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Good year for Dutch supermarkets

Although many think that fresh produce is not the consumer’s category of choice for online purchases, market researcher IRI Netherlands proves them wrong

Total supermarket sales rose to €35 billion in 2015, an increase of 4.6% compared to 2014. This growth can partly be attributed to the 53rd week in 2015.

Calculated over 52 weeks, the growth was 2.5%. The figures include all the major Dutch supermarkets with the exception of Aldi and Lidl, who do not make this information available.

Not all segments are growing at the same pace, though. One segment that clearly stands out is fresh produce, with a 7.6% increase in sales over 2015. The total sales for this segment amount to some €4 billion.

IRI attributes the increase to the consumer, who is clearly more conscious of healthy eating. This growth is also driven by a focus on origin and on traditional production as well as by attention to healthy snacking. The latter translates into increased sales of snack tomatoes, for example.

About 30% of the tomatoes sold are snack varieties. Moreover, consumers bought more sustainable products in 2015, reports IRI. The sustainable products category includes organic products, UTZ (a sustainable farming programme and label), MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or Better Life (a label for animal-friendly production of meat and eggs).

Organic is the largest group of sustainable products, accounting for 28% of sales within this category. IRI reports growth for all products with a sustainability label.

Record in organic food spending: €928 million

Although still a niche market, the market for organic food in the Netherlands is growing fast and has a lot of potential, reports the economic office of ABN AMRO bank in the Netherlands in its June 2016 Agrifood Update. In the last 10 years, the annual average growth of spending on organic food in the Dutch retail sector has been 9%. In 2015, a record high of €1 billion on organic food spending was reached.

Fresh produce accounts for 23% of that figure. ABN AMRO observes that food is becoming increasingly important as a part of one’s lifestyle and sees this as a positive development for the future of organic food. It leads the Dutch bank to expect an average annual growth of 7% in the coming 5 years, leading to total expected spending on organic food of €1.5 billion in 2020.

The current 3% market share of organic food is expected to rise to 5% in 2020. Not only are the prospects in the Netherlands favourable but the global turnover is expected to double by 2020 (source Bionext Trendreport Organic) to US$ 160 billion, offering huge potential for businesses in the organic chain. In Europe the organic food market is worth about €22 billion.

Fresh fruit biggest category in online sales

Although many think that fresh produce is not the consumer’s category of choice for online purchases, market researcher IRI Netherlands proves them wrong. Fresh fruit appears to be the biggest category in online supermarket sales even though it ranks 5th in offline sales. The data stem from IRI’s newly launched e-commerce read tool, which collects sales data on online supermarket purchases. Fresh vegetables rank 2nd both on- and offline, although IRI notes that the volume of fresh vegetables in online sales is still much smaller than offline. IRI assumes that in this category the consumer probably prefers to actually see the product before buying it.

The online shopper differs from the regular shopper, IRI reports. The online shopper is younger (especially over-represented in the 25- 39 years demographic) and often has a family and an average or above-average income. The impact of the different shopper profiles is reflected in the sales data. In online fresh vegetable sales, for instance, the more expensive pre-packaged vegetable packs are chosen more often. While the share of online sales within the supermarkets’ total turnover is currently still small, e-commerce sales are growing rapidly and IRI expects even stronger growth in the future.

Albert Heijn secures frontrunner position

The Dutch retail landscape has not changed much in 2015. Albert Heijn has managed to stabilise its frontrunner position and now has a market share of 35%. The Jumbo Group decreased a bit due to overlap when converting the last of the C1000 stores it took over in 2011. Whereas discounters Aldi and Lidl had more or less the same market share in 2012, it has become clear that Lidl, now at a 10% market share, has managed to develop and secure its position.

Organic food imports

Some of the large organic-consuming counties, such as France and Germany, depend heavily on imports to satisfy their internal markets.

ABN AMRO reports that Dutch exports of organic food total €928 million. ABN AMRO sees organic production as a crucial factor in the growth of the organic trade, as the production cannot keep up with the demand.

In Europe as a whole, 5.7% of the total acreage is used to produce organic produce. In Southern and Eastern Europe, as well as in Scandinavia, larger proportions of the total acreage are devoted to organic production. In Western Europe – and that is certainly true for the Netherlands with 2.9% – the acreage is falling behind. This leads ABN AMRO to conclude that organic production could be a good option in the search for added value. 

MW 

This article first appeared on page 20 of edition 145 (Sep-Oct 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more retail and fresh produce sector news in that issue at: www.eurofresh-distribution.com/magazine/145-2016-sepoct.

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Dutch production of tomatoes, aubergines and strawberries on the rise

Whereas in 2005, there were 230 ha used for covered strawberry production in the Netherlands, this steadily grew over the years to 280 ha in 2015, an increase of 48%

Although the total acreage used for covered horticultural production in the Netherlands fell 13% in the past decade, from 10,540 ha in 2005 to 9,200 ha in 2015, for some products there was a spectacular climb. The most impressive figures are for strawberries. Whereas in 2005, there were 230 ha used for covered strawberry production, this steadily grew over the years to 280 ha in 2015, an increase of 48%. Moreover, it probably still offers potential for the future since the growth figures include a 7% rise in 2014 and 10% last year.

Production under glass is by far favoured over production under plastic. Strawberry production under glass saw a sharp rise in hectares in use to a total of 280 in 2015 (+75% since 2005), whereas the hectares used for production under plastic fell by 29 ha from 2005% to a total of 50 in 2015. However, the preference seems to shift a little since the figures for strawberry production under plastic show a turn in 2015 when a 25% increase of hectares was seen.

More vegetables

Total production of vegetables has seen an increase of 7% since 2005 to a total of 4,750 ha in 2015, although it should be noted that the acreage has been falling since 2010 from 4,990 ha. Aubergine is one of the vegetable categories on the rise. With a steady increase in hectares over the years, the product’s hectares used rose from 90 in 2005 to 110 in 2015, meaning 22% growth. Tomatoes are doing fairly well, too. Whereas covered tomatoes were produced on 1,400 ha in 2005, this came to 1,750 ha in 2015 (+25%).

Specifically, grape and cherry tomatoes are in demand. Grape tomatoes  saw an increase in hectares from 940 in 2005 to 1,260 in 2013 and have been steady ever since. For cherry tomatoes, the acreage grew by 63% over the last decade to a total of 130 ha in 2015. In 2015, grape tomatoes were produced on 13% less acreage than in 2014. Sweet peppers show a mixed picture. The total acreage fell 6% from 2005 to a total of 1,160 ha in 2015. Yellow and green peppers show a steady decrease, whereas red peppers picked up in 2015 again after years of decline.

The red pepper acreage grew by 3% in 2015 compared to 2014. The category other peppers is on the rise as well, tying in with reports from breeders that there is increased demand for sweet pointed peppers. Cucumbers are definitely coming to a slowdown with a drop in acreage of 14% over the past decade, and flowers and plants with a fall of 30% since 2005.

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Fruitful Italian expansion for Greefa

North Italy is one of Europe’s most productive area for apples and pears, and Greefa is a major player there, thanks to the expertise acquired in developing its state-of-the-art machinery and high-value sorting techniques.

Holland-based market leader in the fruit and vegetable sorting business, Greefa, has taken a big step into the Italian market, by setting up a new company in North Italy – the epicentre of Europe’s apple production.

In a press release, Greefa director Jan Nijland said the move was a logical step for the company, “as Italy has been a very important market for our grading and packing installations over half a century.”

North Italy is one of Europe’s most productive area for apples and pears, and Greefa is a major player there, thanks to the expertise acquired in developing its state-of-the-art machinery and high-value sorting techniques.

The new company, Greefa Italia, is a 100% subsidiary of Greefa, and its ultra-modern building – located in Lana in the Bolzano/South Tyrol region – is home to an extensive range of machine parts, forming the basis of a well-trusted support service for many existing clients in Italy and surrounding countries.

The establishment also houses the talents of a highly skilled team of technical and commercial staffers. Together, these Lana-based experts represent an invaluable centre, offering advice on the most modern and complete sorting and packing installations for apples, pears and many other types of fruit and vegetables.  

Since its inception in 1940, Greefa has grown from a small family business to a world market leader. Its installations, measuring systems and software are all developed in-house.

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Biobest helps educate growers on Hortidaily bus tour

General manager for Biobest Netherlands Bart Sosef said a recent bus tour with growers was a great opportunity to share the company’s unique perspective on biological control and pollination.

On February 16th and 17th Hortidaily held  its second high-tech greenhouse bus tour. Growers from all over the world were invited to the Netherlands to come and visit some of the world’s most advanced greenhouse operations. Bart Sosef, Biobest General Manager for Biobest Netherlands joined the group of growers on their trip.

“When we were invited to be a sponsor of the tour, we didn’t hesitate a second,” Sosef said.

”This was also a really great opportunity to share our unique perspective on biological control and pollination with the participants. Among the many highlights of the tour, the participants could also see some of our products in action at different locations. I could exchange with them in more detail as to how I think these solutions would also make a difference in their own production back home.

“Among other things, Biobest added a magnifying glass with lanyard to the goodie bag which was well received by the participants. For those not already accustomed to carefully observing pests and beneficials in the crop, this was a good introduction about the importance of careful scouting. I’m sure several of them will now get in touch with a Biobest advisor or distributor in their home country to get more in-depth advice,” Sosef said.

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EU gives nod to ‘Brabantse Wal asperges’ asparagus PDO

Dutch ‘Brabantse Wal asperges’ asparagus - famed for having a soft, mild, slightly salty flavour with little or no bitterness - is now covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) of the same name.

Slightly salty and very rarely bitter, the clear white Dutch ‘Brabantse Wal asperges’ asparagus is now covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) of the same name.

Registered by the European Commission on February 17, the PDO covers this asparagus grown over about 40ha in the ‘Brabantse Wal’, located in the southwestern corner of North Brabant, a province in the central south of mainland Netherlands.

The length of the asparagus varies between 20-24 cm and is placed on the market with 3 gradings in class 1 according to its thickness. In order to guarantee quality, freshness and the regional link of the asparagus, once harvested it must be refrigerated at 4°C within four hours.

The application says this asparagus is sold to consumers and the catering trade in different units of weight: unpeeled in plastic sacks or peeled in sealed plastic trays.

“ ‘Brabantse Wal asperges’ have a soft, mild flavour with little or no bitterness. The initial taste varies from salty to slightly sweet in some cases. Their refined aroma, with no dominant notes, allows them to be prepared in many different ways and used as an ingredient in a wide range of dishes. It is this taste that distinguishes ‘Brabantse Wal asperges’ from other asparagus,” it says.

Read the application here: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/quality/door/registeredName.html?denominationId=10051

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Halls establishes operations in the Netherlands

Halls has acquired Columbus Exotics, a Netherlands-based company specialising in the sourcing and marketing of exotics produce within Europe.

Halls B.V. celebrates its 125th anniversary this year as a thriving vertically integrated business with operations now in four countries. It has incorporated a new office in Maasdijk, Netherlands, where Halls is already firmly established with activity across the value chain including importing, ripening and packing of fruit.

In January, Halls acquired Columbus Exotics, a Netherlands-based company which specialises in the sourcing and marketing of exotics produce within Europe. Halls, a grower-based organisation with operations in South Africa, France and the UK, is at the forefront of the production, sourcing and marketing of sub-tropical produce.

By acquiring Columbus Exotics, Halls said it will further enhance its ability to serve its European customer base with the consistent supply of quality fruit year-round.

Paul Devlin, managing director of Halls’ European Operations, said the combination of Halls’ vertically integrated market offering with the location and specific skills set of Columbus Exotics is an exciting development for the company.

“Through this acquisition I am thrilled to welcome Ate Kalsbeek and Arjan Verhagen, two very experienced marketing professionals, to our team,” Devlin said.

Ate Kalsbeek, who will head up Halls’ newly established Netherlands operations, said the development “will enhance Halls’ direct market offering combined with a wider range of exotics which will be available year round for customers throughout Europe.”

 

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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.

-MW

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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Europe’s largest rooftop farm planned for the Netherlands

Europe’s biggest commercial urban farm will soon be located in this building in The Hague, in South Holland. Vegetables will be grown in a 1,200 sqm greenhouse to be placed on the roof of what is known as the De Schelde building, a former Philips factory now partially empty. Its conversion into a multi-storey urban farming centre – to be called Urban Farming De Schilde – will involve a €2.6 million investment, according to the Municipality of The Hague, which aims to become a climate-neutral city by 2040

 

Europe’s biggest commercial urban farm will soon be located in this building in The Hague, in South Holland.

Vegetables will be grown in a 1,200 sqm greenhouse to be placed on the roof of what is known as the De Schelde building, a former Philips factory now partially empty.

Its conversion into a multi-storey urban farming centre – to be called Urban Farming De Schilde – will involve a €2.6 million investment, according to the Municipality of The Hague, which aims to become a climate-neutral city by 2040 and says it is offering an attractive rental price to the urban farming tenants.

 

Indoor fish farm, boutique brewery

Two of the building’s storeys, each measuring 1,500 sqm, have been earmarked for urban farming. An indoor fish farm and boutique brewery are also included in the redevelopment plans.

City farming pioneer UrbanFarmers (UF) AG, a Swiss company, has been awarded the rooftop space of 1,500 sqm and 700 sqm on the 6th floor.

According to UF, the building has great access and visibility from both the city center as well as the neighboring Westland, “the Dutch horticultural cluster and ‘Silicon Valley’ for plant growing and green innovation.”

“The concept is further supported by a  digital billboard wrapped around the rooftop farm communicating live status updates around UF and also other information pertinent to what’s going on inside the greenhouse,” it said.

 

Koppert Biological Systems also involved

UF said it is focused on building cost effective, sustainable and reliable urban agriculture systems. De Schilde is its fourth after similar projects in Basel, Zurich and Berlin.

Koppert Biological Systems is to share its expertise with UF for the new project. “The cooperation with Urban Farmers will not only focus on natural enemies, beneficial microorganisms and biostimulants, as we, in our role as a horticultural supplier, will also work on the production of insects as fish feed,” said Maren Schoormans, Koppert’s sales manager for the Netherlands.

“We will be able to show society and consumers the opportunities our integrated system offers to everyone who wishes to improve the health, resilience and productivity of crops,” he said.