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Holland working hard to enter new markets and boost consumption

Currently the Fresh Produce Centre is involved in more projects to open up new market possibilities: peppers for China, apples and pears for Colombia, India, Vietnam, South Africa and the USA, onions for Costa Rica and pears for Mexico

„Interview with Peter Verbaas, assistant manager of the Dutch Fresh Produce Centre:

Is the confidence of the Dutch fruit and vegetable sector improving?

From the recently published Agro Confidence Index, it is clear that the Dutch horticultural sector is regaining its confidence. This index – the result of cooperation between the Ministry of Economic Affairs, LTO Nederland (the Dutch agriculture and horticulture federation) and Wageningen University – has risen during the past half year, although not to the level of a year ago. One of the sectors that reportedly has more confidence in the current situation and the longer term is horticulture. At the Fresh Produce Centre, the organisation representing the Dutch fruit and vegetable industry, we too can point to a lot going on in our sector in the wake of the McKinsey report, which states that the sector is under pressure. Many developments are indeed taking place, and there is a lot of discussion about what is the right way forward for the industry.

What is the primary focus in the Dutch industry?

One of the areas of activity is the opening up of markets far from home. As Verbaas says: “The sector has always been looking for new markets and has been involved in projects to open up new markets”. This involves complex discussions between governments in which the Fresh Produce Centre facilitates information. These projects can take as long as seven years, as was the case with opening up the Chinese market for Dutch pears. The Russian boycott has partly been the reason that the authorities are making an extra effort in the development of new market possibilities. Projects that have resulted in opening new markets include Dutch onions to Indonesia and Panama and pears to China and Brazil.

What new market opportunities do you foresee in the near future?

Currently the Fresh Produce Centre is involved in more projects to open up new market possibilities: peppers for China, apples and pears for Colombia, India, Vietnam, South Africa and the USA, onions for Costa Rica and pears for Mexico. “Due to the extra government energy being directed towards opening new markets, the list of current projects is much longer now than it used to be in the past,” says Verbaas. For the near future, some new projects are planned with an explicit focus on tomatoes. However, despite all the effort and the obvious results – a 7.1% increase in export volume during the last three years and the opening of multiple markets for different products – Verbaas observes that current market conditions are not easy. “Harder work is needed to achieve the same results.”

How are you aiming to lift the consumption level?

The Fresh Produce Centre is active in many areas. Nutrition and health is one of them, with a clear focus on developing strategies for market expansion and increased sales. Verbaas explains: “Based on the fact that fruit and vegetable consumption in Europe has been decreasing for years and is linked to the health issues we observe in society, we want to convince consumers of the health aspects of fresh fruit and vegetables and therefore encourage more consumption.” The Fresh Produce Centre has calculated that if the inhabitants of North Western Europe were to consume the recommended 200 grams of vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit daily, then the Netherlands alone would need to produce an extra 3.4 billion kg vegetables and 2.8 billion kg of fruit with an additional commercial value of €7.2 billion. A huge market potential indeed! Verbaas remarked: “We do not focus on product-oriented strategies, but aim to lift the total consumption level.” After the summer a roadshow will start targeting the members of the Fresh Produce Centre and the trade. The goal is to provide communication tools that can be used by the individual companies. “We will start and test the concept in the Netherlands and plan to roll the campaign out to Germany and the rest of Europe. The total volume in the Netherlands is insufficient to create enough impact.”

What are your latest initiatives in food security and sustainability?

Other activities to which the Fresh Produce Centre contributes include the discussion on microbiology and sustainability. In the wake of some international food safety issues in the past, the Fresh Produce Centre signals more awareness of the potential harm to reputation that can occur with food safety emergencies, and therefore an increased focus on microbiology. “The knowledge level has increased by giant leaps. We now have a better knowledge of the risks and this knowledge is valued internationally. The information stresses that hygiene still remains the most important factor,” says Verbaas. Sustainability in all its diversity remains an important topic for the Dutch horticultural sector. Although it can be difficult to decide which measure would be the best alternative for introducing an aspect of sustainability into business operations,  Verbaas observes that this area is brimming with activity and initiatives. “Programme owners like GlobalG.A.P. are investigating the possibilities and we are stimulating companies: we have the sustainable trade programme (IDH), an initiative that started offering tools for sustainability some years ago and is still being joined by an increasing number of companies.”

This interview first appeared on page 18 of edition 139 (Sept/Oct 2015) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more of that issue online here:

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The key issues for fresh produce in the UK

As the UK's trade association for the fresh produce industry, the FPC is working on a variety of issues affecting the sector, as its CEO Nigel Jenney also explains in this interview with Eurofresh Distribution.

Stowaways, the need for a generic promotion campaign for fresh produce, the massive potential to increase UK production of indigenous crops, the room to grow imports, and data mining. They’re just some of the topics addressed here by Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium. As the UK’s trade association for the fresh produce industry, the FPC is working on a variety of issues affecting the sector, as Jenney also explains.

What are the key issues for the sector now and what do you think they will be in the next few years?

We are dealing with issues relating to consignments contaminated by stowaways onboard vehicles coming across the Channel. The UK media is focusing on Calais, but the problem is widespread. Our members report a significant increase in incidents over six months, and we’ve estimated industry costs are around £10 million. It’s a difficult issue and we’re pressing the UK Government to recognise specific problems we face whilst maintaining food safety.

Over the next few years we’ll need to meet the challenges of food security and food safety and maintain a viable profitable industry. Having fewer crop protection products in the horticultural sector will bite harder and could increase pressures in growing certain crops which meet customer specifications.

We’re seeing pressure on the availability of biocides due to new regulations to reduce residues through the supply chain but which do not take into account actual risk in relation to food safety. The presence of a residue doesn’t mean it’s harmful, but without effective products to remove microbes across the supply chain there’s a risk of increasing the number of foodborne illnesses.

What opportunities do you see for growth?

We’re proud to represent a vibrant, innovative industry, as witnessed by successes celebrated by our FreshAwards. Given the need to increase consumption of fresh produce there’s massive potential to increase UK production of indigenous crops. At the same there’s room to grow imports of products which are increasingly popular, and which we cannot grow due to our climate.

It’s been said that the FPC is an effective lobbyist on a range of issues, such as import duties and quotas, border issues and logistics. What recent achievements would you highlight and what’s pending?

Thanks to our persistent lobbying the Commission recently removed increased import controls on Kenyan beans. This is a significant saving for UK businesses of around £1.5 million.  

We put the spotlight on excessive charges of £1.6 million a year for official controls in the UK under EC Regulation 669/2009 by securing one of three government reviews. UK Ministers want industry savings and we’ll continue to press government agencies to deliver an efficient cost effective service.

How does the FPC help shape new legislation?

Most legislation comes from Brussels so we work closely with European colleagues. We shape the UK Government’s position in European discussions and ensure that our industry’s voice is heard. EU Plant Health Regulation is a critical area to ensure a risk-based approach maintains open trade and allows plant health controls to focus on areas of greater risk. This includes lobbying for a regionalised approach, taking into account differences in climate and plant health risk between southern and northern Member States.

What would you share in regard to the FPC’s campaigns and other efforts to promote fresh produce? What has worked best?

The fresh produce industry needs to get behind a generic campaign to promote fresh produce as part of a healthy diet. Too often we see successful campaigns which focus on one product, but all this achieves is a shift in purchasing habits from one type of product to the detriment of another.

We must increase consumption of fresh produce. We started this process with the Eat In Colour campaign, but this needs sustained industry support to achieve its potential.

How have you had an impact on environmental issues such as pesticide use or waste control?

We recently partnered a Surplus Food Summit by UK food redistribution charity FareShare. Diverting surplus food can help people who don’t have regular access to healthy fresh produce. We’re encouraging members to work with organisations like FareShare, and to reduce supply chain waste.

You’ve been quoted as saying the FPC should offer a dynamic range of services. If you had the funding necessary, what service would be a priority to develop?

Our Produce Integrity database collates anonymised data from individual members and their suppliers, including analyses results from sampling and monitoring programmes. Shared data allows FPC to put risk in perspective when it comes to regulatory scrutiny and investigations into alleged links between fresh produce and foodborne illness. In time we’d like to develop this further to include more tools.


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Why the PMA is reaching out more to younger Americans

PMA chairman Kevin Fiori explains the reasons behind marketing fruit and vegetables to young people as cool and convenient and ‘one big iconic brand’ .

Marketing fruit and vegetables to young people as cool and convenient and ‘one big iconic brand’ is one of the goals of a campaign in which the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) is now involved. New PMA chairman Kevin Fiori, also vice president of marketing for Sunkist Growers, explains why this matters and key trends in America’s fresh produce consumption.

Why is the PMA is investing $1 million this year in the new Partnership For A Healthier America initiative, FNV, promoting fruit & vegetables to teens and young adults?

The FNV campaign ( is designed to build an emotional connection to fruits and vegetables among young Americans using marketing strategies and tactics relevant to them. Health and nutrition messaging is obviously a strong motivator for making better choices, but it’s nothing new and research shows it’s not changing the mind of the ‘skeptical’ teen who is choosing the heavily-marketed, less healthy options over what s/he might find in the produce department. We need to take our marketing straight to younger demographics in their environment – on social media, through their local community activities and with the help of their favorite celebrities.

What trends are you seeing in fresh fruit & vegetable consumption in the USA?

According to Produce for Better Health Foundation’s 2015 State of the Plate research, which PMA co-sponsors, children of all ages are consuming more fruit “as-is” and they are consuming more of it at all meal occasions. This research further emphasizes the importance of programs like eat brighter!™ and FNV to leverage these trends to continue increasing consumption.

From the foodservice perspective, menus and recipes are evolving to deliver global inspiration and local sourcing to better serve consumers changing preferences and expectations.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2015 chef survey, healthful kids’ meals and providing produce sides in kids’ meals are among the top trends. Kids’ menus Increasingly include bolder, global flavors and healthy, smaller versions of items from the adult menu, featuring whole grains, vegetables, oven baked items and entrée salads.

Who else is eating more fresh produce?

According to The Packer’s 2014 Fresh Trends, Asian and Hispanic consumers are the demographic groups most likely to serve fresh produce every day and Produce for Better Health’s 2015 State of the Plate report found many demographic groups are eating more fruit.

Hispanics make up 17% of the population, approximately 54 million people. and are the fastest growing ethnic group in the country. That combined with the fact Hispanic spending power is projected to reach nearly USD $1.7 billion by 2017 mean this consumer segment will continue to influence food and flavor choices for years to come.

And who is eating less?

According to PBH’s 2015 State of the Plate report, almost all age and lifestyle groups are consuming fewer vegetables compared to 2010 report (with the exception of teens and adult males ages 18-34).

The trend towards convenience may be contributing to this decline because as consumers seek to simplify their in-home meal preparation they use fewer ingredients, exclude side dishes that are difficult to make or time consuming, and/or opt for ready-to-eat frozen meals or store prepared meals, all of which can decrease vegetable consumption. Other barriers impacting vegetable consumption include uncertainty about how to prepare them and concerns about spoilage.

Why do transparency and authenticity matter so much?

Demonstrating both is the first step to gaining credibility and loyalty with consumers. Fast Company recently noted, “as technology generates more transparency, consumers will hold businesses to higher standards, with no room for fabrication or deceit”.

This year we will see growing consumer concerns with not only the authenticity, origins and integrity of food products, but how they are made, by whom, and with which ingredients. Transparency and authenticity will continue to be key variables to generating a “unique value” for companies in the future because unlike prices, products and technologies, they cannot be duplicated. Millennials have the strongest inclination to spend more on products from companies investing in social and environmental betterment.

Why are millennials so important?

It is vital that we engage millennials now and in the future to continue driving fresh produce consumption in this country. This demographic represents a quarter of the U.S. population (according to Nielsen data), and they’re now having children of their own. We need to enter their space (mobile, social media, etc.) and address their concerns

What can the F&V sector learn from the floral industry?

The floral industry thrives by making an emotional connection with the consumer, every day selling a product (flowers) not because the consumer needs them but because they want them. In today’s produce industry, the consumer has many year round varietal options. We must drive the emotional connection.


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How India’s IT expertise is helping its fresh produce exporters

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India follows only China as the world’s leading producer of fruit & vegetables. Here we talk to A.S. Rawat, general manager of India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) about its export sector.


What is one way that APEDA helps promote exports of Indian fresh produce?

We have a unique system which covers the entire cultivation process for certain product with everything recorded online and all stakeholders in the supply chain can access it, such as details of the size, productivity and practices used on a farm. Called HortiNET, this gives importers more confidence in our quality and consistency.

What products are covered?

We’ve identified 17 fruits and vegetables to start with. In fruit we already cover pomegranates, grapes, and mango and will add bananas. In vegetables we plan to cover okra, green chili, brinjal, bitter gourd, pointed gourd, snow peas and mushrooms.

How much of its production does India export?

It varies but is only about 2% in general – for example with mango it’s hardly 2% – except in the case of volume products like potatoes and onion. With onion we export about 7–8% of the total production, which is the highest.

What are your main export markets?

The Middle East is our major base but we are also focused on Europe, Southeast Asia (such as Japan and Malaysia), and also the US and Canada. Russia was also becoming important and China is coming up. This year a lot of our grapes are going to China and Russia. Exports to some Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, are also picking up but we have a logistics problem there as the produce spoils in the shipment and transshipment and there are very few direct flights.

What trends are you seeing?

Supermarket buyers are asking for more variety. For example, we have only three grape varieties, Thompson and Sonalika, both seedless, and now Red Globe, which is becoming very popular in the Middle East. But they want other varieties of grapes and also of pomegranates and mangoes, so we are working on that.


This is just a taste of our interview, which appeared in full on page 17 of edition 136 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read the full article at this link.