is used a lot in horticulture.” Increasing the consumption of fresh produce is also getting a lot of attention.

We’re hearing a lot about staff shortages, is that affecting you as well? “That’s a general phenomenon that we’re definitely giving a lot of attention to as well. We have to actively search for people. In times of tight labour markets you can’t just sit around until new workers ring your doorbell. As a company, you have to remain appealing and find other ways to find workers.” Is knowledge about the sector a challenge when finding new workers? “Most people are consumers who only really get to know our sector when they start working in it, but the same is true for other sectors. We have interns from multiple cities and with different education levels, and they all think it’s an interesting sector. They just don’t know the sector. The World Horti Center, the Dutch open days for greenhouses and the floating parade in the Westland are wonderful ways to talk about what we do. That continues to be important.”

What are the biggest challenges for the sector? “The IT world is rapidly changing and becoming ever-more complex, that’s challenging. This year, we had fairly warm weather and I don’t know it that’ll remain like that, but it seems as if climate change will result in new problems for supply. We have to solve these. The question of labour won’t disappear overnight either, especially if the economy continues to grow. Trade restrictions are a challenge as well. It seems as if the world is becoming a bit more closed off again. We naturally saw that it can have a major impact if you specialise in just one country. I expect that market will open again in the long term, but relations have only declined in the past five years, so it won’t happen in the short term.” What do you think the future will hold for Best Fresh? “I hope we can have at least another 90 years because we’ll continue to do good things. The next generation is ready and looking forward to it. I think it’s important it remains a family company. A large part of the economy is thanks to family companies, and I think that’s amazing.” (RM)  AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019






mburg Malaszewicze





Berlijn Oktjabrsk Alashankou

New Silk Road: not (yet) for fresh produce?



It’s cheaper than air cargo and faster than seaborne cargo. If you choose the right route with the train, the Silk Road takes 13 to 15 days from China to Europe. Last year, more than 279,000 TEU was transported per rail between China and Europe. That volume, however, isn’t fairly distributed. Transporters are looking for shipments to fill the trains heading east. They see a lot of potential for fruit and vegetables, but is the train an option? Which obstacles are found on the road from Europe to China?


azakhstan is the ‘buckle of the belt,’” says Magzhan Ilyassov, the Kazakh ambassador in the Netherlands, during The New Silk Road congress, organised by Dutch magazine Nieuwsblad Transport. This is a term given to the central Asian country by an American scientist. Looking at the position of the country along the route, the name is understandable. Kazakhstan is a junction of the trade route from north to south and from east to west. “In the fifteenth century, there was one trade route from east to west, but now there are five options,” he continues. A northern route is from Mongolia to Russia. Even further north is the northern sea route. To the south is a land route through the Middle East and a sea route via the Suez Canal.


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

KAZAKHSTAN INVESTS The route through Kazakhstan lasts 13 to 15 days, and is therefore the shortest of the five options. In the past ten years, Kazakhstan invested 30 billion dollar in infrastructural projects. Thousands of miles of rail and asphalt were constructed and ports, airports and train terminals were built. For these investments, focus was on the connection between east and west. “During the Soviet period, Kazakhstan was the corridor from north to south, so we already had those connections,” the ambassador says. Since 2015, the number of containers passing the border between China and Kazakhstan per train increased considerably. It’s expected this number will exceed 500 con-

tainers this year. The current figures show an increase of 52 per cent over the first two quarters. This growing number requires investments. For example, investments in a railway terminal of several hundreds of hectares were made near Khorgas, on the border with China.

HENAN AND CHENGDU HUB TO CHINA From a Chinese perspective it’s mostly this northern route that functions well. Because of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the southern route is no longer an option, according to Letty Zhu of NHTV Breda. She identifies a number of bottlenecks along the route: the differences between the railways of the various countries, the documents and the differences in containers.

An advantage of the route is that it’s easier to reach the Chinese interior. Letty explains that a good internal logistical network is lacking in China. “Less than two per cent of transport is intermodal,” she says. The city of Henan is centrally placed according to the distribution of the country’s population, and is therefore a hub to the rest of China and the large cities along the coast. Other cities, such as Chengdu, are also investing in

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infrastructure. This city is a designated hub for the interior, for fresh products among other things, which arrive in the country via air cargo.

EU: WORKING ON CONNECTIVITY While Kazakhstan and China are spending billions on the project, the EU is keeping aloof from the project. The Union has its own transport policy, and identified corridors several years ago. The EU is making an effort to connect these corridors to the Belt and Road Initiative, as the Chinese project is officially called. “We have a formal agreement with China to work on connectivity,” says Maja Bahran Marcich of the EU’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport. Besides, the EU is making a case for a level playing field for companies and involvement of the countries along the route. Parties involved know what the EU should be doing to speed up the transport. Currently, multiple safety systems are used within the EU, this could be simplified if Europe were to use one system. Besides, the train terminals have to be optimised to handle the larger number of freight trains.

EXTREME TEMPERATURES IN KAZAKHSTAN Jiala Zhang works for CDiRS, an international transport company active on this route. Although an average of 84 per cent of the trains headed west are fully booked, only 40 per cent of trains headed east are full. “We need more products on the route headed east,” Jiala says. Reefers are currently empty when returning to China. She sees opportunities for fresh products. Although the Russian boycott makes the export of fruit and vegetables more difficult, she sees opportunities for flower bulbs, frozen 44

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

potato products and seeds, for instance: products that aren’t on the list of boycotted products.

The extreme temperatures along the route, varying from 45 degrees Celsius in summer to -45 degrees Celsius in winter, require a different approach regarding reefers. “When the diesel gets too cold, the engine stops,” says Rob Brekelmans of New Silk Way Logistics. The company developed an engine that uses residual heat to keep the fuel free from frost. Besides, they’ve chosen an organic fuel that thickens but doesn’t become flaky and unusable, like diesel. The containers are followed from the control room, and mechanics can intervene along the route if necessary. SHIFTING SHIPMENTS AND AIR PRESSURE More is needed before putting a pallet on a train, for that matter. Milk powder is already often transported to China per train, but when Mead Johnson Nutrition started doing this three years ago, they discovered various challenges. Because of the vibrations of the train, the products shifted on the pallet. Besides, the train passes a mountain range, and the changing air pressure has consequences for the packaging, Remco Jonker warns. Other companies also see bottlenecks along the route. Dick van Beek of Lenovo mentions a lack of winter-hardy containers that can withstand the Central Asian temperatures. The weather is an unpredictable party in any case. A lot of railways are through forests. After autumn storms, transport can be halted due to trees that have been blown down. Besides, the rail is still being worked on a lot. Just in Poland, 20 million

euro is being invested, so that trains could be delayed. He also mentions a paradox. Although the transporters are looking for more volume to transport along the route, Dick warns for congestion that could arise if volumes increase.

ONE RAILWAY BRIDGE CONNECTING POLAND AND BELARUS The risk for delays is particularly considerable at Malaszewice-Brest, the border crossing between Belarus and Poland. The river separating the two countries only has one railway bridge, and 13 trains currently cross this bridge every day. Plans for a new bridge have been drawn up, but the connection hasn’t been constructed yet. It’s therefore not surprising that other parties are seeing opportunities to prevent that bottleneck. An alternative route is via Kaliningrad and Rostock. The two ports offer a service for which the train or container crosses the Baltic Sea per boat. The short distance from the ports to Scandinavia is another advantage. Although the rail connection to the east offers a quick solution, most fresh produce traders will think twice before placing a container on the train. Speed might be a major advantage, but the challenges to make the connection more reliable and minimising delays will first have to be solved. Besides, the Russian boycott is an uncertain factor. However, the connection also offers access to markets along the route. Tilburg, Duisburg, Vienna and Budapest are mentioned as junctions along the route, but cities further away are also options. For example, seeds meant for Kazakhstan were transported by train last year. 











Our entire team, at our farms, packing plants and offices, work towards our shared goal of creating the highest quality, the freshest, most tasty and delicious fruits to our partners to ensure you can best serve your customers. Our commitment to innovation, consistency, traceability and integrity ensures our fruits meet your needs. EU USA CHINA

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

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Maes Brothers: shareholder but no management functions

“Equal chances for colleagues and family members” François Maes and his brother Patrick founded import company Special Fruit a few decades ago. Three years ago, François had his final working day, although he’s still involved with the company. With his three sons, Ben, Tom and Koen, the second generation has been active within the company for years. How do they see the future of the company, and what is their vision of the sector? Let’s start with some introductions. Who are you and what are your responsibilities? Ben: “I’m the eldest of the three brothers. I was young when I got my start in the company. We lived close to the company, so it was easy to become involved. I started working for Special Fruit when I was 19 years old. I’ve seen all departments, and ended up in the purchasing department, where I took care of the purchasing of berries for multiple years. Because of expansions, I started doing purchasing less and less, and I started guiding the purchasing more and more. Nineteen years ago we opened a branch in Huelva, Spain, and because I speak Spanish I helped set up this branch. I live in Spain,

so I’m still closely involved with the organisation in Huelva, but I’m also involved with projects in Morocco and Portugal. Besides, I’m a member of the executive board.” Tom: “I’m the middle son, and I’ve been active in the company for about 20 years now. Because we lived near the company, I was young when I started here as well. My summer jobs were always for the company. After my studies I immediately started in the warehouse for Special Fruit, where I worked as an order picker. After that, I worked in accounting and the transport department. I’ve seen all departments, but I started working in the sales department 19 years ago. I mostly focus on export to Scan-

dinavia and I helped set up the export to the Baltic countries. In recent years, the Dutch market was added to that, for which I focus on retail.”

Koen: “I’m business development manager, which includes, among other things, marketing and sustainability. I’ve worked for Special Fruit for five years, before that I worked in another sector. I wanted to bring a different kind of feeling into the company. I might be the least known in trade, because I’m mostly active behind the scenes.” François has passed on his shares to you, what changed in the company with that move? Koen: “Effectively, that the shares have been passed on is the only thing that has changed. In future, we might step into the limelight a bit more, but it’s just a transfer of shares. François will still be active as ambassador of Special Fruit, and he’ll continue to visit fairs and support our network. He’s taken on more of a PR role.” AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Ben: “Not much has actually changed. François had already officially retired. In recent years, he focused on his role within Special Fruit and the executive board. He’s the company’s face. He’s had that role for the past three years, and he’ll continue to fulfil it.”

and we think it’s important that everyone is given equal chances. Patrick and François fulfilled important positions from their role as founders, but they also thought it was more important to have the right people in the right functions. I’m the only one of the brothers who’s also on the executive board.”

All three of you are shareholders. Shareholders often also hold a position as manager, but that’s not the case with you. Why not? Ben: “We grew strongly as a company, but as a family we always wanted to propagate that we don’t want to devote ourselves to an important position within the company. Not everyone in those functions has to be a family member. We have a lot of employees,

Does this mean you have more contact with the workers as well? Ben: “We have a fairly flat structure.We work in different departments, that’s why we have contact with the various departments of the company. That’s the case regardless of our position. As said before, we want to offer everyone a future. As shareholders and brothers, we want the available talent to be developed, and we want all employees to take on possible roles within the company based on their competence. Besides, we as shareholders think it’s important the company does well.”

Are you three and Patrick the only shareholders of Special Fruit right now? Ben: “That’s right. François’ shares have been divided among us three brothers. The company is completely owned by the family.”


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

Koen: “Within the family, they’ve also made agreements to guarantee this.”

You already mentioned the branch in Huelva, but Special Fruit also participates in production projects in Portugal. Can you tell us a little more about the structure of the company? Ben: “We have a branch in Spain. Huelva is the most important production region for berries. That’s why it was a good step to start a new company there 19 years ago, to support the group with, for instance, grower selection, quality and advice to growers. The company really plays a supportive part.” “Considering the changes in the sector, Portugal was a logical choice to work with production companies via participations. We started a strategic alliance with a cooperative in Portugal, and they take care of the production and sourcing of mostly raspberries and blueberries for us.” The focus of these companies is mostly on soft fruit? Ben: “Right now, 100% of our activities in

Spain are in soft fruit, but we’re not restricted to this. When opportunities arise to carry other products, we’ll look into that.”

growers we’ve worked for 10 to 15 years now.”

How do you feel about vertical integration? Ben: “Looking at the entire sector, a supply chain constriction becomes noticeable. The links in the chain are becoming closer and closer. That’s why we’re looking at production to try to bring it closer to retail. A better integration in the supply chain is important. Right now, our participations are just focused on berries.”

Tom: “In the production, it’s important to be dedicated to improving flavour and getting better products. Because of cooperation, we can better manager and find the right varieties. Our customers expect something new and they expect a flavourful product. Developing new varieties is a longterm matter. It takes time.” Koen: “Vertical integration can be seen in three ways. Firstly, you can grow your own product, but you can also enter into participations or work with contract growers. In exotics, we work on a basis of trust, and we enter into long relationships. With some

"Links in the chain are always leaning against each other" Ben Maes

Special Fruit has a broad range. Can you be a specialist in all products? Tom: “We focus on berries, and we want to carry these year-round. Besides, we do a lot of -ready-to-eat and special vegetables, such as green asparagus, snap peas and legumes. Within the exotic assortment, we only choose products with an added value and a good flavour. In recent years, exotics have also been removed from our range. These were products for which we only had small orders, and in consultation with the customers, we came to the conclusion that these had no added value for the customers. These exotics had short shelf lives, a low turnover rate or were disappointing regarding flavour, for example.”

Koen: “It’s a combination of factors. We supply to retail and wholesalers, but we actually have two types of customers. Some customers come to us for just a few articles, but other customers are also interested in the broad range. In future, the assortment will probably not become broader, but we do have to keep our range interesting for our customers. Looking at retail, you can

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Vision see shops becoming smaller and more on-the-go supermarkets popping up, these have less shelf space. They have to decide between, for instance, a broader range of berries or unknown products.”

product, but that’s not the case for blueberries and raspberries. A lot of growth can still be realised in these two products. As a sector, we have to consider how we can increase consumption. It’s important to guarantee year-round quality so that consumers become familiar with the fruit. Quality and packaging are important, but we also have to communicate towards the customers more, about health aspects, for example. That’s not done often enough now. In North America, one million dollar is invested in research into the health aspects of blueberries. We don’t don that in Europe. Much can be gained in this. Compared to the US, consumption is behind.”

What is Special Fruit’s most important category? Ben: “Soft fruit is the biggest category in terms of percentage, both in volume and in turnover.”

The Calinda strawberry variety could be called Special Fruit’s showpiece. How do you see the future of this variety considering the growing greenhouse production in the Netherlands and Belgium? Ben: “For us as Special Fruit, it’s very important to grow the product in the spot that’s most suitable for it, from a consumer’s perspective as well. Local-for-local is important, and if we can grow a good product in greenhouse in the Netherlands or Belgium, we should be doing that. But you should also keep the customer’s wishes in mind, and market quality.” Is there much room to grow left in the soft fruit segment? Koen: “Strawberries are a well-known

"So many climate changes in 2018 because the littering is necessary for sufficient volume" Tom Maes

Ben: “People say blueberries have become a commodity, but a lot of consumers don’t eat berries yet.”

What about avocados? Ben: “That can be compared to blueberries. Considering more than three kilos of avocados are eaten per person per year in the US, we have a major challenge ahead of us to grow towards that figure in Europe. There will always be moments of oversupply and shortages, as we saw in the late spring, because it’s a natural product. Comparing this to the consumption in the US, we have

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Investments in sustainability and quality

our work cut out for us, but if we do it right, growth will be possible.”

Do you see a role for labels in that? Ben: “Labels could be a part of this, but promotions and branding are also very important. Looking at other mature markets, such as the UK and the US, we have to work together to create more trust in our product.” Koen: “We’re a specialist in soft fruit, and we’ve noticed that we can increase sales in cooperation with retail, by making the fruit better known. A lot of supermarkets use private labels or A-brands. We try to respond to that.”

Tom: “There are also many retailers who want to set up co-branding with our products, because they have the fruit on their shelves under their own brand and want to combine that with a strong brand. A strong brand is challenging as well, because you always have to supply quality, that’s what the consumers expect.” Sustainability is a hot topic on the market, how are you dealing with that? Ben: “You can see consumers care more

about the environmental impact of products nowadays. As everyone knows, exotics aren’t grown around here but far away. The growing environmental awareness among millennials and young people is leaving its mark on the market. That’s why we’ve chosen to take our responsibility within Special Fruit, and keep quality and the impact on the environment in mind when sourcing. For example, we’re looking for sourcing regions closer to Belgium.” Tom: “Social responsibility is becoming ever more important. We want to set up transparency from grower to retailer. An essential part of that is the social audit we do with our suppliers.”

Where do you find these new sourcing regions? Ben: “Berries are a good example of this. When our father started importing berries in the late 1970s, he bought strawberries from California, blueberries from North America and raspberries from Chile. We can now offer berries that have been grown in Northern Europe and North Africa almost year-round. This doesn’t include the berries we’re still importing from Peru and Mexico, these also have a market, but a

clear movement can be seen on the market, and I’m not ruling out that this movement will continue even more.”

Should we be thinking of papayas from Spanish greenhouses and exotics from the Balkans? Ben: “I think it’s the task of the growers to diversify and spread risks that way. Naturally, there will always be productions that succeed and ones that fail.”

Koen: “We definitely see opportunities for the production of exotics in Southern Europe, but you do have to make a comparative assessment whether the cost model will actually be better or if you can convince customers of the minimum price. Growing closer to home isn’t always cheaper. Logistically, it has advantages, because a product can be harvested when it’s ripe, and it therefore arrives on the market with a better flavour. But you do have to be able to justify the price difference.” Tom: “We’ve seen that it’s important for our customers to choose between local product and import, and we have to respond to that. To that end, we have to make decisions regarding availability as well, because AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


Vision How important is it that retail has product knowledge for this? Tom: “We started our own academy as Special Fruit, and we invite final customers here to learn more about the product, about the right quality or ripeness, for example. For the products in the shops, shelf life is sometimes more important than flavour. You could come across firm papayas or unripe passionfruit for instance. These might have a good shelf life, but they won’t taste as good. We want to convey this knowledge to retail, so that they can convey it to consumers.”

year-round is important to us. Besides, it’s important to be active in various regions. We’ve seen so many climate changes this year, it’s become necessary to spread production in order to have plenty of volume.”

Did the extreme weather cause you a lot of problems this summer? Ben: “This year was the most extreme year we ever experienced in Europe. Climate change could be seen everywhere in Europe, both in Southern and Northern Europe. From January until now, we’ve seen the impact of weather in the shift of the seasons. It all came together. In North Africa and Southern Europe, the seasons had been extremely delayed, in Northern Europe the seasons came too early. Because of this, we had a period with shortages, then a period with surpluses and then shortages again. All of the seasons were disrupted. That’s something to keep in mind. We managed to absorb shortages and to sell the surpluses quite well.” How important is growth for Special Fruit? Ben: “For us, it’s important to have a healthy company. Growth can be part of that, but it’s not our focus. It’s good when growth can be coupled to this, but it isn’t our mission. “

We’re seeing a lot of consolidation in the sector. What do you think of this development? Koen: “We’re seeing a consolidation among suppliers who work with customers more and more. No party should be afraid to question their right to exist and decide how to safeguard their position. You have to justify your right to exist. Consumers expect information about how products are grown and how the supply chain is made up. One example of that is the block chain. I see a clear role for Special Fruit in that to bring together all links in the supply chain and to create transparency.” Ben: “Years ago we chose to market flavourful berries. You can safeguard your position in various ways. We’ve worked with partners for year. That’s also a kind of consolidation.”

In the sector, the talk is often about price pressure put on the sector by retailers. What’s your experience with this? Koen: “We’ve always propagated that we want to do business responsibly. It’s our duty to convey that message, and certain customers join us in that quite well. I hope more retailers become aware that the entire supply chain should be compensated fairly for a product. Each link has the right of a fair price, because you’re in trouble if you can’t make money. We have to be vigi54

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

"I hope there are more retailers aware that the entire chain must receive proper compensation" Koen Maes

lant to the developments in the sector. The time for sitting back has passed.”

What’s the biggest challenge for the sector? Koen: “How to meet aesthetic requirements from retail to always bring the best product on the market. More is paid and requirements of products are lower in other parts of the world, and Europe is pricing itself off the market because of this. This is the case for, for instance, avocados in Asia, and we’ve also noticed fewer specifications for the fruit in the US.”

Ben: “At the same time, you can tell this is changing in Europe. Supermarkets also have ‘ugly’ vegetables on their shelves. But it’s true that this is the biggest challenge. We have to be aware that we can grow the product in the required quality, but it should also be possible to meet those requirements.”

Koen: “Retail is often competitive looking at our assortment, with products like avocados and berries. The other products are more in the background. Because of this, the buyer doesn’t have time to consider all the products in our assortment. We as a sector work on this by supplying the products. We teach participants of the academy very simple things, such as: how can you tell an avocado is ripe? You can’t always tell by colour. It’s important this knowledge is returned to the shop floor in order to tell consumers about this. Packaging plays a part in this as well, but staff should become more like market vendors again.”

Looking ahead, what does the future look like for Special Fruit in ten years? Koen: “It’s difficult to look that far ahead, but cooperations like we have in soft fruit now will be guiding more often. I don’t doubt that. You can’t really guess yet what part urban farming and 3D printing will play then, but that might be different in five years. It’s certain less land, water and fewer workers will be available. We’ll have to be smarter about the sources we have. Automation and harvesting robots will gain importance in this.” Ben: “I’ve been active in the sector for 22 years now, and when you remember how quickly changes have happened in the past five, six years, it’s impossible to look ten years ahead. We have to be vigilant to retain a relevant position.”

Tom: “We’ll continue to follow the trends on the market, like we’ve always done. We have to act upon these trends by pioneering and innovating when the market moves in a certain direction.” (RM)  ben.Maes@specialfruit.be tom.Maes@specialfruit.be koen.Maes@specialfruit.be


Crop genetics key to cutting food chain waste Building up more sustainability from field to fork The Syngenta stand at Fruit Logistica will take visitors along a journey to demonstrate how the seeds’ business successfully breed exciting and innovative genetics to grow businesses at every step of the food chain. Among the innovations displayed, it is the showcase for Syngenta vegetable seeds varieties selected to help reduce waste across the food chain. We asked Jeremie Chabanis, Syngenta Value Chain Partnership Lead, who will be present at the Fair, to answer our questions about Syngenta’s position as the architect of products enhancing food chain experiences, from grower to consumer. Nowadays, would you say that seed breeding companies go beyond their initial roles? Of course! Vegetable variety genetics are the start to the whole food experience. Crucially, they also hold the key to cutting waste at every step of the food chain. Syngenta develops new varieties specifically selected and developed with traits that can reduce waste and improve efficiency - from the field, through processing, transport and retail, and on to end-consumers. How important is this challenge? Reducing waste, and the associated financial and environmental costs, is of paramount importance for the food chain. Our breeding priorities now, especially for vegetables, have a major focus on those attributes that will reduce waste and enhance sustainability. This really is the challenge of the whole chain! Fair enough, but do you have concrete examples? Look at our new true-white cauliflower variety, from the Destinica™ product line which will be available to the market this year or next! For the first time, we can say that the crop produces 100% marketable heads, compared to a typical 60 to 65% yield from current commercial varieties. Moreover, variety genetics continue to have a hugely significant influence on waste after crops leave the field. The innovative long-

stemmed Easy-Broq™ broccoli varieties, such as Monflor, have been developed to reduce trimming of leaves and stems in the processing factory - delivering an exceptional yield for freezing or baby-food and minimising waste. What’s in there for growers and consumers? Developing innovative varieties with a trait for better flesh and shelf-life means they can be safely transported, and then be more efficiently processed with virtually no leaching and significantly higher recovery rates. In the case of our Ultra Firm flesh watermelon, it has given watermelon growers access to new fresh cut markets and opened up yearround supply for processors and retailers. Consumers also benefit from it: they get healthy and convenient product with great taste, along with longer shelf life that further reduces waste at home.

better taste, uniformity and consistent quality. Crucially they are far more compact to make them more efficient and cost effective to transport – and arrive in perfect condition. Overall, I estimate waste could be reduced by as much as 25% with baby plum varieties. But waste and growers’ performance are not the only challenges we have. At the same time, we also want to boost the consumers’ experiences, such as flavour, appearance and innovation. So as a conclusion, we want to make a more efficient use of resources, reduce waste and work with the industry to assure supplies of high quality and affordable products. Meet Jérémie Chabanis and other experts from Syngenta at Fruit Logistica, stand in Hall 1.2 D-16!

Syngenta is well-known as a market leader in baby plum tomatoes, are they more adapted to this challenge than conventional types? Yes, indeed, baby plum tomatoes can be produced and marketed with far less waste. Our vegetable breeding global connections first identified this typology in Asia and developed the premium varieties, with more reliable yields and lower growing costs. Baby plum tomatoes offer better shelf life, with







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Vitacress Real sees plenty of opportunities in the herb sector The herb market is still on the rise, yet a shift can be seen on this market. Chives are still growing, but have to cede market share to other varieties, such as lemon thyme. Herb specialist Vitacress Real, supplier of cut and potted herbs, is trying to get consumers to use herbs by means of concept development and by providing information.


oung herb company Vitacress Real moved three times in the past five years as a result of the major growth they experienced. The company is focused on retail and food service. “We offer 21 different varieties of herbs, both cut and potted,” says Ralph Coenen. “Fifty per cent is our own production and fifty per cent of the herbs is grown on contract. Potted herbs are grown in the Netherlands throughout the year. The


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

cut herbs are grown in countries including Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, the UK and Spain besides the Netherlands. We work as much as possible with our own entrepreneurs. That’s how we can guarantee the quality of the products.” MIXED HERBS The demand for the herbs shows that herbs are hip. Demand is still rising and herbs

appear to only become more and more popular. Despite the large demand, some consumers still don’t cook with fresh herbs. “Not all consumers know how to use herbs in recipes, and that’s why we’re trying to get consumers to use herbs. By means of recipe cards with information, we can inform consumers. Besides, we also have mixed herbs in our range that actively encourage consumers to use herbs. Examples of these mixes are: an herb butter mix, a wild stew mix and egg salad mix,” Ralph says. NATURAL SEASONING “Recently, lemon thyme and glasswort have been the two herbs showing the most growth. Glasswort isn’t per definition an

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says. “Chive is an herb that had to cede some share in recent years. The total volume is still very high, and it’s still one of the most common herbs. Chive is an herb that has been completely integrated, and it will now have to lose some ground to other emerging herbs.” According to the managing director, herb consumption differs quite a lot per country. “Comparing the Netherlands to Germany, you’d see quite large differences. The Netherlands uses a broader range of herbs, and the knowledge of herbs is also larger in the Netherlands than in Germany. It’s naturally normal that countries differ in their herb use,” Ralph says. “With retail, we’re working on reevaluating the herb department. We want to make it easier for consumers to choose herbs, but we also want to inform them by means of the department.”

herb, but is considered a natural seasoning. The growth of lemon thyme is due to the citrus-like smell and its flavour that’s fresher than that of regular thyme,” Ralph

BIG DATA To respond to the changing market as well as possible and to let processes fit together seamlessly, Vitacress Real is working on a development in Big Data. “We’re trying to fit the processes together as much as possible. By coupling data, we want to

gain new insights in matters we have to focus on,” Ralph explains. Water-based production also offers opportunities to the herb sector. “Right now, we’re growing basil on water in the UK. Herbs aren’t easy products to grow. The shelf life of the products continues to be a challenge, because they’re often sensitive products. That’s why we’re always looking at how to improve the production techniques. That’s why we also have experimental set-ups in a closed environment. That will become much more interesting than it is now when energy can be stored more easily in particular.” “Demand for organic herbs is fairly stable. We offer the potted herbs both organically and conventionally, but we think themes such as sustainability and Planet Proof influence demand for organic. A major theme in the herb sector is the use of plastic and the processing of waste. I wouldn’t be surprised if the theme of organic were to become broader and include sustainable growing,” Ralph concludes. (SR) 

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Cucumbers: challenge isn’t in plastic packaging, but in consumer communication

A crate of sealed cucumbers.

Plastic packaging is up for discussion increasingly often. The Great Pacific garbage patch is world-famous and infamous. In the struggle against plastic packaging, cucumbers are readily mentioned as an example of a product with an ‘unnecessary’ packaging that only contributes to the increase in the amount of plastic on earth. Yet this packaging isn’t as ‘unnecessary’ as is often thought by consumers: cucumbers with no plastic packaging have a shorter shelf life. But how to convince consumers of this? If you type in ‘cucumber’ and ‘plastic’ on Google, the result is a long list of articles about the green vegetables packed in clingfilm. Nearly every month, the discussion flares up somewhere, and stories about how and why the crop needs a plastic cover appear. June 2017, Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant: “Cucumbers with a plastic cover, is it bad for the environment?” and Dutch news site nu.nl, December 2016: “This is why cucumbers are covered in plastic.” 62

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In 2015, Milieu Centraal conducted a survey among consumers that showed they prefer buying products without plastic packaging, which was hardly surprising. The plastic covering the cucumbers turned out to be a major annoyance. This plastic protective covering wasn’t always part of the cucumbers, although it became known that cucumbers had a ‘very limited’ shelf life in 1967. With clingfilm, this shelf life could be extended, as can be read in a bulletin of the

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

life. This is an important reason particularly for imported cucumbers, in part because it protects the vegetables during transport. But Dutch cucumbers from Dutch greenhouses are also packed in clingfilm on the shelves of some supermarkets. The packaging enables the supermarket to keep the cucumbers on shelves longer, so that they don’t have to be thrown away after three days.

on developing an organic clingfilm to pack cucumbers. The disadvantage is now that the organic film isn’t transparent, so that the green cucumbers are covered in a white layer. People want to see a shiny packaging that looks appealing. It’s therefore a question of consumers becoming aware so they choose a more sustainable film.”

A sustainable choice, according to Milieu Centraal: the anti-pollution tax of the packaging is often considerably lower than that of the cucumber itself. Moreover, with an uneaten cucumber, all energy used for production ends up in a bin. Although paper and cardboard have a better image in consumers’ minds, the anti-pollution tax is hardly any different, according to Milieu Centraal. This is mostly due to the lighter weight of plastic.

That part of the consumers is tired of plastic, is apparent from the enormous amount of attention paid to Eosta’s plan to brand fruit and vegetables. It’s true that this is an alternative to plastic, because their organic product has to be distinctive from conventional product in supermarkets. However, without plastic, shelf lives are shorter – and in that sense, a brand wouldn’t be an alternative to clingfilm at all.

CLINGFILM Sandra van der Veer is responsible for product-concept development for growers’ association Van Nature, and is therefore also responsible for the development of packaging for vegetables. “Packaging options for cucumbers are limited,” she says. The use of clingfilm is considerable, not just for shelf life, but also when it comes to hygiene on shelves of products people like to pick up and put down again. “There’s just not a lot of space to communicate on clingfilm.”

However, according to Sandra, that’s where room can be found: image improvement. “The Dutch Food Centre combats the wrong perceptions of consumers using videos. More can be gained in that field: sharing more knowledge about the use of packaging.” She also sees an opportunity for the growers’ association in this: after all, this information could easily be printed on packaging, but this requires permission from retailers as well. “We develop packaging and packaging concepts in cooperation with manufacturers and suppliers, but retailers and wholesalers are decisive when it comes to communication on packaging.”

A row of ‘naked’ cucumbers.

Supermarkets have tried convincing consumers of the importance of plastic covers. Maurice: “The term clingfilm (vershoudfolie in Dutch: ‘freshness’ film) was therefore apparently used for a long time, but I wonder if it actually made consumers think.” The marketing expert personally had good experiences with flowpacking the cucumbers in the past. “This packaging was easier to open than clingfilm, and therefore resulted in less consumer irritation, and it rustled, which triggered a freshness association for consumers. Besides, flowpack offered more opportunities for product communication.” For tomato packaging, the developments in the field of packaging are now much more visible. Sandra: “There are a lot more developments in this, sustainable ones as well. A tomato box offers so many more opportunities. You do have to bear in mind that sustainable packaging are often still more expensive now. Regulations regarding waste often differs per municipality, not to mention the differences per country. More uniform, better guidelines could help in this.” ORGANIC CLINGFILM Henri van Hemert of Oerlemans Plastics also knows this: for now, more sustainable costs more money. Yet the developments for products including cucumber film are still happening. Henri: “We’re working hard

Organic clingfilm for cucumbers is more expensive now as well. Henri is aware of one disadvantage: “Prices of materials for organic clingfilm are higher than those of regular materials. The weight of organic film is higher as well, resulting in a higher price. In the end, it’s important that consumers no longer have a choice in shops, because biodegradable film has been used for all products.” The future in the field of cucumber packaging is transparent organic film, according to Henri. “That’s going to happen in any case, I’m convinced of it. But for now, the regular cucumber film is still a good alternative.”

But until the ultimate cucumber packaging is devised, the cucumber supply chain is faced with a challenge. It’s the job of supermarkets and wholesalers in particular to make consumers aware of the sustainability importance of a plastic protective cover. Up till now, these parties haven’t yet managed to convince consumers of their choice of packaging plastic, as is evidenced by the discussion often flaring up again. But why is that? Maurice doesn’t have an answer to that question. “I don’t understand why the reason for the plastic isn’t clearly communicated about for a product as important for supermarkets as cucumber. Supermarkets have plenty of options to explain their decisions to consumers, but they don’t do that enough. The reason to choose plastic should be explained extensively in their magazines, on their social media channels and on shelves. Those magazines do explain a lot about the production, so why not use a bit more space to fix the lack of understanding among consumers? But there are also options using the packaging itself, because appealing communication would result in more useful and less unnecessary packaging. I think the consumers would be willing to pay those extra two cents for that.“ (TT)  sandra@nature.nl hvh@oerlemansplastics.nl maurice@mauricewubben.nl

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Peter van Eerdt:

"Potato industry opts for Western Europe"

A sea of white and purplish pink flowers stretches towards the horizon. “A lot of flowering plants are a sign of increasing stress in the soil,” says Peter van Eerdt, manager of Danespo. When we visit the experimental field in the last week of June, the sun has already been shining down on the plot outside of Emmeloord, the Netherlands, for some days. “The potato plants put a lot of energy in the flowers, a sign that things aren’t quite right in the soil,” Peter explains. He talks about the development of new varieties, the influence of extreme weather, and the growing market for chips potatoes. For dozens of years, Peter has travelled the world to dedicate himself to his biggest passion: potatoes. As manager of Danespo Holland, he is jointly responsible for marketing the company’s own varieties throughout practically all of Europe. “We try to grow the seed potatoes as close to the place where they’ll be used as possible,” he says. That has two advantages. Firstly, transport costs are lower, and secondly, it responds to chauvinism in certain countries. 66

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

GROWING THEIR OWN SEED POTATOES Danespo Holland also exports their seed potatoes to overseas destinations that have an early potato production. For Bangladesh and Pakistan, for instance, the seed potatoes have to be shipped no later than mid-October to be on time for the new season. Because the harvest starts two to three weeks later in Denmark, that harvest would be too late for the seed season on these markets.

To see their own varieties in various production circumstances, the potatoes are tested in various climate zones. “Morocco, Spain, Italy, Egypt, the Netherlands, Scandinavia,” Peter sums up some countries in which experimental fields can be found. “That provides stability in the tests.” The new varieties are tested and selected for a multitude of circumstances and characteristics. Immunity to stress, coming up guarantee, production, sensitivity to diseases: these are just some of the parameters the growers bear in mind. “We’re seeing a tendency that every country wants to grow their own seed potatoes, and they’re often successful, at least partially,” Peter analyses the market. “In the Netherlands, we select very strictly for some resistances, such as nematode resistance, but this is less important in southern countries.” FAILED HARVEST 2018? “The grain and potato harvests in Germany, Denmark and Poland will probably largely

Cooperation is our

best ingredient. Even where potato, vegetable and fruit innovations are concerned. The number of microwave dinners and ready-to-use ingredients in supermarkets is growing fast. At the same time, people are ever more conscientious about their nutrition. Which is why consumers are increasingly opting for vegetables. As such, there is much to be gained when it comes to innovative, easy and tasty concepts that have vegetables as their star ingredient. Successful innovations require good collaboration with the right partners. Together, we‘d like to discover surprising new meal concepts with vegetables as a healthy point of focus. Will you accept our challenge? We‘re looking forward to seeing you at the 2019 Fruit Logistica!

Fruit Logistica 2019 Find us at the Holland Fresh Group pavilion Stand A13


fail this year, due to the dry weather,” Peter predicts in the last week of June. “In some regions, it hasn’t rained since April. In many regions, growers can’t irrigate because the water is too deep underground, or because it’s too salty.”

Because of the more extreme weather, a shift in varieties can be seen. After decades in which Bintje was the leading variety for industry, chips factories now choose varieties that have a better harvest guarantee, such as Royal or Fontane. “At first, Fontane was a variety like a lot of others, until it became distinctive due to its stress and fertilisation tolerance,” Peter says. Industry needs a variety that can offer guarantees, because production can’t be stopped. “You can now see the market is more selective because of the changing climate. Varieties immune to stress that do well under all circumstances and that give harvest guarantees are becoming more important.”

OPPORTUNITIES IN PRODUCTION FOR INDUSTRY A harvest guarantee is important particularly for industry. In recent years, demand of chips factories has increased considerably. That’s why Peter sees opportunities for the potato production in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany: countries with the highest potential return. “Demand is enormous,” he says. “The acreage is increasing because sales for processed potatoes can still be found. We’d have to worry if there was no market for it.” Globally, the market for chips and potato products is growing. “Industry requires extra capacity, and is expanding in Western Europe. They mostly do so because parameters here are good.” Infrastructure is good, as is the climate for the production of potatoes, and the factories can be built near the growers. “If they were to go to other countries, they’d have to make more investments to modernise production and to improve infrastructure.”

The intensive agriculture of the growers poses a threat to the sector. “Soils in the Netherlands and Belgium are used to their full capacity, with the shortest possible rotation. That will go wrong at some point,” he warns. Expansions are still possible in Wallonia, but that production is also gradually at its borders. The danger is in pressure from diseases, among other things. “We have to worry about continuity,” Peter explains. “Growers would like to listen to that warning, but they also have companies to run. They have to earn their daily bread. Growers have buffers to absorb those risks, but many buffers have evaporated in recent years.”

says. The difference in growth is clearly visible. While the plants from regular seed potatoes are flowering and the first tubers are growing underground, these little plants are struggling to survive. The additional time needed to grow a potato from a seed is a major disadvantage of the seeds, according to Peter. “Many regions have limited growing seasons. With seed potatoes, you’ll have a tuber within 90 days, but that’s impossible with seed.” Besides, seed results in a less uniform product than seed potatoes.

While Peter continues walking across the potato field, he regularly stops to look at a plant. Even without any knowledge of potato production, it’s clear the plants of some varieties are in trouble. Other varieties appear to be less affected by the dry weather and heat. Peter stops on the edge of the plot and pulls up a plant. Nearly fully grown potatoes hang among the roots. “This is our early variety Solist,” he says, “the potatoes are nearly fully grown.”


FRENCH POTATO SUPPLANTS SOUTHERN EUROPEAN PRODUCTION Peter has seen another trend in Southern Europe. The production in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece is declining. “That’s because the production in those countries isn’t yielding a profit or is of insufficient quality. These countries import more potatoes from France,” Peter explains. The French potatoes are of better quality, and “quality is decisive.”

POTATO SEED NOT AN OPTION Peter points out five strips at the experimental plot where very small plants are growing. In these rows, the potato plants have been planted from seed (planted out is the technical term). “You can see how far behind they are on the seed potatoes,” Peter

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

“In the 1980s, I was at a potato conference in Algeria, where someone started their presentation by holding a potato in one hand, and a bag of seed in the other,” Peter remembers. The potato seeds were presented as the future back then, but nearly 40 years later, it’s still the seed potatoes that are used in the production. “Seed is only a solution for markets we can’t reach with seed potatoes,” he continues. To replace seed potatoes by seeds, the entire infrastructure in the supply chain would have to be changed. “That’s too big a revolution.” (RM) 

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Legislator and consumer ask for ‘fair banana’

Social pressure for Fair

More Fairtrade bananas are sold every year. Not just consumers, but supermarkets also have more interest in these fair bananas. Bert Jongert, manager retail for Max Havelaar, expects this increase to continue in coming years. Across the width of society, and government, more and more attention is paid to ‘fair trade.’ He talks about the growth on the market and his worries about the low prices of the popular fruit. The market for Fairtrade bananas is “growing considerably” in the Netherlands. Supermarkets Plus, Spar, Marqt and Deen have completely switched to Fairtrade bananas. In May, COOP joined this list by placing only Fairtrade bananas on their shelves. “I estimate one in five bananas in the Netherlands is Fairtrade,” Bert says. In 2017, the market grew considerably, but he expects even bigger growth figures for this year. The market for fair bananas is growing in neighbouring countries as well. In Germany, France and Scandinavia, the organic Fairtrade bananas are reporting considerable growth figures. “The market in the UK and Switzerland is stabilising, but that’s not surprising considering these countries already are major Fairtrade markets,” he continues. DUTY TO MAINTAIN IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN From two sides, pressure on supermarkets to offer more transparency in the supply chain is increasing. During the Dutch Lower Chamber elections last year, Fairtrade Netherlands presented the ‘Curvy Voter’s Guide,’ 70

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

in which consumers were asked what they expected from supermarkets. This showed more than 80 per cent of consumers want Fairtrade products. “What consumers actually want is that supermarkets ensure growers get fair prices, that fewer pesticides are used, and that they take care of all other matters. Consumers don’t want to have to think about that.” Retailers are becoming more aware of this conviction among consumers, but the expectations are passed on into the supply chain. “Supermarkets ask their suppliers to take care of these aspects.” “You can see it’s becoming more important for supermarkets to know the supply chain before they put a product on their shelves,” Bert says. A bill has currently been proposed to the Upper Chamber that establishes the duty to maintain within the supply chain. If this bill is passed into law, supermarkets are obliged to know where a product comes from, and how this product and the workers in the supply chain have been treated. “That’s becoming increas-

ingly more important,” Bert continues. “In France and Switzerland, for instance, they have laws that make supermarkets responsible if child labour is found anywhere in the supply chain.” Dutch legislation won’t go that far, and child labour doesn’t happen as often in the banana sector as it does in, for example, the cocoa sector, but it exemplifies the trend. “The days sectors could sign a covenant appear to be over. These covenants might seem nice, but they often miss the big stick when someone doesn’t uphold the agreements. It appears as if the government is going to look into this.”

PRICE IS FINAL TABOO “Supermarkets want to know where bananas come from and they want to know what the trade means for the workers or farmers,” he continues. Within the various certifications and multinationals, more attention is paid to social responsibility as well. “The final taboo in sustainability is price. You can pay much attention to social aspects, but if you’re unwilling to pay for that, I wonder if the farmer and worker benefit from it.” Many companies support social projects, but Bert has his own thoughts about that. “It’s important, and I don’t want to detract from that, but when you pay the farmer a fair price, the farmer can pay fair wages to the workers, pay for his environmental and water management, and still have liveable wages. This is how Fairtrade is distinctive from all other quality marks.”

trade bananas increasing Bert worries about the persistent low price for ‘regular’ bananas. “Prices in supermarkets have been low for a long time now, while production costs have increased. Because of this, the situation is becoming ever more dire for growers. I think this is a worrisome trend.” By just focusing on higher productivity, it’s impossible for growers to earn a liveable wage. “It has to end somewhere,” Bert says.

Recently, more and more research has been conducted into the true price of bananas and other products. These researches also take into account the influence of pesticides on the environment and public health, for

example. These costs are often still shifted to society, and are therefore not calculated into the cost price of bananas. These are interesting studies, according to Bert. That doesn’t necessarily mean prices of bananas should increase sharply. “If you want to achieve liveable wages for workers, it could be done with a price hike of just a few cents per kilogram. Bananas wouldn’t become that much more expensive in that case.” NEW SUPPLY CHAIN OR SUPPLY CHAIN CERTIFICATION? Fairtrade offers supermarkets two options. Firstly, the organisation can bring buyers into contact with cooperatives or trade

parties in Latin America that are Fairtrade certified. Supermarket preferences for country of origin, for instance, can be taken into account. “Supermarkets often already know these large trade parties, so it’s easy to make contact.”

In this case, a new supply chain for bananas is set up. When a supermarket is satisfied with the quality of the bananas and doesn’t want to set up a new supply chain, the existing one could also go through the certification process. “It takes a bit longer, but we could look into the supply chain to see which adjustments are needed to certify the entire chain. In this case, parties in the

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


Banana ORGANIC AND FAIRTRADE: DIFFICULT COMBINATION The impact of the bad weather, which resulted in high prices on the banana market earlier this year, passed by the Fairtrade bananas. “We’ve had plenty of supply,” Bert says. The organic Fairtrade bananas have been less available since mid-2017. “This market is very large in Germany, but we had to pull out all the stops to supply plenty of organic Fairtrade bananas.”

chain often turn out to already be certified as well.”

ENOUGH SUPPLY FOR CONTINUED GROWTH There’s much room for growth in the supply of bananas. “If the entire Netherlands were to switch today, there’d be plenty of volume,” Bert says. There are certified growers in Latin America, where most of the Fairtrade bananas are harvested, who sell about 60 to 70 per cent of their harvest as Fairtrade. “We could therefore grow by

30 per cent in any case. The supply is very large, we’re not worried about that.” Besides the room to grow within the current supply, the number of certified growers is also increasing. The certified production areas in Latin America are becoming larger, Fairtrade has also been active in Africa for some years now. Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast mostly export the Fairtrade bananas to the British and French markets. “In these countries, the market for African bananas is growing, but these bananas are unknown in the Netherlands.”

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The organic production of bananas is mostly limited to Peru and the Dominican Republic. In other countries in the region, such as Ecuador, the organic production is also expanding. “It continues to be difficult, because the bananas grow well in a moist environment, but that’s also a good environment for diseases and fungi.” The organic certification is done without consulting Fairtrade, it’s in the hands of organic certification institutions such as Skal. jongert@maxhavelaar.nl (RM) 


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Yntze Buitenwerf:

"Speed is the most important thing for fruit" Despite emerging competition from container shipping companies equipping their sea giants with more reefer plugs, Seatrade continues to invest in dedicated reefers. Containerisation is also continuing in the reefer category, to which Seatrade found an answer with the introduction of specialised reefer container ships. The shipping company is also dedicated to speed. “For bananas, speed is important, but it’s even more important to blueberries, mango and papaya,” says Yntze Buitenwerf, President of the company. Against a backdrop of the Port of Antwerp, he talks about developments in the maritime sector. How is the reefer sector currently doing? “If we define reefers as all transport of perishable products in containers or per specialised cooling ship, it has been a growing market for decades. In 2000, 62 million tonnes were transported across the ocean. Nowadays, that’s about 115 million tonnes, so it has nearly doubled. From that point of view, it’s a healthy trend. The cause of the growth can be twofold: On the one hand, the market grows when there’s more demand or when demand increases in other locations. On the other, the market grows when more is produced. Seatrade has been active on the reefer market for more than 67 years, and we’ve increasingly seen the growing production being the cause of the market’s growth.” 76

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

How do you explain that? “Five years ago, the consumption of blueberries was still very low. Nowadays, many people eat blueberries for breakfast as well. The market for tropical fruit has also grown enormously, although that has been at the expense of the market for citrus, apples and pears. It’s also intrinsic to the trade of the farmer or producer. Growers are always working on growth. When global farmers have had a good year, more will be planted the following year. For instance, in the past five years, an enormous amount of citrus has been planted in Morocco. These new plants have now come into production, although the yields aren’t at their highest yet. An enormous amount has also been planted in Peru, and even in Chile they’re

still growing, despite being a mature market. The market is therefore growing globally, but not everything is transported via sea transport. I expect the reefer market to stabilise in coming years.”

Shipping was plagued by overcapacity in recent years, is this also the case on the reefer market? “Looking at transport, the market has grown enormously due to containers, and the number of reefer boats is decreasing globally. The growth on the containerised market isn’t just the result of a growing reefer market. Major shipping companies are investing in ever-larger boats, to mostly meet expectations of increasing dry shipments. This growth is the result of global economic growth. Plugs for reefers are added to these boats incidentally, to ship reefer containers as well. The bigger the boats, the more plugs are built, but capacity of these plugs are only seldom completely utilised.” “In recent years, mostly large to very large container boats of more than 18,000 TEU were built. Smaller boats actually don’t count anymore. A ship of 8,000 TEU is considered a feeder. From the point of view of large container shipping companies, that makes sense, because a larger boat has a

lower cost price per container. When capacity is doubled, cost prices are much lower, but there’s always a limit.” Are the Suez Canal and Panama Canal a bottleneck for these large ships? “The Panama Canal has been deepened and broadened, but capacity for large boats is limited. Currently, seven to eight large ships travel through the Panama Canal in each direction every day. Capacity can increase to at most twelve large ships per day. More is just not an option. These aren’t just container boats, but also tankers, passenger boats and gas carriers. The number of gas carriers in particular is large, because Japan has closed its nuclear power plants, and switched to gas and coal from the US. In addition, the US has an unspoken preferential right, so that two container ships can pass through the Panama Canal per day at most. However, Seatrade sails through the smaller locks of the Panama Canal every day.”

The benefit of these large boats is a low cost price, how can Seatrade compete with this? “The major advantage of the large boats is their low cost price, but these can’t call on every port. Feeders are used in those cases, and sometimes even a feeder for a feeder. But it’s about more than just cost price. In total, transport can be cheaper than a direct connection, but transit times are longer than when you sail directly. For a product such as apples or citrus, that’s not necessarily a problem, but it is a problem for other products, such as grapes and blueberries. We don’t want to compete on price, because even large shipping companies lose money year after year. Maersk lost 239 million dollar in the first quarter. CMA lost more than 70 million dollar in the first quarter. They say they’ll start making a profit someday, but a small shipping company like Seatrade can’t compete with that. We distinguish ourselves with our direct routes, we’ve done so for years. Differences are clearly

sail to Coolport, for example, or Opticool, or BNFW here in Antwerp. We see containers as a packaging unit. We don’t ship containers, but our customer’s product. That’s why we only sail with workers who are trained in transporting reefer shipments. Naturally, not much goes wrong, but if a cooling unit breaks down, the crew knows what to do and fix it.”

"Ports in the emerging economies are immediately equipped for containers"

visible in transit times. The large shipping companies are slower. For bananas, speed is important, but it’s even more important for blueberries, mango and papaya.”

So speed is one of Seatrade’s important distinctive capabilities, can you tell us more about that? “Speed is the most important thing for fruit. Fast, Direct and Dedicated are part of our DNA. You get all kinds of options with dry containers, but speed is important for fruit. Shelf life of the product is better in that case. We don’t have transhipments, so we always sail directly to the terminal. Mooring at Maasvlakte 2 isn’t an option for us. We

How much quicker is Seatrade compared to a container shipping company on, for instance, the course from Latin America to Europe? “From Ecuador, it takes us 13 days, from Peru 15 days. Some container shipping companies can manage that on paper, but they often use hubs. The connection between various services is often not good, because it could happen, for example, that there’s no space on a boat, and your container ends up in a port for a week. It often takes these shipping companies 23 days from Latin America, so that’s about ten days slower.” Could large shipping companies also dedicate themselves to speed and direct connections? “Large shipping companies can also do that, but not with the large ships they now have. They can do the same thing we do, but workers need to be trained for that. Large container shipping companies now also have direct connections, but they can’t get the added value from the market. That’s why Seatrade started a cooperation with Hapag Loyd and CMA CGM to get that added value from the market.” Is the cooperation on the Meridian Line an example of that? “Yes, but new courses are in development, which we can talk more about later. Container shipping companies are interested in our concept.”

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



What does Seatrade’s fleet look like? “We have larger traditional reefer boats and reefer container boats. Besides, we have smaller reefer boats that are completely equipped to transport fish. These boats load the catch of open trawlers on the open sea, so that the trawlers don’t have to enter the ports. We also have a juice tanker that sails between Costa Rica and Florida. This ship is unique because it can transport pasteurised juices in tanks below deck. On deck, the Juice Express can take containers.”

Which are the biggest trade routes? “Off the west coast of Latin America to Europe or the east coast of the US is an important course, but there are other important courses as well, such as from Ecuador to the Mediterranean, between West Africa and Europe and from the Philippines to China and Japan.Naturally, South Africa to Europe and the east coast of the US is currently important for citrus.” In trade, the emerging markets in Asia are much talked about, have you noticed

anything about that as a shipping company? “Definitely. In China, demand for import fruit is growing. Bananas are the least dependent on the season with year-round production, and bananas are eaten globally. That’s actually a very constant business, but we’ve noticed more volume is sent to the Far East. We’re currently not very active on these courses. That has partly grown this way historically. The ports in emerging economies are directly equipped for containers, and we also have traditional

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

reefer boats in service. Besides, all of our boats are currently in service, and we don’t have a surplus in our category. We can’t just deploy additional boats on these courses.”

The containerisation is also continuing in the reefer segment. How does Seatrade deal with that? “Logistically in ports globally we’re seeing a shift towards containers. In the past, for example, bananas were hung by the bunch in the hold, then they were packed in boxes, then loaded into the hold per pallet and

now we see containers are on the rise. In the reefer category, more containers are used as well. Three years ago, I might have seen the occasional container on the quay from my window, while two to three boats moored to unload 800,000 boxes of bananas every week. The cold store has also been completely set up to handle pallets. Nowadays, you see only containers on the quay.” “You then have to wonder if you should still invest in building traditional reefer boats. We don’t think it’s very useful. The boats we

have built, can load reefer containers both below and on deck. This is a concept that’s hardly around, because the cooling units of the containers give off heat. We’ve tested this, and temperatures can rise to 50 or 60 degrees Celsius. That’s when the cooling unit stops working. This means you could choose ventilation below deck, but you’d have to be careful about which products are in the containers. You have to prevent products being ‘contagious’ and starting to ripen. That’s why we developed a cooling unit with water cooling. Tubes are con-

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



nected to the cooling unit for water cooling, so that temperatures remain low. Without cooling, you can only transport dry loads below deck. If we wanted to do that, we’d also have to call on other ports.”

This investment has also resulted in criticism. Can you tell us about that? “Eight shipping companies are now specialised in reefers. Seatrade is the only shipping company that has been specialised in this market since 1951. Other shipping companies often also do other transports, such as tankers, which were big moneymakers in the past. We never did this. We’ve often been blamed for selling our skin to container shipping companies, but we’re the only ones to invest in the reefer segment. In recent years, we’ve invested hundreds of millions of euros, and we’ll continue doing that.” Can containerisation also be seen with smaller ports globally? “During the season, we ship many seed potatoes to the Mediterranean. We do this from Beverwijk, among other places. That’s a small port. IJmuiden and Amsterdam are nearby with container terminals, yet Beverwijk has its own container terminal. We also load the potatoes in Harlingen and Eemshaven, where they have container terminals. The boats are practically between 80

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

the production companies there. There naturally are also areas where infrastructure leaves something to be desired if everything was to be shipped in containers, but there will come a time when containers will also be used in those areas.”

Because of containerisation, it has also become easier for small importers to import fruit, are you seeing this trend as well? “Absolutely, and we can also do business with the small importers. In the past, we couldn’t properly help this group, because the products can have influence on each other, and all shipments were next to each other below deck. Now that our ships are partly or completely filled with containers, we can also take these shipments. We do a lot for small companies. Just like us, they have to be distinctive with specialisation and service, and they can’t compete on price. The product just has to be good. In Chinese cities, 80 per cent of millennials hasn’t been in supermarkets in three years, they order everything online. That doesn’t happen that much yet in fresh produce, but if you want to change that, your product has to be good and of constant quality. Just like how Coca Cola is always the same. Quality is very important for these small importers. By supplying a product as fresh as possible, the risk of returning it becomes smaller.”

In various sectors, recruitment is a major problem, what’s it like for the shipping industry? “We train our own staff in our training centre, in the Philippines, among other places, where they are specifically trained for reefers. Part of the people trained here end up on our own boats, but we also have a job exchange that rents staff with our training to other companies. These job exchanges are in Vladivostok, Kaliningrad and Groningen, which has traditionally been our home base. We sail with Filipinos and Russians a lot, they’re good sailors. In the Netherlands and Western Europe, it’s more difficult to find good workers. The nautical college in the Netherlands has been changed in to a maritime college. In the past, students were trained to sail, now they can also become terminal managers, for example. This means the chance they end up doing something else is bigger. The romance of sailing has also changed. You get to many different places in the world, but you don’t spend much time there. Once a ship’s in port, the engineers are working hard oiling and maintaining the engines, and the bridge staff is busy loading and unloading.” Earlier this year, one of Seatrade’s boats was hijacked by pirates who kidnapped a number of crew members. Is piracy a big problem for the maritime sector?

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

“For us, there are two areas where piracy is a danger. Firstly, the Indian Ocean, near Somalia. This area is well-patrolled, so that there are actually no problems, and we have security on board as a standard. The Dutch government is still looking for a solution in which the navy plays a part, but that solution has so far not been found. Boats flying a Dutch flag are Dutch territory, so you can’t just have armed security. We instruct the crew about how to respond when something happens. Pirates are only interested in boats they want ransoms for. The crew can use an emergency brake and lock themselves in a secured room we call the citadel. No one enters the citadel, and the crew can contact the outside world from the citadel using a special phone.” “In the waters near Nigeria, pirates try to climb on board when approaching boats come for their SEN numbers and are close to the roadstead. Each ship seeking to enter the port needs a Ship Entry Number. To receive that number, a ship has to report to a pilot, after which it has to wait 200 miles offshore at anchorage until it’s called. If the ship’s allowed to

enter the port, it has to sail closer and first pick up the pilot, but if the pilot’s not there yet, it could go wrong. The ship then has to wait in an area where many small boats sail. You can’t tell which belong to pirates and which don’t. That’s what went wrong for us one foggy day. The pirates climbed on board and took off with part of the crew, but this was quickly solved, fortunately. Via a third company specialised in these kinds of cases, we managed to quickly contact the pirates. Yet we learned from this and took additional measures. We now sail in this particular delta region with additional security on board. As an employer, we want to do anything possible for security. I have to say it doesn’t happen often. Seatrade was founded in 1951, and in all those years, it hasn’t even happened three times that a ship was hijacked.” “Globally, there’s also the Strait of Malacca near Singapore, but we hardly ever sail there. Piracy is often a wave-like movement. You can see that if they’re successful once, more attempts are made. Recently, for instance, 11 crew members from another shipping company were kidnapped.

The pirates are well-organised. They know the various flags and how governments deal with piracy. Some ships under certain flags shoot back, so they leave those alone. The Dutch government decided we can’t do anything, so Dutch ships are an easy target.”

The rising oil prices brought a number of shipping companies to implement an additional fuel levy. What do you think the future holds for shipping? “Production costs in the oil industry are rising, so it’s logical prices are rising. On the other hand, OPEC is the largest cartel in the world, and it’s even tolerated. Oil prices are challenging for everyone in the sector. We transport quickly, but also cheaply. The boats can manage a speed of 19 to 20 knots, which costs 40 tonnes of oil. Ten years ago, we used 55 to 60 tonnes to achieve this speed. At the current oil prices, this alone is a saving of thousands of dollars per day.”

the Friends of the Sea label and 360Quality. Importers and retail think this is important as well. We don’t just pay attention to the use of oil, but also to coolants. Just like the coolants on land, we’re working on phasing out old coolants. The ammonia coolant is making a comeback, but in a closed system this time. It’s the same technique as cooling with freon, but it’s gaseous. When a freon installation has a leak, it evaporates.We’re working on replacing the coolants on all boats.”

“As of 2020, the entire sector must have switched to low-sulphur fuel. This can be bought, or the old fuels can be filtered. Besides, it’s interesting to see what the Paris Agreement 2030 will mean, because the emission of CO2 is more important than sulphur.” (RM)  yntze.buitenwerf@seatrade.global

There are also reports of alternative fuels. What about sustainability in the shipping industry? “We’re looking for alternative fuels, and have, for instance,

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



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To p f r u i t

Greenstar and Arctic®:

Two ways to a nonbrowning apple “For us it was more or less a coincidence,” admits Nicolas Stevens, CEO of Better 3 Fruit. The breeding company for topfruit wasn’t looking for a variety with a nonbrowning characteristic. Even though this was exactly the result of crossing a Granny Smith and Delcorf. The new variety is known as Greenstar. “That’s the result of the high vitamin C level of the apple, which gives the apple more natural antioxidants, which slows browning,” he explains.


etter 3 Fruit develops new apple varieties through the traditional way of breeding. On the list of most important characteristics for new varieties nonbrowning isn’t at the top. Taste, texture, production habits and resistance are more important, tells Nicolas. Within the topfruit industry the browning of apples is hardly a topic. “For us it’s not a deciding factor,” he says. Other conditions are more important. “Commercially it’s interesting to adapt an existing variety, but browning isn’t a big topic in the industry. I expect that this development of the Arctic varieties is the first step to adjust other characteristics as well.” NEW VARIETY ON THE SHELF An important difference between the Greenstar and the GMO varieties is the fact that GMO apples are not sold as a different variety. Therefor these apples can be recognised as a Golden Delicious, Granny Smith or Fuji by consumers. Only the browning characteristic is adjusted, a Golden stays a Golden.

ers, especially in the supermarkets where you have to inform consumers in a glance.” The industrial processing sector is inter-

Nicolas Stevens

apple to place in the market,” Nicolas tells. Consumers associate green apples with sourness. For red apples, which are seen as more sweet and sour, it is more easy. “That perception is wrong, but it’s difficult to change.”

Via natural breeding techniques the slow browning characteristic could be bred in other varieties. “You have to work with 50 percent of the one variety and 50 percent of the other. In our case the new variety has to be better as well; tasteful, better yield and better storage capabilities.”

Variety: Greenstar Available since: 2017 Breeder: Better3Fruit Breeding technique: non-GMO

The Greenstar on the other hand is a new variety and therefore an addition to the existing varieties. “A positive characteristic of the Greenstar is the high yield, but it’s a difficult variety because it doesn’t fit the existing patterns,” explains Nicolas. Consumers hardly differentiate the Greenstar from other varieties on the shelf. The unique characteristic of the apple are unknown, which limits demand. “It’s difficult to show the characteristics to consum-

ested in the Greenstar. For slices and other fresh cut apple products the Greenstar is appreciated.

IMPORTANT CHARACTERISTIC In the future new varieties are more important than adjusting a single characteristic of a variety. “We believe that it’s better to create new varieties, starting from scratch, than adjusting single characteristics. In the latter case you don’t evolve in taste and appearance,” he continues. Better 3 Fruit does genetic research to cross bred more precise, but they don’t use GMO-techniques.

Even though nonbrowning isn’t on top of the breeders wish list, the characteristic is included in the process. In some (yet) non-commercial varieties the characteristic is present, but other factors are more important, ends Nicolas. nicolas@better3fruit.com

NONBROWNING IN OTHER VARIETIES “Greenstar is a delicious, crunchy apple, but because of its appearance it’s a difficult

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


To p f r u i t

Greenstar juice

Conventional vs Arctic

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A fruit salad with brown apples doesn’t look attractive, so we leave it on the supermarket shelf. For a child who is confronted with brown apple slices after opening his lunchbox, consuming the fruit is not attractive either. It makes sense that the breeding industry picked up the gauntlet years ago. In Europe the Greenstar hit the market in 2007, in the USA ten years later the first apple slices of the Arctic® Golden entered the market. Two apple varieties, two breeding techniques, same result: a nonbrowning apple.

infection resulting in rotting fruit. “Nearly a decade of research and data was collected and multiple regulatory reviews were conducted over a five-year timeline, concluding in 2015, leading to the commercial launch of our delicious nonbrowning apples last fall.”

it will take years before a nonbrowning variety of these crops is available. In addition to this he does not exclude the possibility to investigate other solutions other than browning. “We have an extremely talented science team that is always looking for innovative solutions to make the perfect fruit even better. And, indeed, we are working on traits beyond nonbrowning,” he lifts a tip of the veil. “Our primary focus will remain on developing other Arctic® apple products and new nonbrowning varieties.”

“It’s been quite the journey to develop our nonbrowning Arctic® apples,” says Neal Carter, President & Founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. In the mid-90s he came across an Australian research to enhance potatoes with a nonbrowning trait through biotechnology. “My wife, Louisa, and I felt that we could help boost apple consumption through a similar biotech approach with apples, as nonbrowning apples would be more appealing and convenient. Additionally, we felt this small genetic change could also significantly reduce food waste.” Nearly half of all apples produced end up wasted, many due to superficial bruising, knows the Canadian. In 1996 the company was created and in 2002 the science behind Arctic apples was proven.

To solve the bronwning of apples the researchers of OSF figured out the DNA of the apple. Without getting too technical, apple browning is the result of damage to cells in the apple. This can be caused by, for example, cutting or biting. This damage releases an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO). This enzyme reacts on phenolic compound in the apple, which causes the browning. The Arctic® apples have too little PPO to experience superficial browning. However, Arctic® apples will still turn brown if they have a fungal or bacterial 86

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

Variety: Arctic® (Golden, Granny, Fuji) Available since: 2017 Breeder: Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) The research took years, but the technique could be used for different varieties as well. Every apple variety has its own characteristics concerning browning. Some apples brown faster than others. With knowledge about the gene, every apple variety can be improved. In November last year the first commercial volumes of the Arctic® Goldens hit the market, a nonbrowning Golden variety. This fall the first Arctic® Granny’s will be harvested and this year plantings of Arctic Fujis will start. “We have also done some preliminary work with other crops such as pears and cherries,” explains Neal. Although he calls these projects promising

The varieties are approved by the USDA and FDA in the USA. The Arctic® Golden and Arctic® Granny are approved by the Canadian authorities as well. With these approvals these varieties can be sold at the North American market. We’ve had many apple-lovers eagerly waiting for years to try our unique nonbrowning apples,” says Neal. “One of our biggest challenges right now is keeping up to the demand with such limited availability until our apple trees grow and mature.” Acreage is expanding to increase availability in the USA market. Sometime after the 2019 fall harvest the apples will be available for Canadian consumers as well. Acreage stands at 267 hectares. That number will increase to over 2,000 acres by the end of 2020.

Globally countries have different positions on the techniques used to create the nonbrowning apple. For example, the European market is closed for genetically modified apples. “Different countries across the globe typically have their own specific regulations and approval systems when it comes to foods improved through biotechnology so it could potentially present some challenges in the future. We are currently in the process of pursuing regulatory approval in Mexico and Argentina.” denise@okspecialtyfruits.com


Inspiring people to make healthy choices Inspiring to make healthy choices Anytime,people anyplace, anyhow People are leading increasingly flexible lifestyles. Borders between family, education, travel and social life People are work, leading increasingly flexible lifestyles. Borders are blurring. As eating patternstravel are rapidly evolving, between work, family, education, and social life are blurring. As eating patterns are rapidly evolving, Greenyard Greenyard is inspiring people to make healthy choices – is inspiring people to make healthy choices – anytime, anyplace. anytime, anyplace. Whether they are looking for healthy Whether theyfood are looking for healthy on-the-go food or timeon-the-go or time-saving solutions for their home saving solutions forworking their home cooking, wemake are working every cooking, we are every day to their lives day to make their lives easier and healthier. easier and healthier.


Visit us at Fruit Logistica and get a taste. Visit us at Fruit Logistica and get a taste. 03




Hall 5.2, Stand A-

Hall 5.2, Stand A-

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Herwig Dejonghe:

"Our growers have a say in pricing" Fire. At the start of last year’s season, the sea of flames reduced the electricity supply and the maintenance building of Antarctic Foods Aquitaine in Ychoux, France, to ashes. Herwig Dejonghe, owner and manager of the company, didn’t let the fire consume his optimism. “It may not have been easy, but we survived the crisis,” he says, looking back on the event. The Belgian man passionately talks about his French adventure, the frozen sector, and his relationships with growers.


he woody region, roughly between Bordeaux and the Pyrenees, is the home base of Antarctic Foods. The department, part of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, has the Landes name. The frozen factory is located in the extensive fields, which are known for their good sandy soils and complete irrigation. This is where the products of surrounding growers are processed into frozen products for the food industry. FAMILY BACK IN BUSINESS Three years ago, Herwig took over the facility in Aquitaine from Greenyard. The Belgian, with his roots in the frozen sector, was ready for a new challenge. The family company Pinguin, inextricably linked to the Dejonghe family, was taken over by Greenyard some years earlier. Pinguin’s branch in Aquitaine was put up for sale by Greenyard in 2014. Herwig announced himself as buyer. During the takeover, it was agreed on that Herwig would not focus on the retail and food service markets. That’s why he decided to focus on the food industry. Nowadays, Herwig focuses more on the commercial side of things, for which he visits growers and maintains relationships. “My son became manager of the production hall. Because of this, Antarctic Foods is a


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

unknown to Herwig. In the mid 1990s, he personally established this branch as part of Pinguin. “The region’s advantage is its long season,” the entrepreneur says. The harvest of carrots and green beans starts weeks earlier than in the Netherlands or Belgium. For green beans, for example, the season lasts from late-June to late-October. “That’s two months longer than in the Netherlands,” Herwig explains. Sweet corns has a season of nearly three months between July and late-October. “For us, the months of June to October are the most important part of the season. These are intense months.” After this busy summer period, a somewhat calmer period starts in which root crops such as carrot, parsnip, scorzonera and potatoes are processed. That season lasts until about April.

family company once again,” he says. “It’s important for the community as well, but it’s wonderful to pass down your passion, for carrots, down from father to son. The love for carrots fits the history of Pinguin.” ANTARCTIC’S BIG FIVE The production location in Landes wasn’t

Carrots, sweet maize, beans, potatoes and peas are the company’s Big Five, good for roughly 90 per cent of production. “We have a high degree of specialisation,” Herwig says. This relatively limited assortment is a deliberate choice. For the growers, the large plots are very much suited for precision agriculture and the production of large volumes. For buyers, these products are basic ingredients for the food industry. The products find their way to nearby markets,


Fruit Salad T: +31 (0)228 565 500 / 566 400 F: +31 (0)228 565 548 / 566 410 E: jhwagenaar@thegreenery.com

Please visit us in Hall 1.2 Stand B20 Come visit us at the Fruit Logistica in Hall 21, Booth C11


Mirontell fein & frisch AG • Zum Kiesberg 8 • 14979 Großbeeren Telefon: +49 (0) 33701-3573-0 • www.mirontell.de Contact: Rick Marwitz marwitz@mirontell.de

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


“worldwide export of agricultural and horticultural produce”

Table Potatoes


Frozen French fries


Other products Frozen vegetables Cooking oils Peanuts Lentils and beans Carrots Beetroots Cabbage

Pickled pork tails Salted and dried fish Tomato paste Table and industrial salt Sugar Raisins and sultanas etc.

such as France and Spain, but also further abroad. “We supply throughout Europe, and in Latin America, North America and Asia as well.”

“Enjoy doing business with a reliable partner” Head office in The Netherlands

Postal address: P.O. Box 18, 4430 AA ‘s-Gravenpolder Office address: Burg. Jansenstraat 11 4431 BK ‘s-Gravenpolder (The Netherlands) Telephone: +31 (0) 113 31 1581 Fax: +31 (0) 113 31 2211 E-mail address: info@slotfrans.nl Website: www.slotfrans.nl

table potatoes - onions - garlic - seed potatoes peanuts - frozen fries - frozen vegetables


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

lotfr PF2016 90 x 270 mm.indd 1

IMPORTANT TO SPECIALISE Baby food producers, among others, are an important customer group of the company. This is thanks to the good soils, which contain few heavy metals, nitrates and similar. “Soils here aren’t contaminated,” Herwig says. That’s why the products are even more appealing to these processors. In recent years, the organic assortment emerged as well. “I think we’re capable of performing well with these five products on these markets,” he continues.

“A broad assortment is necessary, but specialisation is also important. For us, this is more important than having a broad assortment,” he says. The frozen company’s customers process large volumes, so that specialisation is important. The factory has a capacity of 30,000 tonnes of vegetables per year. Due to an investment in a new tunnel freezer, this capacity will

07-01-17 16:24

be extended to between 40,000 and 45,000 tonnes in the next two years. 2017: FIRE! In the autumn of 2017, and optical sorting machine of Key was taken into use. “With these investments, we can offer great quality,” Herwig proudly says. It looked less positively at the start of last season. A fire reduced the electricity supply and the maintenance building to ashes. “It may not have been easy, but we survived,” Herwig says. “Despite the fire, we managed not to desert our growers, because we were able to store our production with some colleague companies.” Five Spanish and three French companies offered help and took over production in the first month. In July, Antarctic Foods’ factory could take over production again thanks to temporary measures. “Our experience in the sector helped us get through the crisis, and ensured we could guarantee continuity,” he continues. “I’m quite proud we came through the crisis. It gives us confidence for the future.”


Herwig Dejonghe und sein Sohn Francis im neuen Tiefkühltunnel, der wichtigsten Investition seit der Übernahme von Herwig durch Herwig

Antarctic Foods Aquitaine became very rooted in the local community in recent years. “I had to start from scratch when building relationships with the growers. We now have a close cooperation with growers in the region,” Herwig explains. “I could say we have a good relationship with our neighbouring growers.” In relationship to or customers and suppliers, Antarctic Foods chooses a transparent cooperation. “The growers know where we sell the products, and they have a say in our pricing. We’re transparent about our sales price, and this automatically increases trust.” It’s important to respect the work of the growers, according to Herwig. “Transparency in the supply chain is important for sustainability.” VALORISATION OF FRESH MARKET AND INDUSTRY One of the company’s oldest relations is the Agrial company. This large cooperative, owner of Van Oers United and the Florette brand among other things, has a share of seven per cent in the frozen company. Products that are difficult to sell on the

fresh market because of their shape, are supplied to the factory by the cooperative. “This way, we have a nice symbiosis between the fresh market and industry.” “It’s a contemporary solution to the valorisation of the fresh market and industry,” Herwig continues. The shape of the products is less important for processing. Products with small blemishes can also be processed. The optical sorter guarantees no products with more significant blemishes end up in the final product. The company has worked this way for 20 years, but they’ve intensified this approach in the past three years. “It’s a wonderful model, and I think it’s the right direction towards sustainable production.” (RM) 

Let’s taste it : at our stand B.18, hall 3.2


Akkerseweg 13b, 5321 HG Hedel T +31 (0)73 599 20 93, E info@quiks.nl


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


To m a t o e s

Jack Groenewegen and Ad van Kester with the first 'Prominent Tomato', the meat tomato Cameo..

Twenty-five years after the ‘Wasserbombecrisis’:

„Drowning and getting up again, this defines our sector“ It can hardly be imagined now, but in the early 1990s the alarms sounded for the Dutch tomato trade. The Dutch tomato, still “our number one greenhouse product,” according to AGF Primeur in those days, became the talk of the town for our neighbours to the east. In Germany, the idea had arisen that Dutch tomatoes tasted like water, and the entire tomato trade collapsed as a consequence. The entire sector learned the hard way because of the ‘Wasserbombecrisis,’ but in the end, it contributed to the flourishing tomato trade in the following years.


t the time, Jack Groenewegen was in his early 20s, and was just in the process of taking over his father’s tomato production company, Kwekerij Greenway. This crisis, which hit its lowest point in 1993, wasn’t a complete surprise to Jack. “It was going badly in 1991 and 1992 as well. The image problem was already an issue then, for that is what it was. But it reached its climax in 1993.”


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

FUSS Dirk van Nieuwkerk, trader for Witkamp at the time, and nowadays working for Anaco & Greeve: “German tabloid Bild reported about the bad-tasting Dutch tomatoes. You know what it’s like, it became an enormous fuss in hardly any time.”

In those years, the Dutch tomato trade was dependent on the export to Germany even

more than it is now. At least 80 per cent of Dutch tomatoes was shipped across the border. Jack: “More and more Germans chose tomatoes grown under the Spanish sun, which, they said, tasted better than the Dutch tomatoes.”

According to Dutch magazine Het Parool, the Dutch technological lead in the field of production had become a disadvantage.The Germans said the Dutch tomato was sterile and unhealthy, in part thanks to reports about experiments with tomato chromosomes conducted by the WUR. FLAVOUR Production, that’s what it was all about in the early 1990s. Dirk: “It was all about kilograms, flavour was much less important.” Jack: “The crisis was actually the result of a system in which quality wasn’t rewarded at all. All of the tomatoes were placed togeth-




Holland since 1963

Hall 6.2 B-06

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


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Our mission To create as short a chain as possible, so the product can reach the consumer as fast and fresh as possible. Own cultivation We grow tomatoes with passion and know-how on 14 hectares in a sustainable environment! Vine Tomatoes, Cocktail Tomato and Cherry Tomato. Packaging With 5 modern packing lines, we package according to the client’s demands and expectations. All packaging types are possible! Among others: flow-pack, stretch wrap and top-seal packaging with desired film or labels. Trade Tomatoes, Belgian endive, eggplant, bell pepper, lettuce, cucumber, pears and apples... all fresh from the grower! Logistics Storage capacity up to 1200 pallets. State of the art conditioned warehouse. Own fleet of 10 trucks.

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

To m a t o e s

The crisis was also given plenty of attention in Primeur. In one article titled ‘Gooien met tomaten’ (throwing tomatoes) in the April 1993 edition, the problems were reported with dismay. “It has already become tradition in the German press to run Dutch agrarian products in the ground, but it should really be questioned if the use of adopting this habit in the Netherlands is necessary. Even more so because the arguments are especially subjective. You can’t argue about flavour, but when the Dutch tomato is called worse than the Belgian, qualitatively, this is nonsense based on nothing. After all, the production methods, and even the seeds, are the same. (…) The Mediterranean tomato might be more beautiful and red (…) The tough skin is considered a disadvantage by many.” It’s ironic that this fiery plea had a wrong colour print, so that the pictured tomato mostly looked green on the pages of this particular Primeur edition.

er at auction, and were sold in one block at one price. At flower auctions, the products were already being auctioned under their own names, so that growers could be rewarded with higher prices for better quality. Tomato growers had to do with the same price, regardless of individual quality differences. One consequence was that growers started harvesting the tomatoes increasingly greener, because green tomatoes fetched higher prices at auction. Traders could then wait longer for higher prices with the green tomatoes. But flavourful tomatoes need light.” The traders weren’t concerned about flavour at all back then. Dirk: “You just had to get six kilos to one customer, five to the next. That’s pretty much all we cared about. It’s different now. Flavour has also become more and more important to us.”

SEPARATE BLOCK At the lowest point of the crisis, thousands of kilos of tomatoes were thrown out every day. Dirk: “That was particularly painful for growers. At the time, if you had two to three hectares, you were one of the big boys, and it was a bad break to see the product you had worked so hard for get thrown away at auction. Yet even then, the principle was: one man’s breath is another man’s death. For example, Germans still bought tomatoes, and they sold these to try to profit

from the completely collapsed tomato prices.”

In the meantime, growers took up the gauntlet and asked auctions for a separate block for tomatoes of better quality. Jack: “It was revolutionary to have achieved that back then. From then on, new tomato brands such as Red Pearl came into being. Under the Prominent brand name, we marketed beefsteak tomato Cameo, and the Prominent growers’ association was founded in 1995.”

VINE TOMATO The crisis is also the start of the vine tomato. Jack: “I can well remember an advisor visiting us at one time, who told me they had completely lost their minds in the south of the Netherlands. They left tomatoes unharvested longer, and picked the tomato as a vine. It sounds so simple. You just didn’t pick for a week, and then picked the entire vine of bright red, ripened vine tomatoes in one go. At first, the tomatoes weren’t firm enough yet, and they regularly cracked. Proper vine tomato varieties only came about later.”

also fought back against the image problem in Germany. Dirk: “I still think it’s impressive the growers managed to switch so quickly. As a trader, it then became important to market these products full of conviction. With such wonderful, new products you could make a good profit from a commercial point of view as well.” From 1994 the market recovered again, at least, it did according to Jack, who started growing vine tomatoes from that point onwards. “In 1994, the loose tomato was still doing badly. From 1995, a shift from loose to vine could be seen.” Dirk: “The crisis was tough and rigorous. It was a matter of drowning and getting up again, this defines our sector.” (TT)  jack@kwekerijgreenway.nl dirk@anacogreeve.nl

These vine tomatoes soon turned out to be a hole-in-one, and various growers, including Jack, went on the road with their new product. The new products were proudly shown to exporters, and the new tomatoes

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Marcel den Hartog (r) :

"Being distinctive by developing new consumer packaging"

Plastics are currently in the corner receiving much abuse. The spectre of the Great Pacific garbage patch and cadavers with stomachs full of plastic residues control the media. Greenpeace even started a campaign to free the world from ‘unnecessary’ plastics using #BreakFreeFromPlastic. How does the packaging sector see this development? How do they respond to the sustainability trend? Marcel den Hartog, manager BeNeLux, and Robert Stobbelaar, Sales Manager Consumer Packaging, of NNZ explain their vision and talk about the developments in ‘the world of packaging.’ The company wants to give consumer packaging a more emphatic position in their assortment, among other things. NNZ wants to put consumer packaging in the spotlight more. Could you tell us a little more about that? Marcel: “We’re a company that’s been selling packaging solutions since 1922. We’ve therefore been around for 96 years now, and soon it’ll be 100 years. NNZ is traditionally a family company, founded by the 96

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

Boot family. Len Boot is currently one of the owners, and he’s involved with management. Originally, we focused on two markets: the agrarian market and industry. For industry we make, for example, big bags, packaging for baby food, animal feed and milk powder in both cardboard and film. In 1922 we started with agrarian packaging,

that is gunnysacks for potatoes, onions and carrots. We’re still doing this, but we also have consumer packaging that can be found in supermarkets. We think this will be an important growth market for us in coming years.”

Will the consumer packaging branch become a separate pillar within the company besides agrarian and industry? Marcel: “No, consumer packaging fall under agrarian. That pillar is split into transport packaging and consumer packaging. We have many international colleagues as well, and we’ve seen consumer packaging for fresh produce becoming more and more important internationally. This is also because consolidation among packaging suppliers, but also in the fresh produce sector, continues. Besides, the right packaging solutions offer an added value. Both in the field of extending shelf life and combatting waste and in the field of being distinctive

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


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on shelves. This means brand appearance, sustainability and convenience.”

meet four times per year, to talk about the developments we’re experiencing. Besides, we naturally visit fairs or have our own stand, at the Fruit Logistica, for instance.”

Robert: “Because of this international network, we can move along with our customers. There’s a handful of major companies in the sector that get supply from various regions. For example, we can supply packaging during the Scandinavian season, but also for the import from other parts of Europe outside of the season. This international cooperation is important and we want to propagate this as well. That’s also one of the reasons we call ourselves ‘NNZ | the packaging network.’” Does this change also have consequences for the company structure? Marcel: “We’re an established company with a rich history, but we’re young at heart. When we decided to start focusing on consumer packaging more, we also adjusted the organisation accordingly. Within the Benelux, we already had two commercial units, we combined them into one. Together with Robert and five others I’m in charge of NNZ Benelux. That started in August last year, and we’re definitely seeing the benefits of this.”

Why does NNZ choose to make consumer packaging a more emphatic part of the company structure? Marcel: “Because that’s where we see possibilities for growth. We have a large market share in transport packaging for agriculture, and although we have no figures, we think our market share in consumer packaging is much smaller. So there’s still room to grow in that. We want to be an innovative party in this segment and develop new packaging in cooperation with the customer. To that end we look at the entire supply chain, and we’re more of a chain director. This becomes apparent when looking at, for example, the Carry-Box we developed for Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo. The supermarket approached us with a ques-

Robert: “The developments of new packaging are often inspired by market information of our sales department. Besides, we have a marketing and innovation team we can use. This is a team within the organisation that’s active for all NNZ branches globally. Because of this, we make optimum use of all available knowledge spread across different countries.” Is it therefore an advantage that you don’t have your own packing factory? Robert: “The benefit of that is that we can offer all packing materials, and that we can choose from all materials for new packaging as well. Besides, during the development process you also get to know the various partners very well. We can all become better because of this. A new packaging is often a co-creation with other parties for us. That’s important. We also do the regular standard packaging, but we think the future is positioning new packaging that suit the customer’s wishes.”

tion about a packaging for fresh kits. We started working on that, and after a few adjustments and talks with the suppliers and customer, this resulted in the concept of the Carry-Box.”

How did you grow in recent years? Marcel: “We’re active in 18 countries, and we employ about 230 people globally. The company is growing both autonomically and because of acquisition. I personally started in 2015, and since then we’ve had some takeovers. In the UK last year, but also in Switzerland and the US. They’re not major takeovers, that wouldn’t fit the character of the family company. NNZ is financially healthy, and we don’t want to use all sorts of complicated financing constructions or choke on an acquisition.”

Marcel: “That’s how we can distinguish ourselves as well. You can be distinctive with packaging you develop. If everyone were to offer the same packaging, you’d only be able to be competitive regarding price.” Do packaging requirements vary much between different countries globally? Marcel: “It depends on what you’re talking about. Some markets only care about the functionality of the packaging. In that case it’s about protecting the product, and not about telling the story behind the product. In other countries, the stories are prominently told on the packaging. Supermarkets in Scandinavia, for example, are leading the way in many aspects. Prices for packaging play a less significant role there.”

You mention the international network as an advantage to move along with customers, does it work in the other direction as well? That trends in packaging emerging in the US, for example, are translated, as it were, to the European market? Marcel “Definitely. We translate trends internationally, that is, we share information internally. All of the country managers

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



“That can be seen closer to home as well. Tomatoes are one example of this. Some tomatoes are offered in a functional, cheap packaging, but other parties are distinctive with their packaging. They choose, for instance, a combination of plastic and cardboard, creating an added value. Naturally, it has to fit the retail formula. The approach of a hard-discounter is different from of a full-service supermarket.”

Robert: “Sometimes you do see peaks within the discounters, when they try to be distinctive regarding sustainability, for example, and implement that in their packaging. Generally, Scandinavian countries are ahead of us when it comes to sustainability. It goes much further than just packaging, sustainability is part of society there.” Sustainability is indeed becoming more and more important, it can be seen in the media every day. How do you see sustainability? Marcel: “There’s a difference between how science looks at sustainability and what consumers think is sustainability. Our packaging end up with consumers via our customers and supermarkets, so it’s important to us to know how consumers look at sustainability, and we respond to that.”

“For example, within the company we’re now working on energy, and we’re placing solar panels on our building in Groningen. Additionally, we’ve chosen not to pick diesel cars as company cars for our staff any100

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

more. We consider sustainability from multiple dimensions. We also pay attention to social compliance, and we implement that in our supply chain. It’s an important issue, and we pay attention to how our suppliers deal with this as well. For example, Len Boot and I recently visited India, where we ask and look at how our suppliers are doing on a social scale. We make these topics into subjects for discussion, and we take action when necessary.” “We’re an employee-minded company. Other companies would obviously also claim this, but our manager summarised it well in a promo film, in which he said the staff is more important than the customers. We want to build long-lasting relationships, firstly with our employees, but also with customers and suppliers.”

Could you give an example that shows you’re employee-minded? Marcel: “That is expressed in many things, for instance in the fact that our staff is happy, and that the company wants to take care of its employees via terms of employment, among other things. I’ve worked for other companies, which were much more business-like. We work hard, but we also pay attention to private matters. To that end, our manager always gives the example of going home between five and six. We want to be an appealing company for young talent, and we want to hold on to the staff we currently have.”

Robert: “When our staff feels well and performs optimally, in the end it’s good for the customer as well.”

Zooming in on packaging, plastics are combatted by organisations, and Greenpeace started an action to get rid of ‘unnecessary packaging.’ What’s your role in this debate? Robert: “We believe plastics aren’t necessarily bad. As a company, we want to combat waste, and a packaging could help with that. Damages to the environment due to products not being consumed are much higher than damages possibly caused by a plastic packaging.”

Marcel: “You can use compostable film, but if that’s thrown in regular bins by consumers instead of disposed with organic waste, that’s when it becomes a truly unnecessary packaging. We would have made an effort to create a compostable packaging to pack food in, and because consumers are educated badly it would still end up in incinerators. That has to be better communicated to final users. You should also consider the question of how much is lost when a product isn’t packed. Both in the supply chain and supermarkets, where customers squeeze a product and then don’t pick it.” “The images of the Great Pacific garbage patch and birds with stomachs filled with plastic are naturally shocking. Something has to be done about that, but it isn’t one-dimensional. A packaging isn’t necessarily

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


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Quality fruit direct from the grower


Hall 6.2 stand B-06

Washed carrots in big bags and 10 kilo packs Sluitgatweg 4 • 8308 RE Nagele • Netherlands T +31 527 652 277 • F +31 527 652 897 • E info@vriemex.nl • I www.vriemex.nl 102

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

bad, but we need supply chain partners who communicate with consumers about the packaging.”

There are various sustainable packaging, biodegradable, compostable, bio-based, how can you properly inform consumers about these? Marcel: “It’s true it has become complex for consumers because there are now so many different options. As a sector, we’re not quite capable of managing this ourselves, perhaps we need the government to point us in the right direction. But it’s a difficult discussion.” Robert: “Recently a lecture was held by a professor of the University of Ghent about sustainable packaging in our company, and even he couldn’t unequivocally answer which packaging is more sustainable. That shows how complicated the discussion is.”

Marcel: “Add to that the differences in laws and regulations between countries. For instance, in some countries cardboard packaging can be recycled with paper, but not in others. That is because of the printing on the packaging. The discussion is complex because of this, but it’s interesting as well. It offers options.”

Do you see more attention being paid to sustainable packaging? Robert: “Definitely. In the past, it was much talked about, but not much action was taken. Supermarkets and cooperatives are now carefully taking more steps. Sustainability wasn’t allowed to cost anything in the past, but that’s now changing. For example, we have a packing line for pun-

nets made of wooden and paper waste, and these are completely compostable. These are exclusively marketed under the Earth Cycle brand in the Benelux. You can see doors opening because of this, and we’re being invited to join the conversation.” Marcel: “In the end, a packaging has to do what it was designed for: protecting the product and extending shelf life when possible. That’s when you have a truly sustainable concept.”

You mention the functionality of the packaging, do you also see packaging used to build a brand more often, or to tell the story behind the product? Marcel: “Taking the same example of the tomatoes, you notice there are packaging that tell the story or the concept of the tomato, other tomatoes are packed in a standard punnet that doesn’t leave much room for communication.”

Robert: “Packaging is increasingly used to offer product certainty and to trace origins. That can be done using a text or barcode, but we’re now working on smarter techniques. This adds an additional function to the packaging.” Do you always develop new packaging in cooperation with a customer, or do you also have room for your own developments? Marcel: “We also develop new concepts internally, but it’s often derived from demand from the market. We can set up a new concept according to our own views this way. When we see an emerging category, we can choose to develop a packaging

that improves the shelf life of that product, for instance. After we’ve tested such a packaging, we market the concept. We can also do this without the retailer’s support.”

“That obviously doesn’t always go well. As a company, you have many eggs in your basket, and some eggs break. Sometimes we’re very much in love with a packaging, but the market will think differently. We’re innovative because we don’t just do work asked for by customers. We’re willing to invest in innovations, that’s how we can be distinctive.” Are there examples of packaging that weren’t immediately a hit, but became successful over time? Robert: “I’d mention the apple tray as an example. That’s a cardboard packaging in which multiple apples can be packed. We developed this packaging some time ago, but it wasn’t successful in the Netherlands. Our German colleagues got to work with the same packaging, and it has been successful over there.”

Marcel: “We also present the new packaging at the Fruit Logistica, for example, where we showed the Carry-Box this year. We received many positive responses to it. The development of new packaging is important, and it shows the advantage of not being bound to a certain approach or packing material. That truly is an added value.” (RM)  mhartog@nnz.nl rstobbelaar@nnz.nl

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


- advertorial -

Luik Natie responds to demand for space with the construction of a new Cold Store The construction of a new Cold Store is gradually being completed at the Luik Natie storage and transhipment company. It is expected that the new building will be opened and operational on Friday 15 February. The Cold Store is built for the storage of fresh fruit with the focus on tropical fruit as well as barrels of honey. Next to the new cold rooms, 70 reefer plugs and 15 new loading and unloading docks are added.

"Plans for the new Cold Store were made in 2016 as a result of the growing fresh fruit market. Currently we process around 100 containers a week, including banana, mango and pineapple, but we do not have enough space. The volumes that we want to achieve with the new building are between 200-300 containers a week", Jakob Van Poucke and Steven Beuselinck from Luik Natie mention. "In the new building, 6,000 extra pallet spaces will be available in three different cold rooms. The cold rooms will be equipped for the storage of bananas, mangoes, pineapple and other fruit. In addition, a separate area of 1,500 m² will be provided for the storage of barrels of honey that will eventually be unloaded, weighed, labeled and palletized via an automatic line. The front shed is equipped with a heated working floor that helps to keep the temperature between 12 and 14 degrees. This temperature is ideal for bananas and mangoes and makes it possible to carry out as many operations as possible in the front shed so that, for example, bananas no longer have to be placed in the cooling, but can be loaded directly from the front shed into the refrigerated trucks. In the front shed there is sufficient space available to carry out the work on the floor as smoothly as possible."

'' Working efficiently''

"We notice that increasingly more customers, also from outside Belgium, are having their containers unloaded at the port of Antwerp. The location of Luik Natie is close to the large container terminals and because of this we can work efficiently. In addition, 15 new loading and unloading docks will be added, so that loading and unloading can be done simultaneously and 70 extra reefer plugs will be installed on the site. In combination with our own transport department, we can work 100% operationally


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

independent. Now we only have to persuade the shipping companies to choose Antwerp more often as their first place of arrival. On a daily basis, thirty of our trucks are constantly on the road to collect containers at the container terminals and take them to our storage and transshipment location ", Steven continues. The customers of Luik Natie mainly come from Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. "For our Dutch customers we mainly do doorto-door delivery, these containers never pass the Cold Store. The other customers almost always use the various services. For our German and French customers, it is logistically often more interesting to unload containers in Antwerp so that their sales market in northern Europe can be quickly served via refrigerated trucks. Especially when it comes to fresh products, this is an ideal situation."


The new Cold Store is built entirely CO2-neutral and has its own wind and solar energy installation. "During construction, 100% sustainability was taken into account. We have our own windmill that generates energy, solar panels will be installed in 2019 and the cooling system is also built state-of-the-art. Under the new building, a large reservoir has been built in which rainwater is collected, which is reused in the cooling installation. Cooling will be done without the use of chemical products," says Jakob. "In addition, our fleet consists of economical cars. This was decided also by our conviction that corporate sustainability is the future, but also our customers consider sustainability to be of increasing importance. Still the retail commands too little from its suppliers and customers in the field of sustainability and that is a shame."

- advertorial -

Extra services

In our new Cold store we plan a recognized FAVV inspection location for fruit and vegetables, we offer auto-checking bananas and we have a permit for customs warehouse. We work closely with external quality controllers and can also offer this essential service to our fruit and vegetable customers. We also have a permanent team of employees and managers who have the right know-how to process the products as well as possible ", says Jakob.

the terminal without our customers having to pay high costs to the shipping companies ", Steven continues. Luik Natie is also investing heavily in a new software system that will further optimize the internal working methods and will in particular give customers the opportunity to consult their own stock online.

In the new building also the safety of its own employees and that of the employees of external parties such as customs, food agency and quality inspectors is well taken into account. This is done by keeping the traffic flows of people and forklifts completely separate from each other.

New freezer building

As soon as the construction of the new Cold Store has been realized, the construction of a new freezer building will start. The plan is that it is completed in early 2020. With the construction of the new freezer building, 22,000 additional pallet spaces will become available, on top of the current 9,000, that mainly will be filled with fish, meat and French fries potatoes. "What is unique about the current and future freezer food house is that it is the only freezer building in the port of Antwerp that has an in-house veterinary inspection point of the food agency FAVV. This creates enormous added value for the customers at Luik Natie, which can avoid long waiting times, costs for waiting hours and uncertainty. On top of that, Luik Natie always offers an alternative unloading point if the batch of meat or fish is held over so that the empty container can be delivered directly to

More information via

Jakob Van Poucke

jakob.vanpoucke@luiknatie.be +32 3 561 63 14

Steven Beuselinck

steven.beuselinck@luiknatie.be +32 3 561 63 55

Luik Natie Coldstore nv

Kruipin haven 1145 - 9130 Kallo – Belgium

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


Wholesale Market

Specialized offers and new business models are the maxim:

German wholesale markets have to reinvent themselves German wholesalers have always been focused on local wholesale markets. However, due to the increasing centralization of retailers and direct connections between producers and supermarkets, this traditional sector of the trade is under pressure. Last year, FreshPlaza.de visited many different wholesale markets in Germany and talked to numerous sellers and board members. Not everyone agrees about the current situation or the direction wholesale markets take in the future. There is one thing, however, that everyone can agree on: Wholesalers need to continue to take into consideration current trends in order to remain relevant in the future. >>


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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019





Wholesale Market


rom Düsseldorf to Berlin and from Munich to Hamburg: German wholesale markets everywhere are fighting for their long-term survival. The demand for privatization as a substitute for old lease agreements and the much-needed renovation of old market halls are issues all traditional wholesale markets must address. The administrative court in Düsseldorf has recently voiced its concern that a full privatization of the wholesale market could be unconstitutional. This could spoil the plan of the administration, to sell the market on Ulmenstraße to Industrieterrains Düsseldorf-Reisholz, where it would be led by an association of traders. The court has yet to decide on the fate of the project. Curiously, other cities in the Ruhrgebiet area of Germany, such as Dortmund, Essen and Duisburg have long since privatized their wholesale markets. REINVENTION AND URBAN CONCEPTS In the south of Germany, the situation is no better. Although the wholesale market in Munich is still thriving, the location of the market place is in dire need of renovations. Former deputy director Gerhard Harter said

in 2017, shortly before leaving his position: "Either we get a new building, or we will have to close down." His distress call was taken very seriously and construction is now underway: Aside from the renovations of the existing structures there will be room for offices, foodservices and even apartments. The goal is to provide an opportunity for the sellers to market the majority of their products from this site in the future and deliver fresh products to the area. A combination of traditional wholesale businesses and new, urban concepts is also receiving a warm welcome in other German cities. A very important aspect of this restructuring is the inclusion of consumers in the daily wholesale business. Administrations aim to create some form of a 'marketplace of experience'. Wholesale markets in Hamburg, Munich, Bremen and Berlin regularly open their doors to visitors. Every year Hamburg hosts a food market, where wholesalers can interact with consumers and give information about their different products and local chefs offer regional specialties to visitors. Supply of food services and regional products

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


Wholesale Market Another challenge for wholesalers is the continuous growth of business models in e-commerce and delivery services (Picnic, AmazonFresh). The wholesale markets are not too worried about these developments: The daily trading of fresh produce has always been the trademark of the fruit and vegetable sector – and will not easily be replaced by an online service.

Johannes Buschhüter is one of the younger faces at the Frischezentrum Essen

"Spontaneous decision-making is very important when buying fresh produce. Amazon is experimenting with selling fresh produce, for example, and we will have to closely watch their developments. Business models are changing but the premises of wholesale markets and their importance for the trade remain an important commercial intersection," Eliane Steinmeyer, director of the wholesale market Hamburg, said in an interview last summer.

Today's wholesalers are relying more and more on areas of the trade which are hard to cover by online delivery services. Especially smaller wholesale markets are working on shifting their focus to regional products which are mainly being distributed to local food services, commercial kitchens and specialist retailers. By supplementing a local range of products with exotic fruits and vegetables, convenience and dairy products as well as other catering supplies, they can meet the demands of their large, local customers in a flexible manner.

Owner Mehmet Karaagac of Ferdinand Gellersen GmbH at the stall in the Hamburger Großmarkthalle

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

Aside from the strong focus on regional produce many customers value a wide variety of products being offered by the sellers. Society is becoming increasingly diverse and the wholesale markets need to cater to the needs of many different ethnicities by offering a broad selection of products. "There has been a clear trend towards a more diverse range of

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products within the last 10 to 20 years. We have more foreign vendors and a big selection of fresh and processed goods," says Axel Pallmer, member of the board of the wholesale market in Karlsruhe. According to Thomas Franz – who has been an active member of the Fruchthof for many years – there is still room for improvements. "The wholesale market could and should be more diverse. I would like to make more room for young businesses and start-ups on our premises."

The Karlsruhe-based company Karaman primarily supplies regional restaurateurs and commercial kitchens

TREND TOWARDS FOOD HOTSPOTS The association GFI Deutsche Frischemärkte e.V. in Berlin represents 95% of all German wholesale markets. The advisor to the executive board, Frank Willhausen, comments: "Wholesale markets are more important than ever to supply citizens with an assortment of fresh, high-quality produce. They are urban trade and logistics hubs, brought to life by small and mid-sized businesses. Wholesale markets are indispensable for costumers from specialized shops, farmers markets, HORECA businesses and bulk consumers. Our markets have always successfully faced challenges of the sector and the newest trend is the Food Hotspot. Vendors and management are working together show members of the public community how important wholesale markets are on an economic, social and cultural level as well as in matters of nutritional policy." 

Daniel Schury of the company Franz Schmitt is a committed dealer based in the Munich Wholesale Market

The team of the Hamburg fruit supplier Johannes Schacht

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Rick Marwitz, Berlin-based company Mirontell fein & frisch AG delivers AmazonFresh:

"We want to tackle challenges that come with a new market situation instead of avoiding the segment altogether." You’d love to eat an apple but you might find it more appealing if it was presented in bite-sized chunks. Well, this is where the Mirontell fein & frisch AG can help out. "We want to offer a certain added value and provide products that are out of the ordinary," says Rick Marwitz, sales manager at Mirontell. Mirontell used to be a classic provider of fresh produce in the area of Berlin, Germany, and have only recently begun to specialize in fruit salads. "We saw a market niche in bulk packages of fruit salads (5kg) as only a few companies in Europe produced them at the time. We wanted to add salads into our product range but were unhappy with the available quality. So we thought, 'why don't we just do it ourselves' – and that's how it all started." Only after starting production did the employees notice how much variety there was in the segment, Marwitz remem114

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

bers. "We had to learn a lot and now we have the know-how to be successful."

As it turns out, fresh cut products, such as the fruit salads offered by Mirontell, are a great addition to the product range of online-supermarkets: "We considered opening our own online-shop. However, fruit salads are usually only a small part of a purchase when getting groceries. So we decided to search for a partner with a wide product range." Online-giant Amazon was already planning to create a platform for

shopping for groceries online and ended up reaching out to Mirontell. The cooperation between the two companies has thrived ever since.

"I really thought the developments would go slower," Marwitz comments on the generally conservative German market. "Consumers obviously have to get used to ordering their groceries online first. There is growth and I believe it will be the future of shopping for foodstuffs." The target audience has to be redefined: "Someone who has bought their groceries from a physical store for 40 years is rather unlikely to switch to online-shopping. They are used to holding fruit in their hands and deciding which specific piece of fruit they want to buy."

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


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A big downside of traditional food retailers is that products which don't catch on with customers right away, are quickly taken out of the range of products again. A creation such as pears with figs does, therefore, not stand much of a chance, thinks Marwitz. "People often don't know that they would enjoy a combination like this." And the quick turn-around on products may well be a reason for the conservative shopping habits of Germans: There simply isn't enough floor space to give new products a long trial period.

"The convenience segment in Germany isn't as developed as it is in other European countries. In England and the Netherlands the market is entirely different from Germany – so we have to see what works and what doesn't. Traditional supermarkets often offer few options of fruit-convenience products, salads on the other hand are very popular." Marwitz emphasizes how different convenience products can be: "There's two kinds of convenience products – mass production and so-called high-convenience. We position ourselves in the high-convenience segment as many steps of the production are still done by hand in our company. This gives us more control over the final product. We want our salads to look like we freshly made them, just for you." In lower priced segments, the salads often do not look as nice, are cut unevenly or have too much juice at the bottom of the package, Marwitz explains. "If you want to do convenience in Germany, it has to be high-convenience. Quality and a certain artisanal character are very important in our experience." A shopping experience in which the appearance of the individual fruit does not affect the purchase any more simultaneously opens up many opportunities: "When

shopping online the consumer doesn't see the product itself but a picture of the product. This can be used to generate emotions. In the online trade one can add more text and make different pictures available – this influences the consumer more than an individual physical piece of fruit at the store." This way, the products that can be sold online are different from the ones in traditional supermarkets. To be successful with a marketing strategy of this kind the consumer needs to trust the product and producer fully. "If you want to produce products like these, you have to do it right. This is why the quality is the most important factor for us. We want to be a reliable partner for the consumers and we want the consumers to trust us with the selection of their fruits. There is a very specific client base that is willing to put that trust into a seller."

"Since the purchase decision is not so dependent on the optical allure anymore, e-commerce offers new opportunities for packaging as well: The customer has seen the product online and made the decision to buy it. The packaging loses its importance in the selection process or even as a reason to buy the product in the first place. Nobody would consider selling butter in clear foil and you wouldn't have to because everyone knows what butter looks like." And so the online trade enables sellers to be a little more creative with their packaging solutions. "We can redefine packaging. We don't have to take old-school packaging from traditional retail into consideration as much. We cater to a different target group and different structures and we have room to reinvent ourselves." Marwitz doesn't think one can separate topics such as convenience and sustainability. "If you want to use new markets and sales channels you

need to adjust your packaging accordingly." There are no other online traders currently offering fruit-convenience aside from Amazon Fresh. The expert does not know why exactly companies are so shy in this sector. "I'm assuming other platforms have providers of convenience fruit and salads as well. But many don't dare to deliver them. We have found a great partner to distribute our products and we are proud to have such a leading role in this development." The segment is a risk, he says, but also an opportunity. "Consumers in Germany are very wary of novelties. If they were disappointed with a product once, they will not order it again. This means we have to do our best for every single salad."

He is happy that Mirontell was one of the first companies in Germany to participate in the online trade. "Sooner or later the concept will catch on but for that to happen, someone has to start. We want to let go of old structures and tackle the challenges that come with a new market situation instead of avoiding the segment altogether." Mirontell sells their products with their partner Amazon Fresh and they can be ordered in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. Especially for their cooperation with Amazon, Mirontell launched their brand MyFruitsNow. The company offers seasonal creations. In summer, salads with melon are especially popular. This years' winter special is a combination of honeydew melon and blackberry. "This isn't something you'd think of right away but it's very tasty and practical too: To make this salad for yourself, you'd have to buy a whole melon and cut it – this is too much work for many consumers. And we have the solution." 

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Rainer Carstens of Westhof Bio on new trends and changes in the organic sector in Germany

"We have to sell our organic produce where people go to buy it." W

hen Rainer Carstens took over his parents farm it was only 40 hectares and production was conventional. A good 10 years later and after an expansion to 110 hectares, the real success of the farm started when they switched to producing organic vegetables. "This area is ideal for growing vegetables but back in the day there were no existing marketing structures for organic produce. Back then, bio-products were largely sold directly to specialized retailers and in farm shops," the CEO of the Westhof Bio-Gemüse GmbH & Co. KG. remembers. "We were forced to create marketing opportunities for ourselves. In 1992, 10 producers, including the Westhof, founded a marketing company: the Bioland Vermarktungsgesellschaft Schleswig-Holstein." This association is still in place today and has 100 members who all produce different organic products, such as fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy products etc. "All around our farm, producers have decided to switch to organic production. Without good marketing structures your products


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

can be amazing but won't be successful anyway. We're offering those companies an opportunity to market their goods."

While many of his colleagues from the region decided to sell their products to industry, Carstens wanted to stick to mar-

keting fresh fruits and vegetables that he and other growers in the region cultivate. Later on, in 1998, Carstens founded the BIO-FROST Westhof GmbH which has since been the only German company to only process vegetables from certified organic growers. "We are proud to only process

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

Carstens family

organic vegetables. Many other companies have certain days in the week that they use to freeze organic vegetables and process conventional produce the rest of the week." "Our cultivation is 100% organic and our processing lines are 100% organic as well. I think this should be the case more often." More and more organic associations begin to ask for this separation and Carstens believes, that there will be a complete segregation in the future. "If a company's revenue is only made up of about 5 or 10% of organic production, how important is it to them to be thorough about keeping up the standards?" Of course it isn't always easier and companies need to put in a lot of effort but Carsten argues that the growers can do it – so why not the processors as well? At Westhof Bio, 'Bio' is taken very seriously outside of the basic cultivation process as well. "To produce organically entails a certain method of cultivation which includes so much more than simply the use of herbicides, such as the energy resources,

water supply and processing. We want to be 'energy-neutral' at least and we want to show that agriculture is a great supplier of foodstuffs as well as energy. We produce way more energy than we actually need on our farms."

Nowadays, regionality is a big issue for traders and this trend is also visible in the organic sector. For keeping up with this development the Westhof is, according to Carstens, not located conveniently: "The state of Schleswig-Holstein has almost three million citizens. Hamburg maybe has another two. Either way, there is not enough nearby demand for all of our produce, especially since we are not the only marketing structure for organic foods in the area. Therefore, we sell our products in a larger area, towards Nordrhein-Westfalen and Baden-Württemberg. How far our product is transported is clearly restricted by the logistical effort. States as far south as Bavaria are only supplied by us in cases of shortages."

Carstens can see another trend on the market: "Producers and marketers have to diversify to stay relevant, as nowadays almost everyone has found their niche of regionality. Retailers are now beginning to ask for produce certified by organic-associations. Some want 'Bioland', others 'Naturland' or 'Demeter'. We can cater to all of these demands and are able to supply our customers in a big area." Westhof Bio has been a member of these associations for up to 30 years, which gives the company an advantage in todays developments. "Now everyone is trying their best to get certified, even many conventional farms. I just hope that the associations don't water down their standards in the face of this sudden rush."

A few months ago, the Bioland association and the discounter Lidl announced their cooperation. This caused a certain amount of turmoil in the sector since many worried that the authenticity of the association may be lost. Carstens sees more advantages than AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Berit Carstens-Lask

disadvantages in this cooperation. "I think it is a good step to make organic products more easily accessible. As long as their high standards and quality control continues as before, we don't have to fear the devaluation of our product or of the organic labels in general." Overall, he has a pragmatic view of the market: "We have to sell our products where people go to buy it. In Germany, about 50% of the fruits and vegetables are sold at discounters, so if I fought this development, I would potentially lose 50% of my opportunities. Why shouldn't I be allowed to show that I follow the guidelines and standards of a certain association?"

He stresses the importance of upholding standards and thorough quality control: "Organic associations are an additional entity to supervise producers, traders and retailers. It's these organizations that negotiate the terms of the trade with the retailers. This wouldn't be possible for the producers or traders." If everyone sticks to the rules, these kinds of cooperation's are an advantage for every part of the supply chain, the expert thinks.

we will just have to wait and see how far it goes. I can't stress enough how important it is to make sure that organic production stays organic and everyone in the supply chain takes this seriously." He concludes: "We have to continue to be honest with the consumers and shouldn't make promises we can't keep. This is the only way to ensure the success of the organic sector in the future." 

"The percentage of organic products in Germany has risen significantly over the last few years. Demand is growing quickly and




AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

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Michiel F. van Ginkel on the ageing population, consolidation and the circular economy

Fragmented sector ready for the future?

Because of the agricultural vision presented by Dutch minister Schouten last year, the sector is now faced with an enormous challenge. The goal is a circular economy, but is the sector ready for this challenge? Michiel F. van Ginkel, general manager of Royal ZON, expects some kind of cooperation will be necessary. Four years after the McKinsey report was published, the sector is still fragmented, he has concluded. He talks about his vision and three challenges facing the sector: the ageing population, more extreme weather and a circular economy.


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

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You started as general manager four years ago, how do you look back on the past few years? “Fondly. The fresh produce sector is a wonderful sector to work in and to be commercially active in. It’s naturally about money in business, but you’re also playing with the cutting edge regarding the social interest of healthy food. That can also be seen in the connection the sector has with sustainability. Prices were fortunately better last year than they were when I started. In the 2010/2014 period, prices were worse on average compared to the 2015/2018 period. It’s still not great, but the situation allows for slightly more room to invest for the future.” “The sector is still as fragmented as in 2014, on both the side of trade and the side of growers. The year 2014 started with the McKinsey report, which raised issue of fragmentation in the sector. Parties have to come together and become concentrated, in part because consolidation in retail is unabated. That hasn’t happened yet in 126

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the sector, perhaps because the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 were better, and everyone is focusing on their own course a bit more again.” Does that mean the sector is doing the same as in 2014? “It’s inevitable that we have to work together more, because customers are getting bigger and bigger, but we haven’t got much further on the supply side. I see cautious approaches more and more, mainly because people are talking to each other more. That’s a first step that was taken, which allows companies to learn to understand each other better. That can be seen within FVO, among other companies, but we’re also working together in Limburg a lot, and with some companies at Fresh Park Venlo we have a combined brand: die Frischen. We work together under that quality mark to promote products from this region towards the German market, because that’s where surplus value can be found, and some cautious developments can be seen in that.”

In recent years we’ve seen major takeovers and merger talks in Belgium. “Without wanting to dismiss other Belgian companies, there are three large cooperatives: BelOrta, Hoogstraten and REO. Hoogstraten is distinctive in soft fruit, REO in outdoor vegetables and BelOrta is located in the centre of the production region. The Belgian market is more well-organised, and these parties have a significant part of the market. The Belgian production is much smaller than the Dutch production, and the two can therefore not be compared properly.” Should we also take mergers and takeovers in account in the Netherlands? “That cannot be predicted, but looking at the agricultural vision of minister Schouten, and seeing the investments proposed to the agricultural and horticultural sector, such as producing CO2-neutrally and even negatively and disconnecting the mains, I can’t imagine this can be realised in the sector as it is now at the necessary speed.”

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


V i#s#i #o n

In 2014, you also brought back the clock. How was that? “Right now, more than half of the products is sold by clock. It’s an important tool, and we’ve noticed customers appreciate it. Every day, we have 150 buyers per clock, on the auction benches or digital. Adding Spanish product in the winter months was another good step that was appreciated. We keep customers by having year-round supply. The Spanish products are fresh, they’re driven to the site and immediately auctioned. Because of this, the smaller companies in the German border region also have access to fresh Spanish products. It’s also interesting for the Spanish cooperatives.” How do you decide the moment of switching from Dutch to Spanish product? “You rarely choose the right moment when to start selling Spanish product and stop with Dutch product in autumn. In spring it’s just the opposite. We personally have 128

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meetings with Spanish cooperatives to hear when they expect to start harvesting, and we talk to our Dutch growers about when they expect to start leaving the market. The Dutch growers agree it’s not good to create a gap; first selling all of the Dutch product before switching to Spanish product. The Spanish products would then find different routes to the Netherlands. It’s a tricky business every year, but this is our fourth season, and we’re doing better every year.” How do you look back on 2018? “It wasn’t an easy year. It was challenging, climate-wise. From a cold spring we went to a hot summer right away. It wasn’t good for the asparagus, which is one of our biggest products. In the period of high prices we didn’t have a lot of supply, but our growers have a lot tied up in contracts, so that wasn’t exactly helpful. After Easter it was like the Dutch were busier barbecuing than with the consumption of these white queens. The same is true for vegetables

such as tomato and bell pepper. Because of the hot weather there was a lot of supply. Everyone remembers the growers who handed out product for free last summer. That might sound like a likeable idea, but that’s not why you become a grower. The final quarter seems to have saved the tomato season somewhat, among others.”

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make general statements about seasons, because the situation might vary per grower. Some had a fair season, others didn’t. That’s in part due to the moment of harvesting. Our growers are very diverse. In the past, the sector was well-organised, and there were three categories: greenhouse, fruit and outdoor growers. That’s much more diverse now, and when you sell makes an enormous difference. We always tell growers: choose a strategy and stick to it, because if you want to respond to all the developments, you’ll be too early or too late.”

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Can the asparagus sector survive another disastrous season like this year? “Just like our growers, we are optimistic by nature, but I do think we learned our lesson. We won’t see an expansion of the area this year. We’ve also heard from agriculturalists that fewer plants were ordered in general, and that some growers won’t replace parts of their areas. That’s why I expect the growth we saw in recent years to have stopped, and that perhaps even slightly fewer asparagus will be grown. This is in part also due to ageing among growers. About 40 to 50 per cent of the outdoor growers is older than 55. At that age you think about investing differently than when you’re 30. I therefore expect less supply, although the weather is also a deciding factor, and that cannot be controlled.” How significant is the threat of climate change and extreme weather? “Extreme weather definitely affects the outdoor production. In greenhouses, growers have more options of influencing the pro-

duction, although the weather will always remain influential. Tomato grower Wim Peters, who is nominated for the greenhouse entrepreneurial award, saw his greenhouse completely destroyed by hail a few years ago. Such extreme weather will occur more often, and that’s a challenge for growers, and a solution to this should definitely be found. On the other hand, it can also offer opportunities. If it gets warmer, we can extend the season, for instance, and opportunities for production in winter months might even occur. It’s inevitable that the changing climate becomes challenging or threatening for companies, but it also offers opportunities.” Is ageing a large problem for the sector? “Ageing is a problem for the entire Dutch economy. Unfortunately, we have to conclude other sectors have a more appealing image for young people than the agricultural sector. A lot of young people choose to get a technical education, and they mostly want to work for tech companies such as Philips

and Google, even though we could use them in the food sector. That’s a significant challenge. It’s therefore high on the agendas of, for example, the ministry. For us, it’s a main theme to bind young people to us, and to keep them.” How do you do that? “Within the company we have the ZON Youngsters Academy, which we use to offer young people educational options. We had a Master’s student, for instance, who did his Master’s research here. We didn’t immediately have a position available for him, but we still offered him a job. In a level organisation like ours, career options might be limited, but we can help them with education, courses and gaining experience. For young growers, ZON organises separate meetings, so they can get together.”

“Children of growers often graduate from the HAS or Fontys Hogeschool, that’s why we put a lot of energy into our relationship with these schools. We can show them AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



what’s going on in the sector. The potential for the future production is in the hands of the children of growers, after all. Our data analyser lectures Has students, for example, to show them we also work with big data, and what we use that for. Besides, I’m involved with the Agricultural Entrepreneurial Award, which has as its goal to bring attention to horticulture. We emphatically want to offer a stage to young entrepreneurs in the sector with it. Talent is scarce, and it’s keeping everyone occupied.” Has focus shifted more to vegetables now that Sun Berry International has been hived off? “We also bought soft fruit outside of the Dutch season with Sun Berry, but we no longer considered this as our core business. Besides, we noticed that a lot of members of a German cooperative, which we had taken over earlier, stopped growing blueberries for various reasons. That’s when we decided to integrate sales into the vegetable facilities. We always buy additional products when there are shortages, but that’s not the same as doing your regular buying. We stopped doing that.” You also hived off the real estate. Can you tell us a little about that?


AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

“Fresh Park Venlo is an incredible success, and in the last decade, it has grown into a magnet and centre for the sector in the southwest of the Netherlands. This is partially thanks to its good position compared to Germany. Besides, investments in new buildings are getting larger and more complex all the time. Although we had a good real estate team, real estate requires more and more specific expertise. We concluded that we would become vulnerable in this aspect in the long term, and that would be bad for both Fresh Park Venlo and our grower’s association ZON. We found a partner in Hines, an American real estate developer. In this transition, Royal ZON remains the owner of the land of Fresh Park Venlo, and we receive ground rent for this every year. Because of this, we’re guaranteed of income and the park will be developed better. We’re satisfied with the deal, and we’re convinced that the continuity of the park will be safeguarded. As can be read in the annual report, ZON didn’t directly need the money.” What is the sector’s biggest challenge? “Ageing and consolidation, but also the increasing demands of society and the government. For example, the way the ministry guides towards a circular economy. I’ve

noticed in minister Schouten’s agricultural vision that the technology is mentioned as first export product, and the product last. I don’t agree with that. It starts with production, and I don’t see why that should change. The Netherlands has a long history as a reliable producer and exporter of fruit and vegetables. I sometimes think not everyone understands that the production as we have in the Netherlands is an important part of the technological development. The production follows and encourages the development. These aspects belong together. I think that if we were to return the Dutch area to a level at which we only produce for the domestic market, technology would disappear from our country. Agriculturalists and greenhouse builders establish themselves here because of the large production. That’s the case for a lot of major producers. Heinz produces all of its tomato ketchup in Elst. Unilever and Danone also have large factories in the Netherlands. Why? Because we have a wonderful agricultural sector. That connection is important, and I fear that the importance of a strong primary sector is not seen enough.” (RM) 


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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019



Stefan Wijns:

“Challenge: showing consumers their way around mushrooms”

Stefan Wijns, managing director and Arie Verburg owner FME

Just before Christmas last year, Stefan Wijns started as managing director for FME. He came in at the right moment: December is a busy month in the mushroom trade. In February, he was present at the Fruit Logistica, completing his baptism of fire into the sector. The modest Belgian talks about his first months in the sector for “ultra fresh products.” Together with Arie Verburg, he talks about current themes in mushrooms. You’re new in the sector. Could you tell us a little about your background? Stefan: “My first work experience was working for Belgian retailer Spar, which was still part of the Dutch Unigro at the time. I worked in the purchasing department for fresh products.That department took care of purchasing meat, sliced cold meat, dairy, bread, confectionery and deli134

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

catessen, in short: everything except fresh produce. I worked there as buyer for frozen, dairy, bread and confectionery for two years. After that I worked for a Belgian cheese packer. The Irish Dairy Board has now been taken over by Friesland Campina. I did the buying of everything except cheese there for three years. After that I was responsible for the entire operation

for five years: logistics, production, quality. I then came into contact with a logistic service provider, a Belgian family company, that had a problem with a major customer in the fresh logistics, and were also looking for someone who could run the company. I responded to that, and I worked in logistics and transport for 12 years. When I started for that company, 60 to 70 per cent of the transport was in construction, 30 per cent was food. When I left last November, that division had been switched around, and we did 70 to 80 per cent food transport and 20 per cent in construction. We grew considerably in those years. In 2006, the company had a turnover of 20 million euro, last year the company had 800 employees across five branches and a turnover of 75 million euro.”






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How did you end up in the fresh produce sector? Stefan: “I came into contact with Arie, and we had an open discussion about what FME was looking for and about the experiences I had gained in contacts with retail and customers, food production and transport. One of my tasks in the organisation is to professionalise the family company. I have experience being an executive in a family company in which the family is active. That played a part in the decision. A family company is different from a multinational. Besides, I’m interested in the food sector both privately and professionally.” What did you notice most in the sector? Stefan: “Everything in the sector is new, but one of the things I noticed is that logistics are much quicker than in dairy and other fresh products. These products often have a longer shelf life, so transport can take longer. Logistics are very important in the fresh produce sector. Everything has to be delivered quickly and ultra fresh. That makes the sector a separate business. 136

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Transporters are specialised in fresh produce or in other fresh sectors. That is due to lead times. Temperatures of the transport are the same, so technically, fresh produce and dairy could be transported in the same lorry, but fresh produce, and mushrooms in particular, has to be delivered much quicker.” “Besides, it’s a sector in which the buyer doesn’t just decide prices, but also volumes. In cheese, the buyer decides price and assortment, but he spends much less time on the volume that has to be purchased. Finally, the presence of the buyer is much more important for the product. When I was a buyer, we were in the warehouse where the products arrived. If there were problems, you could just walk over. Colleagues who weren’t buyers of fresh products, were at the head office in Brussels. They never saw the product. In fresh produce, the visual aspect is even more important than in other fresh products. To take an example closer to home: a white mushroom with a small brown spot is considered bad, even

though its flavour would still be good. It’s purely the visual aspect. Every day, I walk around the company to see what we’re producing and selling.”

I can imagine the sectors you worked in are all very different. Stefan: “The past six months were mostly about meeting the sector. I visited a lot of clients and suppliers, and was given a lot of help by people within FME. The way retailers work and contract negotiations are similar. The actual trade is typical for fresh produce, and particularly for mushrooms. We supply a complete assortment of mushrooms, cultivated and wild, packed completely to the client’s wishes. FME supplies to three markets: retail, food service and day trading. Retail and food service are comparable, but day trading is typical for fresh produce. That’s naturally also due to the short shelf life of the products, so that there’s always a necessity for trading under influence of the weather and over and underproduction.”

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

17-02-17 11:06

You mentioned professionalising the family company as one of your tasks. Could you explain that? Stefan: “We have to start thinking about things proactively. I don’t have the illusion we’ll be able to take care of everything right away, but we can create a framework as much as possible. Structures are important.”

“FME has offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, at the Rungis near Paris and in Spain. Last year, we sold to 26 countries, that’s a lot more than the number of countries where we have an office. Within the group, we want to look for more synergy, and we want to translate that into other parts. My starting point is that it isn’t a one-way street, but that the major offices can also learn a thing or two from the smaller branches.”

Do you see options for convenience products? Stefan: “Convenience is a great and comprehensive word. We respond to it with sliced mushrooms, for example, whether or not with additions to make things as easy as possible for consumers. A lot of consumers see mushrooms as an addition to a recipe. We want to present mushrooms as a basic component of a meal. We’re working on a number of new developments that fit this convenience story, but we can’t talk about these yet. Despite the speed of the sector, retail takes its time making decisions. FME plays a very active part in that.”

There are many different types of mushrooms, but a lot of these are unfamiliar. Do you think the sector could have a task in this? Stefan: “It’s challenging to show consumers their way around mushrooms. They look nice and tasty, but a lot of consumers don’t know how to prepare mushrooms. The same is true for professionals. At the Fruit Logistica, we presented a lot of varieties at our stand. Many visitors thought they looked nice, but they had no idea what to do with them. If you don’t know the product, you won’t use it as readily. It’s a challenge for us to tell consumers the story behind the mushroom, and we from FME have good ideas for that. Social media could help in that, because it often allows for more room to inform than on a packaging. You can hear everyone talking about using social media, but actually using it can still be quite difficult. Some other countries are more advanced in that area.”

The market for white mushrooms has been difficult for years, can opportunities be found with special varieties? Stefan: “The growth opportunities can indeed be found in special varieties and mixes. The market for white mushrooms is saturated, and these mushrooms are actually too cheap. It’s becoming increasingly important to add value, because costs will only continue increasing. For example, transport is becoming more and more expensive, and transport has a larger share in this sector than in other sectors. The lorries have to drive every day. Packaging and labels are also becoming more expensive. The heat of this summer will have its effect on straw, and therefore on the compost we use to grow the mushrooms.”

Isn’t it wiser to stop with the white mushrooms? Stefan: “We have to continue thinking critically about the products in our range, but it’s easier not to start something than it is to stop something. We did that in Spain, for instance. Our branch in Spain doesn’t have white mushrooms in their range, they’re completely focused on the special varieties and the convenience products. The ideas we gain there can be translated to the other branches. It’s important that you as a company are also capable of marketing a basic product like white mushrooms at a correct price, and that you can supply your customers with a complete assortment.”

Does communication play a part in this? Stefan: “A lot of people don’t think about this, but we have to tell the story behind the mushroom more often. Too few people know how the white mushrooms are grown, or that they’re picked by hand. That’s why we have to tell the story behind the mushroom. Consumers want a natural product, but they don’t know anything about the mushrooms. By creating an added value, we could better market the white mushroom.”

Arie: “The sector as a whole has forgotten the marketing of the white mushrooms. In the production, we do exactly what is often talked about, but no one pays it any attention. We’ve used vertical farming for years. We’ve had multiple production layers for years, except no one in mushrooms calls it that, and we’ve never talked about it. Lettuce production with LED lighting is new, but we also grow our mushrooms under LED lighting. We use the residual product of the wheat harvest as compost for the production, closing the circle. As a sector, we have to work together to bring that story to consumers.”

Is there room for organic mushrooms? Arie: “We’ve had those in our assortment for years. We’ve seen organic becoming increasingly important. In the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, the compost also has to be organically certified. We need straw for the compost, but only a few of the

Arie: “Mushrooms have the perception of being healthy and tasty. Everyone knows they can be used to replace meat, but consumers have to take the step and actually start using them. We help retailers in that, that’s our goal.”

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


Vision ning for November and December in June.” Stefan: “Supermarkets think it’s difficult to respond to changes in volume and price. They often want certainty, but that’s impossible with a fresh product. The consequence of wild mushrooms is that supply depends on availability. We can’t predict the production six months in advance. We’re seeing positive developments in this, we have to explain this properly.”

Does the high temperature of this summer have consequences for the mushrooms? Arie: “Production costs are increasing. Cold stores in the Netherlands and Belgium are normally set to a maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, but this year we’ve had temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius. All of these cold stores had to be adjusted to keep the products cool. The cooling mechanics won’t have had a holiday. Cold stores are an important topic in any case, because everyone has to switch to natural coolants.” What do you expect of Brexit, and how are you preparing for it? Arie: “The main question is what will happen. I’d naturally prefer a soft Brexit, but the entire process has been very British. The British are tough negotiators who are darting right along the edge, although the EU is also doing well. Decisions will have to made eventually. For us, the customers are important. We have experience with other countries regarding customs formalities. No one is waiting for it, but if we have to, we could use those procedures.” organic growers want to give us that straw, because they’d rather use it as manure themselves. We’ve set up a cradle-to-cradle solution, we use the straw to grow the mushrooms, and we supply the residual product back to the grower, who can use it as manure on his land.” Stefan: “That market is growing, but not as quickly as the enthusiasm used to talk about it would have you believe.”

The heat from this summer has consequences for the harvests. What is that like for wild mushrooms? Stefan: “We’ll have to wait and see what the availability of wild mushrooms will be like. The warm weather affected all of Europe. That’s not the best thing to happen, but it’s also part of the charm of the product. The unpredictability of the volume does make it more difficult to agree on programmes.”

Arie: “Autumn is needed for the mushrooms to grow well, not 35 degrees Celsius. Few products could handle these temperatures. 140

AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

However, there’s always an autumn somewhere in the world. No one could have predicted the extreme weather in Europe. In Poland, they usually get warm weather from Russia, but now it’s the complete opposite. The warm weather in the west is headed eastwards this year.” Research is being done to grow wild mushrooms, are you also working on this? Arie: “That’s something we’re working on. The Netherlands and Belgium aren’t frontrunners, some countries produce a lot more varieties besides the wild mushrooms and truffles, which are found in forests.” It’s difficult to make good harvest estimates for wild mushrooms, isn’t that tricky as well? Arie: “Looking at the tomato production, they know exactly how much can be harvested in which week of the year. That’s an industrial production. For us, the challenge is to establish programmes for wild mushrooms. Retailers often have to start plan-

Stefan: “I’m not an expert in this field, but I expect a deal that can be explained by both parties will be reached, and that it will then be up to companies to interpret that correctly. Translating the agreements will be the biggest challenge. The first month after Brexit will be the toughest. When toll collection for lorries was implemented in Belgium, we had traffic jams for a week because everyone had to get used to the new situation. That has now sorted itself out because toll collection has become standard.” Poland is an emerging competitor, and not just for white mushrooms. How are you dealing with this? Stefan: “Competition from Eastern Europe isn’t good for price levels, so we have to bear that in mind. FME is distinctive by responding to markets more inventively and more flexibly.”

Arie: “It would have been a fairer playing field if Poland were to have the euro. They now profit from the zloty, and I don’t think they’ll start using euros soon. The zloty is

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


Vision to approach a challenge positively. I don’t want to have anything to do with ten arguments about why something shouldn’t be possible. FME wants to put all of its energy in that one or those two arguments about why it should be possible. That requires a bit more effort.”

better for Poland, but it’s more difficult for us.” Sustainability is much talked about. What is FME doing in this field? Stefan: “We think it’s an important theme. We’re already playing a leading part in sustainable packaging, but our production is also becoming more sustainable. Consumers want sustainable products, so we’re responding to that. It’s a story we have to tell.”


Arie: “We’re intensively working on telling that story, on the packaging for example. Consumers won’t know the difference between an industrially compostable packaging or a compostable packaging, for instance. Social media can play an important part in this.”

What is a major challenge for the sector? Stefan: “I haven’t been active in the sector that long, so I’m not sure if it’s up to me to call it a challenge, but I think labour will continue to be challenging. We’re now experiencing an economic recovery, but how long will that last? We have to think about automation. Besides, trends like health, convenience, sustainability and mushrooms as meat replacements won’t disappear. The challenge is to establish these trends in practice and to get them valorised. That’s what FME stands for in this wonderful sector.” (RM) 

Stefan: “Sustainability is like quality, everyone’s talking about it, but it also comes with challenges and opportunities. These opportunities trigger FME. I always try








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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019

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We respond to the consumer’s needs. Convenience is king in our modern society. Convenience food needs to be wholesome, healthy and tasty. And preferably easy to consume.

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AGF Primeur • Special Edition Fruit Logistica • 2019


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Primeur • English Edition • Fruit Logistica 2019  

Primeur • English Edition • Fruit Logistica 2019