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Snacking varieties on the rise at Rijk Zwaan

“Retailers are aiming to strengthen the format by bringing taste into the tomato assortment.”

In its quest to service the retail chain and connect to the retailers’ format, uniformity is one of Rijk Zwaan’s focal points; the ability to deliver homogenous bunches and equal fruits, explained marketing tomato & cucumber specialist Johan Vis during an open day at the Rijk Zwaan demo greenhouse. He keeps in close contact with retailers to know what is needed, and in tomatoes taste is very important at the moment. “Retailers are aiming to strengthen the format by bringing taste into the tomato assortment,” Vis said.

Taste will remain an important focus for Rijk Zwaan over the coming years in the drive to raise awareness of differences in flavours.  For now, the Florantino is one of the most promising and special tomato varieties, simply bursting with flavour. In addition to being very flavourful, it offers exclusivity and “it has that moreish quality that makes that you keep on eating this snack tomato,” explained Vis. The snacking segment is currently enjoying a lot of attention. A lot of effort has gone into developing Rijk Zwaan’s varieties, which target this burgeoning segment. Different coloured snack tomato varieties with excellent taste have been added to the assortment. They are highly appreciated in mixes.

Ternetto: taste & yield

The optimum combination of good properties in a variety is the basis for Rijk Zwaan. The firm aimed to bundle a high yield and good taste into a variety that really stands out, and the answer was found in the Ternetto. “Ternetto is a highly productive snack tomato variety with really good taste and the tomatoes don’t crack, which makes them an excellent choice for packing in shakers,” said Vis. Another product on the rise in the snacking segment is the cucumber. Rijk Zwaan is currently testing different varieties of snack cucumbers alongside a cucumber (still in the number stage) that has a smaller core, making it suitable for use in sandwiches.

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Belgian tomatoes’ strong focus on exports

Exports to France and the Netherlands have shown an increase over the last 4 years, whereas sales to Germany – although still a considerable partner – and the Czech Republic have slumped, while Belgian tomato exports to the UK have remained stable.

With an increase of 20% over the last decade and growth of 3.3% in 2015, Belgian firms have managed to increase their tomato export volumes considerably. This is good news for a country where 70% of all tomatoes produced are exported. In 2015 a record high of 236,497 tons of fresh tomatoes were exported (source Eurostat figures via Vlam). Lava (cooperative of all Belgian fruit and vegetable auctions) reports that the main exporting partners are France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the Czech Republic. Exports to France and the Netherlands have shown an increase over the last 4 years, whereas sales to Germany – although still a considerable partner – and the Czech Republic have slumped, while Belgian tomato exports to the UK have remained stable. Belgian tomato production takes place in Flanders, where some 250 growers produced 268 million kg on 500 hectares in 2015. Roughly half of the production is on the vine (47%) and the other half are loose tomatoes (53%), said Raf De Blaiser of LAVA at the international conference on ‘Tomatoes, trends towards 2020’ held in April 2016 in Antwerp. Volume-wise, both categories are growing, but vine tomatoes have shown a steeper rise since 2007 than loose tomatoes.

Specialties on the rise, with 20% of acreage

It is evident that in both categories -loose and vine- the specialities are becoming increasingly important. Whereas in 2005 the area used to produce speciality tomatoes was less than 10 hectares, in 2016 almost the entire 110 hectares, over 20% of the total acreage, are used for tomato growing. Specifically, since 2011 the acreage used for specialities has shown a steep growth curve. At the same time, a considerable decline in the production of beef tomatoes is visible. In 2005 some 150 hectares were reserved for this product, but in 2016 only 60 hectares are left. LAVA reports that on 70 hectares (15% of the total acreage) tomatoes are produced under controlled lighting conditions. The production technique provides an earlier harvest, a better spread of the total production and local produce in the winter. As for loose tomatoes, 49% are of the intermediate type, 23% beef tomatoes, 5% plum and 23% specialties. For tomatoes on the vine, 50% are in the ‘medium/large’ size range, 22% are medium-sized, while cocktail and plum tomatoes account for 4% and 3%, respectively, and 21% are speciality vine tomatoes. Speciality tomatoes include Coeur de boeuf, cherry plum tomatoes both on the vine and loose, intense tomatoes, yellow and pink tomatoes or Kumatos to name but a few.

Simultaneous auction clock

Belgian tomatoes are sold either via the auction clock or through long-term sales to wholesalers and retailers, mostly into the EU. The auctions created a system where the auction clock of all LAVA auctions is operated simultaneously. The Flandria label plays a prominent role in marketing Belgian fresh produce and the Flandria quality seal guarantees tomatoes of the highest quality, sustainably grown by family companies. The Flandria segmentation for tomatoes was introduced in 1996 and includes variety trials as well as quality control through the measurement of a series of criteria including size, colour, taste and firmness, to name but a few. These criteria are applied in a knockout system in the event of an insufficient score.

MW

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Kazakhstan market more attractive

Traditionally, the diet of the Kazakhs included mainly meat and dairy products, but now fruit suppliers are seeing increasing fruit consumption and growing demand.

Kazakhstan, a country with a population of 17.6 million and a stable economy, is becoming a prospective market for traders.

Last year was rather difficult for Kazakhstan, due to the slowdown of the steel and oil industries’ production, which in turn was connected with the slowdown of the Russian and Chinese economies.

Nevertheless, the government is doing its best to stabilise the situation with domestic and foreign investments, and the experts predict that the economy will strengthen.

Traditionally, the diet of the Kazakhs included mainly meat and dairy products, but now fruit suppliers are seeing increasing fruit consumption and growing demand. The main fruit exporters are China, Ecuador, and Poland.

At the same time, a lot of products come to Kazakhstan from neighbouring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. For example, apples are imported from Poland, China and Kyrgyzstan; pears from Kyrgyzstan, the Netherlands and China; grapes from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China; strawberries from Kyrgyzstan, China and Turkey; and apricots from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

As for citrus fruit, oranges are mainly imported from Egypt, China and South Africa; tangerines from China, Pakistan and Spain; lemons from Spain, Argentina and Turkey; and grapefruit from China, Israel and Turkey.

Image: By U.S. Central Intelligence Agency – University of Texas Libraries, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection: Kazakhstan maps. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

 

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Top Control’s SSC 9100: innovation in grading

Top Control has incorporated a technological innovation into its weighing system so that the fruit’s moisture does not affect the measurements made by its SSC 9100 grader.

Top Control has incorporated a technological innovation into its weighing system so that the fruit’s moisture does not affect the measurements made by its SSC 9100 grader.

The levelling scale optimises the process of levelling the goods to be packed. It is integrated into the network and the weights are recorded directly by the centralised software. With its high accuracy and immediate weight detection, the SSC 9100 offers cost and time savings.

In addition, Top Control has created a useful software program that enables the process to be monitored through daily control graphs on a giant screen.

Based in Terlano, Italy, Top Control develops new technological solutions to automate fruit management, handling and grading processes, achieving total traceability and at the same time boosting efficiency and quality in the production process.