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Albert Heijn eliminates plastic bags for fresh produce

Albert Heijn eliminates plastic bags for fresh produce
Photo: Albert Heijn

Netherlands retailer Albert Heijn has announced it is to remove all plastic bags from its fruit and vegetable departments and replace them with reusable, washable alternatives. In a statement, the company said the bags would disappear from its stores by the end of 2021, a move that will end the use of around 130m individual bags – or 243 tos of plastic – per year. A return system for the 31m bags used every year to deliver groceries to homes will also be introduced, it said, resulting in about 645 tons of plastic per annum being recycled responsibly.

According to the statement: “Everyone knows the plastic bags in the fruit and vegetable department Handy for loose apples or green beans, but bad for the environment if you don’t recycle them properly.”

For a two-week period from mid-April, all Albert Heijn customers in the Netherlands will receive a free reusable bag for fresh produce that is weighed in store before being purchased.

 

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Despite growth of Dutch organic farming, share in supermarkets remains small

Despite growth of Dutch organic farming, share in supermarkets remains small © Réussir Fruits et Légumes

© Réussir Fruits et Légumes

 

Organic acreage in the Netherlands expanded by 5.9% last year, to 79,664 ha, according to the annual organic industry figures (2020) published by Skal Biocontrol. The number of registered agricultural companies grew from 2,076 to 2,115. Despite the growth, fewer farmers switched to organic (22% less) for the sixth year in a row. A trend that started in 2016: that year 245 farmers made the switch, in 2019: 124 and in 2020: 96 farmers. A decline caused not only by the uncertainty regarding agricultural policy in the Netherlands but also by lagging demand.

The organic market share in Dutch supermarkets remains relatively small with 3.2% (according to Bionext trend report 2019). “If the demand for organic products were to rise, farmers would consider switching. This requires stimuli, for example with a public campaign from the government and retailers that are open to stimulating the purchase of organic products in the store. We see that it is possible during BioKennisWeek. If more consumers buy organic, there are plenty of farmers who want to switch. Because they are entrepreneurs who look for opportunities,” says Michael Wilde, CEO of Bionext, the trade association for the organic industry. 

An uncertain vision of the future and the uncertainty concerning the agricultural policy mean that more farmers decide to stop. Despite this, organic farming goes against the trend: organic acreage and the number of registered organic growers has increased slightly. This means that the share of organic acreage is increasing in relation to the total acreage.

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Greentech: The world’s leading horticultural technology show

Greentech: The world’s leading horticultural technology show

If you are seeking to learn about cutting-edge topics and gain an in-depth look at the technology of the future to make informed investment decisions, GreenTech Amsterdam is an event for you. Greentech will be held on 20-22 October 2020 in RAI Amsterdam. As in 2019, when there were visitors from 114 countries, around half of the exhibitors in 2020 will be from countries other than the Netherlands. The top three exhibiting countries outside the Netherlands are China, France and the US. Mariska Dreschler, director of horticulture at GreenTech, said, “Horticulture is of critical importance for global food safety and security. Efficient and sustainable cultivation is therefore a necessity. The exhibition is a global meeting place for all horticultural technology professionals. GreenTech focuses on the early stages of the horticultural chain and the current issues growers face.” Experience horticulture solutions first-hand, and join inspiring knowledge session at GreenTech Amsterdam!

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Global Berry Congress pushed back to June

Green berries: GBC 2020 looks to the future

Global Berry Congress, the world’s leading event for the international soft fruit business, has been moved to 22-24 June 2020 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Announcing the revised dates, organiser Fruitnet Media International said it had reached the decision to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved in the annual event.

Chris White, Fruitnet managing director, said: “Our primary concern must be for the health and wellbeing of everyone who attends Global Berry Congress. We believe a postponement is in the best interests of every delegate, speaker, exhibitor, and sponsor, and of course all our staff and suppliers.”

Global Berry Congress 2020 takes place at the Beurs-WTC in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

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Agrico launches Next Generation potatoes

Agrico launches Next Generation potatoes

 

The long wait is over as the launch of Phytophthora- resistant varieties is set to truly propel sustainable potato cultivation.

Developed by Agrico, a pioneer in seed potato cultivation, Next Generation was launched this February as a new line of tubers with Phytopthora resistance. The range includes Carolus, Alouette, Levante, Twister, Twinner, Ardeche and Nofy. Their appearance and excellent taste are preserved and the potatoes can be used in a range of ways, from industrial uses to starch, chips, salads and other chilled potato products.

What keeps Agrico a forerunner in the industry is its focus on innovation. The company started working on developing new potato varieties that are both sustainable and disease-resistant in the 1980s. It has always followed conventional breeding techniques and not resorted to GMOs. “You can be successful even using the traditional ways,” said Wieger van der Werff, commercial manager at Agrico.

Today, Agrico has 750 active growers in the Netherlands and continues to cater to both Europe and overseas. One of the challenges cited by van de Werff is the increasing demand for potatoes. This has been brought about by the emergence of markets such as India, China, and Latin America. In response to this demand, the company has expanded its operations outside the Netherlands, to tap into countries like France, Poland, and Scotland.

Agrico is a Dutch cooperative established in 1973. It entered into a joint project with Bayer and Yara to create sustainable potato value chains in Kenya. The aim is to help small-scale farmers utilise correct and high-quality farming methods. All of these programmes position Agrico as a true leader in elevating both potato breeding and farming. 

For inquiries: Gert Jan Laurman, G.Laurman@agrico.nl

TAGS: Agrico, potato, Netherlands, Next Generation

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Food Chain Partnership in the Netherlands

Bayer: Food Chain Partnership in the Netherlands

The Bayer Exhibitor Forum focused on responsible food production and the main challenges facing the fresh produce sector along the path to a more sustainable future. 

 

During the recent Bayer Exhibitor Forum, held at Fruit Logistica, Berlin, Frank Terhorst, head of crop strategy and portfolio manager at Bayer Crop Science, stated that innovation and digitalisation are the company´s key pillars for sustainable production. Bayer’s mission is to deliver world-class innovation as a pioneer in digital transformation and setting new standards of sustainability through tailored solutions. Among the firm’s sustainability commitments, the most outstanding ones are: reducing field greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, decreasing the environmental impact of crop protection by 30%, and empowering smallholder farmers to access sustainable agricultural solutions. With a firm commitment to the fresh produce sector, Bayer is dedicated to developing innovative solutions for horticulture production, driving digitally enabled tailored solutions for farms, and further enhancing food chain activities beyond the farm. “The Food Chain Partnership business model provides sustainable crop solutions to growers worldwide,” said Terhorst.

An eye on the future 

One of the biggest challenges on the global scale is the constantly growing demand for food due to the increasing population, which places a huge pressure on the planetary ecosystem. Hunger, malnutrition, obesity and diabetes are also playing important roles. As a potential solution, Ernst van den Ende, managing director of the Plant Sciences Group at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, proposes a second “green revolution”, which brings new diets supported by healthy lifestyle principles, along with environmental care, good agricultural practices, and nutritional crops, but also with more severe parameters for food safety and ecology. 

Nowadays, farm fields are one of the biggest contributors of CO2, after the coal and gas industries. That is why Dutch science journalist Hidde Boersma thinks it is necessary to use less surface area for agricultural purposes while producing more. “We should return land to nature,” said Boersma, who argues for a form of ecomodernism based on the belief that intensive agriculture, large-scale urbanisation, and investments in high-tech clean energy are the best ways to become a prosperous green planet.

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Bioworld expands with growing market demand

Job van den Berg on Bioworld stand at Fruit Logistica 2020 // © Eurofresh Distribution

 

Bioworld started as a vegetable trader and now specialises in growing organic vegetables for the European market. Since its shift, Bioworld has expanded from greenhouse vegetables to open field crops. “Our philosophy as a company is to supply organic vegetables all-year-round,” said Job van den Berg, managing director of Bioworld. Bioworld has invested in 24 hectares of land in the Netherlands and 40 hectares in Spain to meet the growing demand. It also focuses on importing sweet potatoes, avocados, ginger, turmeric, and pineapples.

Currently, Bioworld’s top markets are Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavian countries. The demand for organic products in this region is increasing. “People in these markets are becoming more conscious. The market wants to know where the product is sourced,” says Van den Berg.

Germany remains the biggest market in terms of volume. “German supermarkets helped in the growth of demand. Because of Germany’s size and population, a 7% market share is comparably bigger than a 15% market share in Denmark,” adds Van den Berg. Aside from retailers, Bioworld also supplies to wholesale companies and is expanding to the industrial and the foodservice sector.

Furthermore, the market behaviour in Europe is moving towards health and environmental consciousness. “There are consumers that know organic products are beneficial to their health, and to the environment. That market is growing, and people are willing to pay more, but the price is definitely a factor they consider. Consumers are also demanding less plastic packaging. This is a challenge because some products without plastic seals will have shorter shelf-life. We are developing the right packaging to meet the consumer’s demands,” said Van den Berg.

Along with the growing demand for the product is the challenge of the lower costs of its competitors. Bioworld faces the threat of competitors who do not fully comply with the standards needed for organic production but still brand themselves as organic. Van den Berg remains confident that the company can overcome these kinds of challenges. “Retailers are prioritising reputation and track record. I would say, Bioworld is the biggest company dedicated to and specialised in producing organic produce in the Netherlands,” adds Van den Berg.

Bioworld is now moving forward in improving precision in production and developing packaging alternatives for its products. The firm will also be launching a global campaign next month to promote organic food called “I am Earth”. It also runs a bee conservation programme called Bee Earth.

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Mushroom companies seeking innovation

Edward Vonk on Banken Champignons Group stand at Fruit Logistica 2020 // © Eurofresh Distribution

 

The Western European market is eating less meat and vegan options are gaining traction. With this, the interest in mushrooms as protein-rich alternatives is also growing.  Banken Champignons, a proud Dutch mushroom specialist, is continuously pushing new ways to prepare mushrooms, working together with Westland Mushrooms to release innovative products such as cordyceps and pulled mushrooms.

 

cordyceps Mushroom - credit. Banken Champignons Group

© Banken Champignons Group

 

Under the same holding company as Banken Champignons Group, Banken Champignons is working together with Westland Mushrooms to launch cordyceps, its latest cultivations in the line of exotic mushrooms. Westland is a specialist in exotic mushrooms with its main market in the food service industry, while Banken Champignons is focused on the consumer and retail market as well as the food service industry. These innovative products have been launched in Spain and in Western Europe.

Made from smoked oyster mushrooms, pulled mushrooms are able to mimic the look and taste of pulled pork. The product was first launched in Western Europe and the Scandinavian region in January 2020. “Pulled Mushrooms are one of the many innovative products offered by our company. Our goal is to make preparations faster and easier for our consumers,” said Edward Vonk, marketing manager of Banken Champignons.

Pulled Mushroom - credit. Banken Champignons Group

© Banken Champignons Group

The growing concern for the environment now puts sustainability at the forefront of business initiatives and Banken Champignons sees sustainability in product packaging as a priority. As such, the company has developed new packaging made of cardboard which, in time, will replace plastic for all its retail goods.

Established in 1955 in the Netherlands, Banken Champignons Group extends its passion for mushrooms to consumers through innovative and exotic options. The company specialises in sourcing, producing, and packing a wide variety of mushrooms, and selling ready-to-eat options for consumers, such as the meal kits introduced in 2015 which contain mushroom varieties for different types of cooking /dishes. ‘The mushrooms to combine’ kits, which include Mushrooms for Pasta and Mushrooms for Meat versions, are aimed at introducing consumers to the various mushroom varieties and providing guidance in the preparation.

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Dutch organic sector calls for protection of ‘organic’ term

Dutch organic sector calls for protection of ‘organic’ term

 

In the Netherlands, 68 companies are suspected to have wrongly sold or recommended organic products in recent years. The protection of the term ‘organic’ is currently in the hands of the NVWA. In order to be able to act decisively in the future against unauthorised use of the protected term, the organic sector is pushing for greater protection of the term ‘organic’ itself. To ensure that the consumer can be sure that a product is organic, organic specialists such as Bionext are calling for Skal to be responsible for checking the unauthorised use of the term ‘organic’ by non-registered companies as well as checking organic farms. Strict compliance is of great importance to guarantee confidence in the organic quality mark.

TAGS: bio, organic, Netherlands

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Dutch tomato exports continue to fall

Small EU tomato crop drives higher prices

The tomato exports have dropped 20% over the past ten years, from 1.36 million tons to 1.09 million tons, according to Coexphal data. As the average price per kilo has risen from €0.83 to €1.5, in value terms, the exports have increased from €1.12 billion to €1.62 billion. The export volumes of Spanish tomatoes have also fallen over this period, but by 6.8%. 

The main markets for Dutch tomatoes in 2018 were Germany (434.7 million kilos), the UK (180.6 million kilos), Sweden (58.5 million kilos), Italy (45.7 million kilos), and Poland (34.6 million kilos).