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BelOrta: responsive strategies to generate value chains

BelOrta: Emmer karton 500gr pack © BELORTA


BelOrta reacted promptly to find solutions for varieties affected by Covid-19, offering more packaging formats and consumer campaigns and continuing to increase organics and specialties.


Belgium’s leading vegetable auction worked hard and quickly to shift products to the retail channel that were left unsold due to the closure of the food service channel. New consumer packaging formats and in-store promotions were promptly introduced, particularly for asparagus, cucumber, and lettuce specialties like Lollo Bionda. Overall, demand for packed products rose sharply. Recycled PET punnets, which had already been successfully introduced, became the most popular. “We have seen a shift back to packaging for hygienic reasons,” said Jo Lambrecht, marketing manager at BelOrta. More sustainable solutions were also introduced, such as cardboard-based banderoles for organic vine tomato. With the rise of the snacking trend, BelOrta has accelerated its shift from plastic to carton solutions, and now offers 500g buckets of snack tomato, peppers, radish and blueberry.


Higher volumes of vegetables with better-quality

A survey conducted by GfK in Belgium found that 38% of consumers are eating more vegetables and less meat than they were five years ago. Indeed, retail vegetable sales increased 20% over the same period, according to Lambrecht. BelOrta, too, has seen Belgian consumers shift towards local vegetables. The GfK survey also found that 24% of consumers are eating more local vegetables, a phenomenon that has accelerated since the Covid-19 outbreak. “We have observed a growing interest in consumers looking for recipes, with a higher number of visits to our website,” said Lambrecht. Meanwhile, BelOrta has strengthened its cooperation with public radio and TV to raise awareness of fresh fruits and vegetables and local produce. One such example is TV cooking programme Un Zeste Local, which uses BelOrta vegetables. The auction has also supported the opening of summer parks, such as with the creation of “The BelOrta Farm” vegetable corners at the Plopsaland theme parks. The goal is to educate young children by showing how vegetables are grown. Product tastings are also taking place in three parks.


© Eurofresh Distribution


BelOrta supplies the widest assortment

The Flemish Minister of Agriculture was in Borgloon for the launch of the cherry season. During the ceremony, a cheque was presented as a donation to cancer research.  The next BelOrta Product Show will be held on October 8-9, where customers worldwide are invited to come and taste all of the BelOrta products in a single location. The firm, which supplies over 50 tomato varieties, has introduced several new vegetable varieties this season, like Sopropo bitter melon, sugar snap peas, and edamame (sweet soybean). BelOrta has also launched new packaging formats, such as the 2kg cherry box, as well as other products packaged in top-seal rPET punnets. Packing capacity has been increased at the company’s Borgloon and Zellik centres, with new top-seal lines.

A major campaign to promote the consumption of peppers has been launched in France, with brochures and gifts given out to consumers at points of sale. Also, from July 1st, a TV campaign will run on FLAM to promote Belgium’s organic produce, including its fruit and vegetables. 


© Eurofresh Distribution


More berries, tomatoes and organics

The shift from strawberries to other berries continues. This has been aided by the introduction of new varieties to extend the cultivation cycle of raspberries and blueberries. BelOrta has also increased its winter production of tomato specialties, like vine tomato, beeftomatoes and Ruby Red, with 5ha more glasshouse area under light to a total area of 90 ha. The auction also proposes more winter cucumbers, in total 7ha under light. What’s more, BelOrta aims to start exporting organic produce this season. The auction now offers organic blueberries, with 25.5ha of certified plantation in production. It has also increased supplies of organic endives, cucumbers and leek.  

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BelOrta launches new sustainable packaging for red fruit

BelOrta launches new sustainable packaging for red fruit

Since Wednesday BelOrta offers the first cardboard punnets with topseal. This new packaging responds to the trend towards more sustainable packaging and is adorned with an attractive “Happy snacking” design. Initially, it will start with the extensive red fruit range. In a later phase, a larger range of fruit and vegetables will be packaged in this sustainable & innovative packaging method.

Sustainable and attractive

Sustainable entrepreneurship has been a commitment which BelOrta has taken up in many areas for many years. With the introduction of these new cardboard punnets, we once again emphasise the absolute attention we give to it. The trend that consumers have a changed vision on plastic has long been unmistakable. BelOrta strives to create innovative packaging solutions that are both good for the environment and attractive to the eye. This cardboard punnet with topseal combines both and will undoubtedly stand out in the vegetable and fruit array.

Happy snacking

These new punnets come together with the start of a new snacking line. With “Happy snacking” we are responding to the increasing demand for healthy products for snacking in-between and on the go. Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, … are the perfect healthy sweets to eat on the train, at work or at school. Starting from Wednesday, our customers will be able to offer all our berries to their consumers in a handy travel package that is not only attractive, but also helps reduce the use of plastic.

Sofie Lambrecht
Division Head Marketing
Tel: +32(0)15 565 292

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Belgian Conference pears from BelOrta available on Indian market

Indian fruit lovers can find a new pear from Belgium in their fruit & vegetables stores.

Since a few months Indian fruit lovers can find a new pear from Belgium in their fruit & vegetables stores. The last three months BelOrta has made promotion on an unprecedented scale for the Belgian Conference pear in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore in collaboration with Bollywood actor Sonu Sood. The Belgian Conference pear from BelOrta is currently available in leading stores across the country, ready to be tasted.

Joined forces

Launching a new unknown product in a new market involves a lot of efforts and patience. BelOrta, Minister Schauvliege, VLAM, SALK, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Flanders Investment & Trade have therefore joined forces for the launch of the Conference pear in India. This pear has a strange ‘rusty’ look for the Indian consumer and its very own specific shape. The many positive qualities of the Conference pear should therefore be communicated in a promotion campaign.

Bollywood star on board

In early November, the Belgian Conference pear has been presented at a press conference in Mumbai in the presence of one hundred and fifty journalists. The popular Bollywood actor Sonu Sood has been selected as an ambassador to introduce this unknown pear. Together with Celebrity Chef Ranveer Brar, Sonu Sood represents the Belgian Conference pear at events, social media and on TV.

Conference all around

Recent months, the Conference pear has been promoted along the road, at bus stops, in cars, in cinemas, wholesale markets and schools. In addition, a cross-media plan has been rolled out through social media, on TV, on radio and in a large family park. Indian consumers can try the Conference through tastings in various stores in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore during two months. The pear is available separately but also in a small punnet containing the image of the Indian superstar Sonu Sood. Now it’s wait and see if the Indian consumers like the taste of the Conference pear.

Additional apple campaign

Since three years India has become an important destination for Belgian apples. Out of nowhere, this country has become one of Belgians top 5 of major exporting countries for this product. Thanks to additional funding from Minister Schauvliege, BelOrta can promote the Belgian apples in India in 2017 too.

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Spring vegetable crops coming on in Flandria

Belgium's early vegetable season has just burst into life.

The early crops have arrived in Flandria, reports LAVA, the “Administrative and Logistic Association of Auctions” – the umbrella organisation promoting co-operation among the Belgium’s five top fruit and vegetable auctions.

“The trade can switch back to young crops, top quality and a handsome assortment. There will be adequate supplies of Belgian product available for Easter,” it said in a recent post. “The Belgian early vegetable season has just really burst into life. Nothing can beat ‘young seasonal vegetables’ when it comes to ensuring variety and a taste sensation. Producers are tapping into an increasing interest from the retail side in new, Belgian product and consumers are rediscovering fresh, home-grown crops.”

LAVA said the auctions will be back with a handsome range of top-quality Flandria produce as early as this month, “offering a perfect appearance, freshness, flavour and fantastic health benefits. The trade can already count on ample supplies as early as Easter (depending on the weather conditions), and by April, large quantities will be available.”

It said the following are the early vegetables that can be expected at the Flandria auctions in the next few weeks:

The first asparagus
Supplies of greenhouse asparagus are available from early March and the growers are already providing 40,000 kg by week 12. The retail side can rely on sufficient domestic product for Easter.

(Small) greenhouse cauliflower now also available in new packaging
Every year, supplies of greenhouse cauliflower at BelOrta increase: these are a high-quality, fresh and local product. They are of premium Belgian quality, and what makes them stand out from imported products is their even white colour, finer flavour and daily fresh deliveries. This product comes in both traditional and mini versions and is supplied in T-crates. New types of packs are also now available: the mini cauliflower (6 or 8 units in EPS-T) can now be supplied to order individually flowpacked or in trays of 3.

Tomatoes grown under lamps
Supplies of all Flandria segments grown under lamps have been available for several weeks now. In the week leading up to Easter (week 12), the traditional versions start being harvested. The LAVA auctions then expect 500,000 kg of loose and 600,000 to 750,000 kg/week of cluster tomatoes. In week 13, this climbs to 1 million kg of both loose and cluster. The Specialties come on stream in March, and from early April there are sufficient supplies available.

Harvest of fruiting vegetables gets underway
In late February/early March, the harvest of fruiting vegetables grown under glass begins. At the LAVA auctions, the pepper season gets off to a classic start with the green peppers, and from the end of March, red, yellow and orange peppers also become available. From week 13, production of aubergines also gets going. By the end of March (Easter), there will be decent quantities available.

Top weeks for Flandria lettuce
Cabbage lettuce and alternative lettuce varieties in the Flandria range offer the trade a handsome, high-quality product with strong selling points. Easter will see plentiful supplies, with peak availability in March and April.

Source: LAVA
Image: LAVA 

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A record year at BelOrta

BelOrta’s new tagline – ‘redefining fruit & vegetables’ – expresses its mission: to redefine the standards within the fruit and vegetable landscape, says BelOrta commercial manager Jo Lambrecht.

The leading Belgian supplier will present its new tagline and a wall of innovations at Fruit Logistica.

Last year was a standout one for BelOrta. It achieved record turnover of €400 million by providing the highest quality and innovative fruit and vegetable varieties day in and day out. And it goes into this year with a new message. “From 2016, we shall add a new tagline below our company logo,” explained BelOrta commercial manager Jo Lambrecht. “This tagline, ‘redefining fruit & vegetables’, expresses our mission: to redefine the standards within the fruit and vegetable landscape,” he said. In a rapidly changing market environment, BelOrta completely re-invents itself and is always looking for a higher level in all areas of its business.
For the second time, BelOrta will have its own booth at Fruit Logistica, in hall 6.2 A-04. This year, BelOrta is adding a wall packed with its innovations from 2015 and upcoming launches for 2016. BelOrta focuses on innovation and is continually searching for consumer-desirable products and packaging, innovative growing techniques, storage systems and modernised logistics processes.
Working to improve air connections
With a 60 ha investment project around the location of the BelOrta facilities in Mechelen, BelOrta’s goal together with the Antwerp province’s authorities is to create a large logistics and agronomic park in order to include all of the supply chain activities in one single location. Direct access to the highway will be created soon to improve the road connections. Another project has been started up to facilitate daily logistic connections between the Rungis wholesale market, Brucargo (Brussels airport) and BelOrta. “BelOrta aims to increase its airfreight operations as well,” Lambrecht said. 
The widest vegetable assortment and a world of specialities
“The garden of Europe” today offers more than 150 groups of produce for retail, catering industry professionals and the food industry. Traditional varieties, organics and speciality tomatoes have been the latest 3 categories with the largest Interested to see our Wall of innovations at Fruit Logistica? Visit us in Hall 6.2 A-04 or contact us via or +32 (0)15 565 617 Focus on innovation Wide range of fruits & vegetables Experts in product, production & market knowledge 16073-EN-V2-ad Eurofresh-217×305.indd 1 12/01/16 10:23 Jo Lambrecht increase in items this season. “Several retail customers want some distinctive or sometimes even exclusive items,” Lambrecht said. 
White beans, yellow turnips, jumbo parsnips, topinambours, young ferns, black salsify, black radishes (both long and round types), as well as kale and flower sprouts are among the traditional and new variety selections to seduce both the culinary experts and ordinary consumers with more exclusive flavours and healthy selections. “Our range of kale already includes a wide selection such as green kale, purple kale and the palm variety,” explains Lambrecht. From 2016 onwards, the packaging of the Flandria tomato line will be renovated. All segments (Baron, Prince, Princess, Elite, Romared and Prunella) are getting a new fresh, even look, each with its own colour. The new style guarantees a wider recognition of Flandria tomatoes in the vegetable section.
BelOrta also offers a very large assortment of organic fruit and vegetables today, with over 60 items. Among the more successful varieties this season are the Belgian endives and greenhouse vegetables. “We will increase our organic greenhouse production significantly in 2016,” Lambrecht revealed. 
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Bright future for auction sales, says BelOrta

BelOrta – Belgium’s biggest and one of the Europe’s top co-operative auctions for fresh fruit and vegetables – sees a promising future for the auction model.

BelOrta – Belgium’s biggest and one of Europe’s top co-operative auctions for fresh fruit and vegetables – sees a promising future for the auction model.

Operating simultaneously six days a week, its six computer-controlled auction clocks last year saw consolidated turnover of more than €427 million and, according to commercial manager Jo Lambrecht, provide the ideal sales method for the non-profit coop.

“Belorta strongly believes in the future of the auction model,” he told ED. “For most of our products…it’s the best and most transparent platform where the demand meets the production.”

“With it we reach more than 400 customers every day, something you could never do with any other system. You can’t make 400 phone calls to sell one box. We strongly believe this model will last,” Lambrecht said.

The auction’s versatility aids suppliers

Auction also offers the best way of handling the wide variety of qualities and calibres of different products from BelOrta’s 1,350 fruit and vegetable growers, offering more than 120 vegetables varieties and 30 fruit varieties. For all those different qualities, sizes and calibers, a customer can be found, Lambrecht said.

Another plus is that it is very protective of the coop’s producers, getting them the best possible prices in good times and giving them protection in bad ones.

“There are so many customers every day who have access to their products very easily…this creates a certain unpredictability, a certain tension in this daily fresh market which is in favour of a better pricing. It always make a difference, sometimes by just a small amount, but it does make a difference,” he said.

Big crop boosts cucumber sales

BelOrta has 358 employees and growers are its shareholders. Last year it logged consolidated profit of €1.4 million after trading more than 550 million units of fresh fruit and vegetables and expects to reach about 600 million units this year.

Its top-selling products in order of volume were tomatoes, cucumbers, pears (more than 50 million kg sold), lettuce and Belgian endives. In value they were tomatoes, Belgian endives (€110bn), strawberries, pears and cucumbers.

komkommer - Edited.jpg

This year, BelOrta’s top-selling products in value are so far tomatoes, cucumbers and Belgian endives. Cucumbers have seen an important rise, due to an increased production area in 2015, Lambrecht noted.

More than 50 types of specialty tomatoes

Lambrecht said BelOrta sees a lot of interest in innovation. As one example, in the last two years it has gone from selling 35 to 54 types of specialty tomatoes.

Other recent innovations have included the introduction of a new lettuce, the ice cos, which is a cross between an iceberg and cos romaine, plus sales of the broccoli hybrid Bimi, flower sprouts, a new packaging-concept for ready-to-eat pears and new types of berries – last year BelOrta had the Japanese honeyberry.

Success of new ‘week ahead’ sales

Last year, BelOrta launched what it refers to as long term sales – selling on the clock today for production and delivery next week – a service used by Europe’s big retailers and service providers.

Lambrecht said previously these long term sales took place by phone and with set prices. The new system uses more dynamic price information and not only helps get more produce into the market, it obtains the best possible price in that market.

Three ways to access the auction

Nearly 40% of all Belgian horticultural produce is traded via the BelOrta auction. Its headquarters are in Sint-Katelijne-Waver but it also has operational sites in Borgloon, Zellik & Kampenhout (close to Brussels).

The BelOrta auction attracts three types of customers: those on-site in the clock room, those who are in other auctions where they can simultaneously follow the BelOrta clock and other auctions in Belgium, and customers who buy online via BelOrta’s cloud-based system.

BELORTA AUCTION - Edited (1).jpg


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High Flandria cucumber volumes auger well for Easter deals

fland cucum

Cucumbers have again lived up to their reputation as season openers, reports LAVA, the umbrella organisation for Belgium’s 5 most important fruit and vegetable auctions.

Friday 16 January saw the REO Auction selling the year’s first cucumbers under the Flandria label, LAVA said.

And from next month on, the cucumber season will be getting into full swing. By about week 10, the producers will already be supplying 1.5 million units. The week before Easter (week 13), large volumes – about 2.5 to 3 million units/week – should be available.

The ample supplies in March make the cucumber a perfect product for promotional deals in retailers around Easter, LAVA said. Supplies will be at their peak from May to September inclusive.

Sales system designed to ensure uniform pricing

“To bolster their position on the European market, the LAVA auctions BelOrta and REO have for some years now been selling cucumbers together on the clock. The principle behind this is to make the combined supply under the Flandria quality label available at the same time on the BelOrta clock. This means the trade can concentrate on a single clock, which ensures uniform pricing,” LAVA said.

Snack cucumber an attractive niche product

In the specialties range, the Donna Midi snack cucumber is once again available from BelOrta Auction. The quality standards and supply period are the same as for the traditional Flandria cucumbers. This specialty, with fruit weighing 150/250 g and about 15 cm long, is offered in EPS-T (20 units) on the clock. Supplies this year are set to increase slightly.


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