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Interview of the Month: How Bayer can support growers along the food value chain

Four questions to Ronald Guendel, Global Head of Food Chain Relations at Bayer Crop Science

In the Interview of the Month from issue 146 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine we put four questions to Ronald Guendel, who is the global head of Food Chain Relations at Bayer Crop Science. Here Guendel addresses topics including how Bayer tailors integrated crop solutions according to sustainable agricultural principles in order to help its partners enhance food safety, quality, yield, and traceability

Why is Fruit Logistica important to Bayer and what are your points of emphasis at this year’s event?

Fruit Logistica is the most important international trade fair for fresh produce. Next year will be Bayer’s 12th year in attendance—a decision we have never regretted. The contact we maintain with our customers and partners along the entire value chain at Fruit Logistica is simply invaluable. Over the last dozen years, our participation at Fruit Logistica has continuously evolved and taken on new significance. In the beginning, the trade fair was an important platform for us to invite farmers to join our Food Chain Partnership initiative. Over the years, our network has grown considerably. Today, the fair gives us an opportunity to network efficiently and stay in touch with key individuals along the entire value chain. In 2017, one of our main focus points will be the cultivation of European fruit and vegetable and how Bayer can support growers and other participants along the food value chain to ensure even better sustainability and reduce their environmental footprint.

What exactly is the Food Chain Partnership? Can you explain the initiative’s focus and reach?

Food Chain Partnership is an innovative business model that we at Bayer have developed so we can work closely with growers, traders, processors and retailers. We started this initiative in 2005, mainly as a reaction to public concerns about food safety and residues in fruit and vegetables. At this time, the industry was called upon to address the need for greater food safety, with consumers placing increasing importance on products that are produced sustainably and can be traced back to the producer. Our main role is to act as a facilitator and bring together the partners along the food value chain by sharing our expertise. Based on individual local needs, we develop tailor-made integrated crop solutions according to sustainable agricultural principles that help all partners involved enhance safety, quality, yield, and traceability. Today, about 70 Bayer food chain managers work in 30 countries around the world, focusing on more than 50 different crops. Our initial focus was on fruit and vegetables. But this successful model was recently expanded to include field crops such as oilseed rape, wheat and rice. The majority of our projects are in Europe, Latin America and Asia, but the number of initiatives in Africa and North America is increasing.

Bayer Food Chain Partnership became part of the GLOBALG.A.P. protocol, in order to start certifying stakeholders. What value does the Food Chain Partnership add to existing protocols

GLOBALG.A.P. focuses on Good Agricultural Practices and sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe. In 2014, we formed a cooperative partnership with GLOBALG.A.P. to help small- and medium-sized farmers in developing countries implement sustainable cultivation practices and comply with local quality and certification standards in order to eventually obtain recognition (localg.a.p.). Bayer customized its BayG.A.P. service program to the requirements of the localg.a.p. standards. It follows a three step approach, consisting of training, farm advice, and verification support for farmers. Participating farmers benefit from certified high-quality produce that they can sell at higher prices to enhance their income. Traders and retailers benefit from the consistent high quality of the products, enhanced safety, and traceability. The program has gained traction and is expanding globally. So far, we have initiated 18 pilot projects everywhere from Africa and Asia to Europe and Latin America. On top of that, we’ve already received very positive feedback from farmers and food chain partners. And we’re only getting started.

What is the extent of Bayer Food Chain Partnership programs in Asia and in the Americas?

We’ve initiated numerous projects in Asia and Latin America across a broad range of crops. In Asia, it’s mostly projects for fruit and vegetables, especially potatoes and rice. India is a very good example. We’ve initiated several projects to promote good agricultural practices there, and the results have been extremely promising. Through a project on table grapes, we helped increase yields by an average of 7% and improve produce quality at the same time. And our guidance throughout the crop cycle resulted in a 35% higher grower net income. Besides India, we also initiated projects in China, South Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia. In Latin America, we’re working with farmers in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico and other parts of Central America—in Guatemala, for example, where we’ve partnered with the exporter SIESA Group to support small-scale growers in producing high-quality vegetables. All of our project partners have enjoyed clear benefits. With our help, the vegetable farmers can produce more exportable produce and sell at higher prices, SIESA can protect its market share by exporting safe products, and their retailers can promote the high quality and safety of the products to domestic customers.

Siesa partnered with Bayer in its Food Chain Partnership initiative in 2008. The Guatemalan company benefits from intensive training in good agricultural practices and technical recommendations in order to achieve the best possible quality.

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Interview of the Month: the US Food Marketing Institute’s Rick Stein

“The ability to trace product back to its source is a critical part of the new produce supply chain,” says the US Food Marketing Institute’s Rick Stein.

The voice of food retail in the United States is the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Here the trade association’s vice president for fresh foods, Rick Stein, pinpoints what’s happening in his country on major issues for the sector. Stein was previously vice president of retail merchandising and marketing execution for Safeway, where he led marketing activities for the company’s eastern division spanning 180 locations and 20,000 employees.

What are the main challenges for fresh produce distribution in the US?

When it comes to providing fresh foods in retail, food safety is the utmost priority for the US retail food industry. The industry is doing a good job keeping food safe. According to the 2016 US Grocery Shopper Trends report, 9 in 10 shoppers have confidence in the safety of food at the grocery store.

As for fruit and vegetable distribution in the US, the produce supply chain is unique because products have a short shelf life, require fast distribution and temperature control is essential. We’re also often dealing with fresh foods being transported long distances. More fresh food providers in the US are relying on improved data quality to help address these elements of the produce supply chain. By optimising quality data, producers are better able to share data with retailers so they can provide a more transparent picture to shoppers about the path their produce took from farm to store. This ability to trace product back to its source is a critical part of the new produce supply chain and many US retailers and packers/shipper or implementing traceability initiatives.

In addition, shopper demand for local fruit and vegetables is changing the produce supply chain. Finding local sources, ensuring those sources have safe food, and getting product to shelf quickly is an emerging trend that is resulting in many new supply chains within the US produce business.

What are the latest improvements in food safety and sustainability?

Right now, food retailers and manufactures in the US are working to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping regulation of the US food safety system in 70 years. FSMA fundamentally changes the way food is regulated in the US and abroad and affects the entire supply chain from farm-to-fork. FSMA focuses more on preventing food safety problems rather than relying primarily on reacting to problems after they occur. FMI has worked closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) throughout the FSMA implementation process and continues to offer our members resources, training and implementation guidance.

FMI is also working on the issue of food waste. Every year, about 40 million tons of food waste is sent to landfills in the US. FMI has joined with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to form the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA). This group has three major business goals: 1.) Reduce food lost within our operations so it never becomes food waste in the first place; 2.) Recover safe and nutritious food that might have been wasted by sending it to our partnering food banks; and 3.) Recycle unavoidable food waste by diverting away from landfill and moving it to productive use, including animal feed, compost or food to energy.

What is being done to promote fruit and vegetable consumption?

According to FMI’s Shopping for Health 2016 report, two-in-three US shoppers agree that food choices affect their health, but half say they struggle to find the motivation to eat healthfully. At the same time, FMI’s Power of Produce 2016 report finds shoppers are choosing produce as part of a healthier lifestyle and eating habit.

Grocery stores are uniquely positioned to be key partners in health and wellness for the communities they serve, including helping to increase consumption of fresh foods. Food retailers have the opportunity to help their customers find and distinguish dietary choices, offer weight management solutions and share convenient meal ideas that help feed families. Some of the actions retailers take to incentivise more fruit and vegetable consumption start with the location of produce near the entry of the store. Also, the location of produce on the front page of their advertising circulars is another way supermarkets highlight their produce.

Many US food retailers are transitioning their stores into health destinations and that includes offering more resources for shoppers to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. According to the 2014 FMI report on Retailer Contributions to Health and Wellness, 95% of US grocery stores surveyed employ dietitians at the corporate, regional and store levels. In addition to offering nutrition counseling, grocery stores are helping shoppers develop culinary skills. More than half of the food retailers in this survey employ chefs at the corporate level and 74% of respondents have offered cooking classes to customers.

In the US, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer an opportunity for food retailers and manufactures to help Americans eat a healthier diet. Many retailers and manufactures help support this information by making it available to customers on packages, in store, online and through their nutrition counseling services.

How are online sales, home deliveries and the hard discounters affecting in store sales?

In the US, fresh produce is what brings shoppers to the grocery store. According to FMI’s Power of Produce 2016 report, 63% of US shoppers prefer the supermarket for their produce purchases. Consumers cite concerns over product freshness and quality, but also want control over selecting the produce they purchase. However, when the online shopping platform is supported by their primary brick-and-mortar grocery store, shopper interest increases.

When it comes to overall grocery shopping trends, the 2016 US Grocery Shopper Trends report finds 15% of shoppers occasionally purchase food or groceries online through a service or meal subscription. At the same time, 16% of US shoppers report purchasing fresh produce online in the past 12 months. This represents an opportunity for US food retailers to further enhance their online produce offerings, while also creating unique in-store fresh food purchasing experiences for shoppers.

Photos provided by the Food Marketing Institute

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Interview of the month: Global Cold Chain Alliance CEO Corey Rosenbusch

In this interview, Global Cold Chain Alliance president and CEO Corey Rosenbusch speaks about major trends for the temperature-controlled logistics industry and the inaugural Global Cold Chain Expo, taking place June 20-22 in Chicago.

The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) represents all major industries engaged in temperature-controlled logistics. Based in the US state of Virginia, it has offices or affiliates in Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, Guatemala, India, and the UK. The GCCA’s vision is to forge a universally strong cold chain where every product retains quality and safety through each link. Here GCCA president and CEO Corey Rosenbusch speaks about major trends for the industry and the inaugural Global Cold Chain Expo, taking place June 20-22 in Chicago.

What are the main issues the alliance is working on?

We recently did some research on our market and there were some very clear results that shaped our new strategic plan, with two priorities centred around growing the industry and leading the cold chain.

Where do you see potential for growth?

We see a huge opportunity to play a role in cost savings and assistance with compliance. If there’s one trend that you hear about all over world, it’s that regulations are becoming more and more burdensome for our member companies. If we as an industry can help deflect or assume some of that compliance role for produce companies, that’s a huge value-add.

Another opportunity is in facilitating trade. Overall, looking at opportunities where our industry can serve the food industry in places and ways we haven’t in the past is a major theme. In our study, 64% of our members said exports are a growing part of their business. Some are investing in strategic locations and port-centric hubs in order to be able to offer end-to-end supply chain networks.

What are some of the issues facing the industry?

It’s more and more of a challenge to recruit and retain talent and with the aging workforce we hear about this increasingly. We have to recreate an employer brand where we’re not simply asking someone to drive a forklift in a freezer but tell a story of helping protect the quality and safety of food so families can enjoy their meals and feel confident they are safe; or one of feeding the world, ensuring there is plenty of food to eat. That’s the kind of company a young person wants to build a career around. It’s about creating career paths, best practices and employer brands, and helping members recruit associates. They are having a very hard time finding labour, particularly in technical areas such as refrigeration – it’s harder and harder to find people to fill those roles.

Also with the pressure today to keep the cost of consumer goods at stable prices, food companies often look to our space to find opportunities for saving. We need to really protect ourselves against being commoditised. We’re not just big buildings where you can rent pallet storage space, there are value-added services that make us partners with the food industry in delivering produce to the consumer. It’s about telling that story and doing that is really new for us.

Where do you see unmet needs in terms of perishables?

A lot of the issues which drove the recent creation of a lot of new food safety regulations really centred around the fruit and vegetables industry. Fresh produce is far more challenging than a frozen product so I think what’s going to be critical to how that segment grows in future is the ability from a technical standpoint to comply with the regulations and ensure the safety of food, particularly as more moves from all over world.

We are also looking at how we can contribute to the lengthening of shelf life and reduction of waste in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, for example loads that are rejected at retail because the quality of product is not there. Major retailers have become very stringent not just on the safety and quality of produce but even right down to appearance. We have a role to play there in helping the fresh fruit and vegetable industry ensure compliance with regulations and in controlling temperatures to ensure they can distribute as much produce as they can and it does not go to waste.

How much of the produce you handle is frozen?

Historically for the third party cold chain industry, frozen goods have been our core, with about 80% of the products going through our assets being frozen but fresh is definitely a growing area. These days one of the fastest growing services that a lot of members are doing for customers is tempering – basically defrosting food that is later sold and marketed as a fresh product. The biggest area of growth for this is bakery, particularly breads.

What’s happening in the area of food safety during shipping?

Food safety always been a core competency of ours and is one that is now in the spotlight with the rewriting of our food safety laws here in the US and some transformation of of food safety laws in Europe due to the horse meat issues a few years ago. Consumers have more and more focus on this so it’s a huge opportunity for us because our core concept is to ensure that food is kept at the right temperature. Perishables are a number one topic from a food safety standpoint. We invested millions in the mid-90s to really understand all of the food commodities, their shelf life and what is an optimal storage temperature, even developing software. Today we can take a product that might have been out of temperature range and predict the impact on its quality and shelf life.

Traceability is the key area where most of our transportation members are able to contribute to the overall protection of the safety of food. Constant temperature monitoring has become more advanced with real time monitoring of temperatures possible anywhere in world and data uploaded via satellite. More and more tracking and tracing devices are included in cargo to ensure it is kept within the proper temperature range. From that standpoint, our industry plays an important role.

What does the growth of e-retail imply for temperature-controlled logistics?

This was a big focus at our 19th European Cold Chain conference, held in Amsterdam in March. China, for example, is going to leapfrog the rest of the world in that more and more it’s not going to build brick and mortar stores but just go straight to home delivery. With, for instance, you can literally order just two bananas and they’ll deliver them to your home. At the conference we looked at how a shift in the supply chain from traditional brick and mortar to home delivery will redefine our business, for instance what kind of special vehicles will be required for delivery. We need to think about this and how to build our assets and capacity to serve accordingly.

There are also opportunities for companies in each-picking for frozen goods. A frozen item can be selected, put in a freezer box and left on your door stop in a frozen state and all this process is fully automated, with the product only touched when someone takes it out of the delivery truck.

What will be some of the highlights of the Global Cold Chain Expo in June?

It will where everyone finally comes together in one place to talk about the cold chain no matter the sector. The Global Cold Chain Expo is co-located with our partner, United Fresh Produce Association, and the Food Marketing Institute, so growers, distributors and buyers of produce will all be there. We’re bringing all the third party cold chain providers and a big group of processors who have not historically been there. Over 25,000 sq ft we’ll have all the components needed to really chart the future, to talk about efficient collaboration and solve problems – and that’s what really gets me excited.

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UNIVEG is the largest ripener in Europe

UNIVEG is a vertically integrated leader in the sourcing and supply of high quality fresh fruits & vegetables and controls the entire value chain from sourcing to delivery.

In the most recent installment in our Interview of the Month series, we speak to Greenyard Foods CEO Marleen Vaesen.

Is UNIVEG, the fresh segment of Greenyard Foods, still increasing its distribution capacities?

UNIVEG is a vertically integrated leader in the sourcing and supply of high quality fresh fruits & vegetables and controls the entire value chain from sourcing to delivery. With its 31 strategically located distribution centres in Europe, UNIVEG can offer a best-in-class integrated service to its retail customers. UNIVEG has drawn on 60 years of experience in the banana industry to develop one of Europe’s leading ripe and ready-to- eat ranges and meets the growing demands from retail customers. With 500 ripening rooms spread across 8 European countries, UNIVEG is the largest ripener in Europe. We provide the full range of ripe and ready-to-eat fruit – mangoes, avocados, kiwifruit, stonefruit, papayas and pears. We continuously develop and improve the infrastructure of our distribution centres. In Belgium we just opened new ripening rooms at our Belgian distribution centre in Sint-Katelijne-Waver. In India we are developing a joint venture with Mahindra for import activities. On the sourcing side, we are continuing to build a grower network in the northern and southern hemispheres.

What are UNIVEG’s commitments in European produce?

We are pleased with our sourcing partners and continue to work with our existing relations. Our aim is to supply tasty and healthy produce in the right quality, volume and varieties year-round. For instance, our new joint venture with Haspengouw Fruit trading and packing divisions gives us direct access to the ‘Kanzi’ apple variety. Another good example is the acquisition of Empire Trade World in January 2014, helping us to have more local sourcing, too. The main business reasons for this acquisition are in line with UNIVEG’s continued strategic focus and development of the UK market. This is giving us the opportunity to provide an added dimension to our product portfolio and UK market share with UNIVEG’s own production of top fruit as well. As a vertically integrated fresh produce global player, UNIVEG has the ability to consistently supply first-rate products through its unrivalled growers’ network and first-class provision service teams. With 40 companies spread across five continents, our group traded more than two million tons of fresh fruit and vegetables to customers on six continents in 2015.

How is UNIVEG multiplying direct initiatives with consumers and farmers?

With the launch of the new “On-the-go” smaller formats like blueberry buckets and new ready-to-eat tropical fruit, UNIVEG aims to respond to the growing trends of snacking consumption. UNIVEG is also working on many programmes aimed at more sustainable agriculture, both with fruit growers from the Southern Hemisphere and vegetable farmers in Europe. One example is the Grow Bag of the Peltracom, our Growing Media division. With the Grow Bag, Peltracom introduces a truly closed-loop system, bringing sustainability to the greenhouse and reducing the impact on the environment. The Peltracom Grow Bag is a 100% compostable substrate for growing greenhouse vegetables and allows the farmers to replace the substrate based on rockwool. This substrate is produced from sustainable organic raw materials and allows for extremely efficient crop steering with maximum results. Because of its organic nature, the Peltracom Grow Bag contains a perfectly balanced, natural soil life. After use, the Peltracom Grow Bag is composted into a rich soil improver. Peltracom that has more than 1000 substrates and was also present at the UNIVEG booth at Fruit Logistica. UNIVEG is also involved with food chain programmes in different countries with both Bayer CropSciences and Syngenta in order to help farmers locally (like in India) to develop sustainable agriculture and comply with the requirements of European retailers as per residue limits in particular. We have also started a breeding programme in cooperation with Rijk Zwaan in order to find vegetable varieties that are more sustainable and more suited to the needs of new consumers.

Is UNIVEG very active in the social sphere too?

The CSR activities of the UNIVEG Group such as the “Giving Back” social programme and “Be Fruitful” campaign carried out in the US by our company Seald Sweet International are good examples. The “Giving Back” concept is not new at the Florida company; it has been running fund-raising promotions to benefit US military families through the Fisher House Foundation since 2008 with summer citrus. Since 2010, Seald Sweet has also participated in fair trade programmes with their South African growers. Then in 2013, Seald Sweet launched the “Be Fruitful” campaign to fully integrate the act of giving into the company’s activities. The CSR project challenges the Seald Sweet team to give “time, talent and treasure” by getting involved with community organizations and good causes. In South Africa, UNIVEG has worked since 2013 in partnership with the Waitrose Foundation and Waitrose’s grape category manager to implement a programme of long-term shared initiatives. These are aimed at providing social and economic benefits for the community of Môrester Farm, located in the Western Cape of South Africa. One of the initiatives is to build a teaching centre.

„Greenyard Group key facts
8,170 employees
Presence in 25 countries
Total sales of about €4 billion including:
– €3.2 billion from UNIVEG, Fresh segment of Greenyard Foods: fruit and vegetables.
– €80 million from Peltracom, Segment Growing Media of Greenyard Foods.
– €620 million from the prepared segment including the Frozen and Canned division of Greenyard Foods.
Public listed since 2013 after the merger of the fresh, prepared and growing media segments.


This interview originally appeared on page 17 of edition 142 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue for free here. 

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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.