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Holland offers a unique approach to produce and logistics


“If you are a logistics provider in one of the busiest ports in the world, efficiency can become a key factor in the operational process.” So says Antonio Oken, managing director of Opticool. Located right in the heart of Rotterdam Port, this company is a good example of a logistics operator dedicated to stevedoring, fresh logistics and fresh packing. It has made it its mission to keep things basic and transparent. “Logistics is logical thinking. It has to be straightforward because that reduces costs and increases quality,” Oken said. The launch of innovative, cost-reducing ideas is paramount in this process. “We want to remain a pioneer in the logistics process.” One way of doing just that is to use inland shipping between the Rotterdam deep sea terminals and the ports of Nieuw Mathenesse, where Opticool is located, instead of trucks. This method enables quicker handling of the containers since waiting times at the terminal and traffic jams are avoided. The environment benefits from this way of transportation, too. Depending on the terminal from which the journey starts, ECT or Delta, a reduction in CO2 emissions of 84% and 57% cent respectively is accomplished as well as a 40% reduction in freight movement. “In our green business operations, the use of inland shipping is of great importance in promoting our organisation-wide vision.” Oken said.

Unburdening the supplier and retail buyer

“We focus on unburdening our customers. The Rotterdam port is a platform into Europe that everyone can join. It’s our job to organise the logistics process as fast, as cheaply and as well as possible for the people using this platform,” says Antonio Oken. Having started only 10 year ago, Opticool has created a young, flexible team and is now firmly established as one of the leading service providers in the field of fresh fruit storage and handling in the port of Rotterdam. From its premises in the port, with a capacity of 19,000 m² of refrigerated storage spread over 20 cold rooms and a total of 27 dock shelters, Opticool offers a full range of logistics services from the arrival of the goods in the ports of Rotterdam or Antwerp until the time of delivery. “As soon as your containers arrive at one of our 20 cold stores, the fruit is checked for temperature, packaging and general quality. Then, by way of a unique barcode, the pallets are registered in Opticool’s warehouse management system, linking our unique pallets’ ID to its own pallet ID. This enables full tracking and tracing of any pallet,” Oken explained. Since last year, Opticool has also been a proud member of the Agromerchant Group from the US.

More market stability for Dutch produce

Johan Hensen, managing director of Haluco, one of the leading Dutch growers and exporters’ organisations, looks back on a reasonably good season. “2015 was a positive year. From the spring to July we had more exports,” he said. And he predicts a positive future for the Dutch horticultural sector; thanks in part to innovation. “Dutch growers are leading the way in innovation and quality upgrades. We are still amazed by them,” Hensen said. Another field of innovation is improvement in supply chain management. Thinking about how the chain changes and connecting with customers’ wishes is becoming increasingly important. An additional bright point for the future is the increasing balance between supply and demand. “The flows sold in Eastern Europe are becoming more sustained and there is more structure in the sales. The demands that purchasers make call for a long-term relationship with growers, too. That creates stability.” 

New markets for peppers and tomatoes

In terms of produce, besides bulk products like block peppers, which take up 90% of production, and the larger vine tomato, there is increased demand for the sweet pointed pepper and the finer segments of tomatoes. Haluco sells its fresh produce all over Europe and is positive about new markets as well. “Sales into the US and Canada continue and Asian borders are opening for Dutch products” says Hensen. The opening up of far-away markets puts an increasing emphasis on quality and consumer-orientation. “The costs in reaching those markets are high so the products will have to comply with the highest quality demands,” Hensen said. 

Good import market such as citrus & stone fruit too

Recognised for its expertise in the stone fruit category, Wilko Fruit today supplies the large majority of supermarket chains in the Netherlands. “Our sales made big progress in 2015 and supplied 13 retailers in the country,” states Wilko v.d. Swaard, the company’s founder. He confirms the increasing consumption of stone fruit, largely due to the rising level of eating qualities in the new varieties and the larger volumes available from Spain in particular. “The Iberian peninsula provides us with 90% of our sourcing for all categories: cherries, peaches, nectarines, flat fruit and apricots”. Wilko Fruit runs its own office in Valencia for the quality checks and packaging. The Dutch specialist makes a selection of the best growers from the different provinces of Huelva, Seville, Murcia and Lerida. Citrus is the second category traded by Wilko, followed by apples, melons and grapes. The best selection is supplied under the “Gaudias” brands, which enjoys a good reputation on the market. Among its novelties and exclusives there are “Chocolate” navelinas, with a brown colour and an exquisite taste. It is packed in 6 kg boxes of 50×30cm. About 10 years ago in an orchard of navels near the WilkoFruit offices in Valencia, some completely brown fruit appeared on a branch of a navel tree. An analysis was carried out and it was decided to go ahead with a mutation. They grafted it and the result was the brown orange we have today. The “Chocolate navel” has the following characteristics: it is highly aromatic, low acidity, very sweet to eat, has a rather long shelf life and a good proportion of juice. Wilkofruit began selling this orange several years ago and has seen greater success every year. “When December comes, our clients ask us when we can send them the first ones.” Today, Wilkofruit sells this orange exclusively in Europe except in Germany, where the producer has an exclusive agreement with a major supermarket chain. „


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Dutch vegetable exports up 7%

Pears represent two thirds of Dutch fruit exports and have increased significantly, to 181,525 tons – up 80% on 2013 and 13% on 2012. After a poor crop in 2013, production of this fruit has fully recovered.


After little change in 2013, there was also a 44% spike in fruit exports – mainly thanks to pears – as at week 44 of 2014.

Vegetable exports from the Netherlands reached 2.55 million tons during the first 44 weeks of 2014, compared to 2.39 million in 2013 and 2.34 million in 2012. Among the top 10 varieties exported, field vegetables registered the most growth: white cabbage exports were up 58% of to 48,577 tons, leeks 29% to 30,790 tons and iceberg lettuce 25% to 39,011 tons.

Onions, with 809,390 tons, remain the top vegetable export, followed by tomatoes with 743,257 tons.  Meanwhile, the salad vegetables have seen significant progress with average gains of 10% (cucumbers +12%, peppers +11%, tomatoes +6%).

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Pears represent two thirds of Dutch fruit exports and have increased significantly, to 181,525 tons – up 80% on 2013 and 13% on 2012. After a poor crop in 2013, production of this fruit has fully recovered.

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On average, Dutch exports increased about 10% in 2014 and across the five main export destinations, except in the case of France (-12%).  Germany is by far the Netherlands’ top customer, taking 816,744 tons in 2014 as at week 44, up 9% on 2013.


This is an abbreviated version of an article on p48 of edition 135 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read the full article for free here.

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Kloosterboer pairs experience and flexibility to offer total logistic package


Logistic service provider Kloosterboer is a family business with over 85 years’ experience in treating temperature controlled cargo. The company specialises in storage, stevedoring, transport, customs and logistic IT solutions. Customer service coordinator Monica Pouwer of the Vlissingen branch cites flexibility as the key focal point in the total service package they provide. With over three million m³ / 500,000 tons of storage spread across 15 locations in both the Netherlands and abroad and more than 600 employees, Kloosterboer is one of the largest players in this segment. The branch in Vlissingen has a storage capacity of 200,000 tons, of which at least 35,000 pallets are suitable for the storage of fresh produce. 
There is a container terminal with an availability of 4,500 TEU and 180 reefer plugs. Modern IT technologies provide full traceability and quality control of the products. With a strong position in the handling of conventional reefer ships, there is also a firm commitment to their container business. Monica Pouwer: “We recently reached an agreement with a number of container shipping companies including Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, Evergreen and  Hapag Lloyd to start a reefer container depot in Vlissingen.” Starting up an inland container depot allows optimal usage of incoming reefer containers. “Transport and handling costs are reduced, since only a single trip is needed.” Local exporters have the advantage that they no longer have to collect the containers from Rotterdam or Antwerp. Monica Pouwer:  “We already have good experiences with local onion exporters using the empty containers.” 

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Hillfresh: Young, innovative and enthusiastic


“Having only started up in 2007, Hillfresh today is among the largest fruit and vegetable importers in Europe”, says account manager Paul Postema. For most of its trajectory, Hillfresh has had to deal with difficult market conditions. “It has made us innovative and enthusiastic. We always see a challenge.” Paul Postema notes a strong demand for taste from the market. “When we programme our products, taste is our priority because if the flavour is good, the consumer will repeat the purchase.” Together with the WUR University and breeding companies Hillfresh is developing a taste model for melons that can be used to screen breeding lines objectively for taste.
The importer of fresh fruits like melons, kiwi, grapes and citrus and vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and broccoli is mainly focusing on retail for sales. Other trading partners are wholesalers and the processing industry, mainly for convenience products.  Coming from Spain, Israel, South and Central America and Africa, their fresh produce is sold in all of Europe. Another key point at Hillfresh is corporate social responsibility. Paul Postema: “The basics we have covered with standards such as GLOBALG.A.P., BRCI, or Cedex, but from retail we also see the need for attention to social and sustainability aspects.” Strongly socially committed, Hillfresh engages in several projects like the one in Peru, where alongside local authorities they invest in a clinic for pregnant women, or the partnership Hillfresh has with a producer in Namibia for solar energy.”


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Purple Pride striving to raise aubergine consumption


Purple Pride is a Dutch association for the growers of aubergine. Loes Al, Purple Pride’s marketing and communication manager explains that the 7 growers together hold 40 percent of the Dutch aubergine area and with that they are the largest supplier of the purple vegetable in north- west Europe. Purple Pride likes to approach the market of this relatively unknown vegetable a little different. Loes AL: “Through our ambition and vision we make that the aubergine gets more publicity and we work towards raising consumption. “Several initiatives have been rolled out to make it easier on the consumer. “We launched ‘world cooking’, which is an accessible way to introduce the aubergine to the consumer.” The flow-packed aubergine contains a recipe that can be prepared within 15 minutes just by adding a few other ingredients. Other projects include: a social cookbook on Facebook, recipe booklets and training for retail staff.
The different market approach is also evident in the relationships with partners and customers. Loes Al:” We strive for structural relations with like-minded companies.” The key in that process is constant good quality. “Retailers see the added value of that and by joining forces together we come up with the best ideas.” One of the concepts developed together with a retailer is an aubergine with a BBQ label to be launched next summer in Scandinavia. Sustainability is an integral part of Purple Pride’s quality policies. “We mainly use biological crop solutions and focus on social corporate responsibility.” 

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Newly formed Cooperation DOOR focuses on quality and reliability

Active for a little less than a year now, Dutch Cooperation DOOR is enthusiastically shaping its organisation. In the spring of 2013 a group of like-minded growers launched Cooperation DOOR with the goal to have an independent market position without associations to trading houses explains Corien Zuijdwegt, responsible for cooperation matters. Today Cooperation DOOR represents 350 hectares of which 250 tomatoes, 54 peppers in all colours, 37 aubergine and 11 hectares of cucumber.  Sales and marketing activities are carried out by Door Partners under the brand names of Prominent for tomatoes, PapriCo for peppers, Purple Pride for aubergine and Green Diamond for cucumber. Corien Zuijdegt: “We offer a constant quality and focus on reliability.” Part of that are the GOBALG.A.P., QS, BRS and IFS certifications. “We are also investigating the implementation of the GOBALG.A.P. add-on module GRASP, which focuses on social aspects.”
A key focal point of success with Dutch produce organisations is the shaping of long-term relationships. Corien Zuijdwegt of Cooperation DOOR comments: “We want to develop together with our customers, be around the table with them and distinguish ourselves with marketing, quality and innovation.”  And what better starting point for that than a newly formed, progressive group of growers.  “We are an enterprising group with short lines, able to switch quickly and with clear communication.”

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The market oriented approach is very important to Greenco


The market oriented approach is very important to Greenco, says Commercial Director Jan Zegwaard. “You cannot produce without a market.” Greenco, a partnership of Dutch tomato growers, is the successful producer of ‘Tommies’ snack tomatoes. In 2005, Tommies were launched as the first snack vegetables and today a year-round production takes place on 25 hectares in the Netherlands, 40 hectares in Spain and 3 in Mexico. Jan Zegwaard: “Vital to our approach is the marketing department. They map what the retailers want. We provide external knowledge if needed.” The snack tomatoes are sold primarily to retail in the Netherlands, all over Europe, Asia and the USA. Expansion is expected. Jan Zegwaard: “We are continuously researching new opportunities for our Tommies.”