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Europe’s retailers climb on board sustainability train

Sustainable product sourcing has become a top priority for retailers in key European Union markets, according to figures collected by ITC from five EU countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

There is growing consumer support in the EU for environmentally-friendly products, fair and ethical trade, and decent jobs in supplier companies, according to The International Trade Center’s report on sustainability in Europe.

This has led to growing interest among retailers. In fact, 85% of retailers report increased sales of sustainable products over the past five years, with 65% reporting an increase of over 10% in revenues for this segment. The forecast by 92% of retailers is for a continued rise in the next five years of around 10%. On average, retailers earned 59% of their revenues from sustainable products in 2017. Patterns vary across EU countries, but the trend is positive across the board. Germany and the Netherlands have the highest share of sales in this segment.

Of the 550 surveyed retailers, nearly all have implemented strategies to increase sourcing that benefits the environment and the people along their supply chains, such as by cutting waste, utilising renewable inputs, and ensuring fair working conditions for producers.

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Mercabarna publishes 2nd Sustainability Report

Mercabarna publishes 2nd Sustainability Report

The “food city” ratifies its commitment to guarantee economic, environmental and social sustainability.

Mercabarna continues to deepen its most social commitments and has published for the second consecutive year a Sustainability Report. The report analyses the impact of the activity of the central food market on its economic, social and environmental environment. This makes Mercabarna a pioneer among Spanish wholesale markets for its development based on sustainability criteria.

In drawing up the report, Mercabarna followed the indicators established by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – the reference institution in terms of sustainability reports endorsed by the United Nations (UN). This transparency exercise details Mercabarna’s strategic objectives, the actions that are carried out and the challenges presented, which are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN 2030 Agenda.

In accordance with the SDGs, Mercabarna’s main corporate social responsibility actions have been articulated in terms of six aspects: Competitiveness and Employment, Fight against food waste, Healthy food, Environmental responsibility and Solidarity partnerships.

Labour market: 74% of the trained students find work

In 2018, Mercabarna gave 17 occupational training courses (butchery, fishmonger, greengrocer, florist, international trade, storekeeper and forklift) in which 210 unemployed people participated. The index of labour insertion of these courses, according to the data provided by the Catalan Employment Service of Catalonia stood at 74%.

To train the workers of the 800 companies in the food court, Mercabarna organised 71 continuous education courses in which 720 professionals took part. The courses were for butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, charcuterie, occupational risk prevention, information technology, hygiene and handling of foods and languages, among others.

As for the ‘Mercabarna Grants’ occupational program (grants to companies for the hiring of unemployed people or recent graduates, equivalent to the minimum inter-professional salary for 6 months), a total of 83 scholarships have been awarded since the beginning of the program. 4 years. 75% of the scholarship holders have continued working in the companies where they did the internship during the scholarship period, once this one is over.

Fight against waste: 1.3 million tons of food for 21,000 people

Mercabarna and the Food Bank have collaborated since 2002 so that consumable but non-marketable food reaches people in need. For this reason, in 2018, Mercabarna Food Bank distributed 1,275,000 tons of fruit and vegetables among 67 social entities, which were distributed among some 21,000 vulnerable people in Barcelona and its metropolitan area.

Promotion of a healthy diet among 12,800 children

Mercabarna promotes healthy habits and respect for the environment among children, especially among schoolchildren who participate in their educational campaigns as well as among their schools and families. During the 2017-2018 school year, 12,300 children participated in the educational programmes: ‘5 a Day’, ‘Grow with the Fish’ and ‘Flowers and Plants Every Day’.

In addition, for 3 years, Mercabarna has been organising the ‘Refresh with 5 a Day’ summer camp, aimed at vulnerable children from social organisations in Barcelona and its metropolitan area. In 2018, 467 children and 96 monitors participated in this activity.

Respect for the Environment: 76% of all waste is recycled

In 2018, a record 76% of the waste generated by the activity of the 700 companies located in Mercabarna was recycled.

Mercabarna supports the social initiatives of 29 solidarity organizations

Mercabarna has supported the initiatives of 29 social entities that share its solidarity objectives. This support has been provided through the organisation of occupational training courses and sporting events; donation of food and financial contributions.

Economic Responsibility: €10.4 million

Mercabarna carries out the responsible management of its economic resources to guarantee growth, incorporating sustainability issues as a vector of success. In 2018, the food market reached a profit figure before taxes of €10,419,618.

Main social responsibility projects

In terms of the abovementioned aspects, Mercabarna carried out various initiatives in 2018: Inauguration of the Aula del Fresco; the organisation of the Congress of the World Union of Wholesale Markets with the slogan ‘The Future Markets: Efficient and Responsible’; first Summer University, focused on ‘Sustainability in the Food Chain’; and the start of the construction of the Biomarket, the first wholesale market and organic agricultural cooperatives of Spain.


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Sustainable rail link for southern European fresh products opens

Sustainable rail link for southern European fresh products opens

A new direct connection for fresh products from Valencia to Rotterdam was opened on May 6th. The refrigerated train connection for transporting fruits and vegetables is an initiative developed by the Euro Pool System, which is a supplier of logistics services and reusable packaging for agri-food distribution. For the project, Euro Pool has collaborated with logistics operator Shuttlewise and other companies in the retail and fruit and vegetable logistics sectors.

The transit time of 48 hours is the same as by road, but ensures a lower environmental impact. The link will result in eliminating 12,096 transports per year in a trailer and saving 22 million km of CO2 emissions, equal to 15,000 tons. This will result in between 70% and 90% lower emissions than by road. The round trip will take place three times a week, 48 weeks a year, and each train will carry 42 containers.

Similar CoolRail routes are planned connect other points in Europe, such as Germany, the UK and Scandinavia. There is also an expansion of the Mediterranean Corridor from Almeria to La Junquera, thus facilitating Spanish exports to northern Europe.


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Eosta introduces Kiwi Muppets

Eosta introduces Kiwi Muppets

Using high-tech laser technology, organic specialist Eosta turns a simple organic kiwi into a cheeky fruit muppet. The Nature & More Kiwi Muppets are a fun and easy way for kids to get their much needed portion of vitamins and fibre.

Research shows that over 75% European children are not eating enough fruit and vegetables, so Eosta has designed an innovative  way to make fruit more appealing: make it fun.

A few years ago Eosta successfully introduced BUG, individually wrapped organic oranges that can be turned into an active beetle. This week the Dutch organic fruit and vegetable specialist is launching Kiwi Muppets.

Michaël Wilde, responsible for sustainability and communication, said: “Thanks to natural branding laser technology we can now not only brand our fruit and vegetables with organic logos but also add other texts and designs including these fun faces. The only thing that  people need to do at home is partly cut the kiwi open along the cut line. This way you have a mouth and that brings Kenny, Katy and Kalissa Kiwi to life!”

Natural Branding

Natural Branding is the organic approach to marking fruits and vegetables with a laser beam. In the process, a bit of pigment is removed from the outer layer of the peel. This contact-free method was approved by EU Organic certifier SKAL, no additional substances are used, and the method is so superficial that it has no effect on taste or shelf life. The energy needed for a marking is less than 1% of the energy needed for a sticker. The biggest advantage of this innovation is that it is no longer necessary to pack the organic products in harmful plastic foil.

Natural Branding saves tons of plastic and other packaging materials; Just for one product line for one customer, we are saving over 750,000 packaging units, which is tons of plastic. Meanwhile we supply more than 10 customers home and abroad, saving thousands of miles of plastic films.

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GreenTech announces nominees for Innovation Awards 2019

GreenTech announces nominees for Innovation Awards 2019

Exhibitors at the GreenTech exposition to be held in Amsterdam next month submitted 50 innovations for the GreenTech Innovation Awards 2019. This number represents an increase from last year’s edition and shows the enormous developments in the horticultural sector. The winners will be announced during the official opening of GreenTech on Tuesday 11 June 2019.

An expert jury selected 18 nominees from all entries in four categories namely ‘Innovation’, ‘Sustainability’, ‘Impact’ and ‘Concept’. All the entries for the awards will be part of the GreenTech Innovation Route. The nominees for the Innovation Awards will be showcased at the InnovationLAB.

Nominations per category

Category: GreenTech Innovation Award 2019

    Autonomous crop management – Delphy B.V.

    ISO Bulb Planting Machine – ISO Group

    Koppert scout-app – Koppert Biological Systems

    Rubion – Octinion

    Ridder CO2 Optimizer – Ridder

Category: GreenTech Sustainability Award 2019

    Hortinergy – Climate modelling and analysis – Agrithermic

    Growfoam – Foamplant

    Hortiled Top 120v19 – Hortilux Schréder

    EcoExpert – Modiform

    Ridder NoNa+ – Ridder

Category: GreenTech Impact Award 2019

    SuprimAir Greenhouse – Certhon

    VA Grow Vertical Farm – KE GrowAir BV + Orange Climate Agri

    Ridder Co-Creation Climate Screens – Ridder

Category: GreenTech Concept Award 2019

    Phycotrone – MEG – Augmented Photobiology

    The Fiberglas Greenhouse Roof – Bordeso BV

    Medical Grow Rolling Container – Bosman Van Zaal

    Nexus with E-meta Intelligence – Van der Ende Groep

    e-Gro – Grodan – Part of the ROCKWOOL Group

For further information about the Innovation Awards please visit


The jury of the GreenTech Innovation Awards 2019 consists of:

    Deputy chairman: Harm Maters, AVAG (Netherlands)

    Silke Hemming, Wageningen University & Research (Germany)

    Peter Zwinkels, Tecknokas (Netherlands)

    Mark Durno, Rockstart (United Kingdom)

    Perry van Adrichem, Horti-Tech B.V. (Netherlands)

    Wolfgang Steiner, Gemüsebau Steiner GmbH & Co KG (Germany)

The jury’s advisory committee consists of:

    Enrico Verhoef, United Farms (Mexico)

    Roger Abbenhuis, Onder Glas/In Greenhouses (Netherlands)

    Heinrich Dressler, Gärtnerbörse (Germany)

    Brian Sparks, Greenhouse Grower (USA)

    Leonardo Capitano, Vivai Capitanio (Italy)

Further information and registration

Interested in the GreenTech? Please visit for more information and registration. Registration is free of charge until 3 June. After 3 June the online registration fee will be €40 including VAT per person, and €70 including VAT at the entrance desk.

About GreenTech

GreenTech brings people and technology together to increase growth, productivity, sustainability, inspiration and pleasure in horticulture. We do this because we believe that improvement and innovation in horticulture will contribute to the wellbeing for people. GreenTech takes place at RAI Amsterdam. The GreenTech Tradeshow – with 470 exhibitors from the horticulture technology sector and an estimated 11,000 visitors from all over the world – will take place from 11 – 13 June.

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New plan for sustainable packaging in the Netherlands

New plan for sustainable packaging in the Netherlands

GroentenFruit Huis has reviewed the industry sustainability plan for packaging (2013-2018) to prepare an updated more rigorous sustainability plan for the fruit and vegetable sector in the 2019-2022 period. The Branch Plan is part of the sustainability programme of the GroentenFruit Huis and will be used as a guideline towards further sustainability in the field of packaging. With the Sustainable Industry Plan, Packaging GroentenFruit Huis offers its affiliated companies a framework to make packaging more sustainable.

With the new plan, minimal environmental impact is being sought through the principles of the circular economy. This marks a clear break with current developments that involve more processed and packaged “convenience” products, with even unprocessed products increasingly being packaged. A sectorial approach is now being sought through knowledge-sharing about innovations with other parties in the chain. This should lead to a visibly different image of the vegetable and fruit assortment in the supermarket and other retail channels.

In this plan, this starting point is translated into specific goals based on 5 pillars:

 1. Reduce packaging material and packaging alternatives

By 2022, the fruit and vegetable sector wants to reduce the amount (weight) of packaging material used by 15% (and by 25% for 2025) per kilogram of product sold compared to 2017.

2. Design for recycling (end-of-life)

The fruit and vegetable sector wants 90% of the packaging to be recyclable by 2022 (and 100% by 2025).

3. Raw materials and material use

The fruit and vegetable sector uses mono materials from raw materials with the lowest possible environmental impact. The materials used can be sorted out at waste processors and the material is suitable for recycling. The choice of materials will be based in 2021 on an objective measurement method for environmental impact.

 4. Transport packaging

The fruit and vegetable sector uses (within the Netherlands) reusable transport packaging that is filled as efficiently as possible.

 5. Communication & perception

The fruit and vegetable sector wants its efforts to make packaging more sustainable and to transfer the usefulness of packaging to users/consumers.


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Tesco trials plastic-free fruit and vegetable packaging

Tesco trials plastic-free fruit and vegetable packaging

UK retail giant Tesco has announced a month-long trial of eliminating plastic-wrapped fruits and vegetables in an attempt to cut out waste. The scheme will start in two of the chain’s Tesco Extra stores (in Watford and Swindon). Instead of packaged items, customers will find loose versions of 45 different products, including apples, onions, mushrooms and peppers. Director of quality, Sarah Bradbury, said, “We hope this trial proves popular with customers. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the results, including any impact on food waste.” Last year, Tesco announced that it would ban hard-to-recycle plastic packaging by 2019 and make all packaging recyclable by 2025. Large supermarkets currently produce over 800,000 tons of plastic packaging waste each year, leading consumers to increasingly demand sustainability.


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Mercabarna implementing plan to cut food waste

Among the steps being taken to cut waste at Mercabarna are the design of a new waste treatment system for the Central Fruit and Vegetable Market, which will start as a pilot scheme early this year.

Mercabarna has developed a plan to reduce the amount of food waste at the market, which is currently estimated at about 9,400 tons a year.

In a press release, Barcelona’s wholesale market said among the steps being taken to cut waste are the design of a new waste treatment system for the Central Fruit and Vegetable Market, which will start as a pilot scheme early this year.

It also said work underway to modernise the market includes insulating point-of-sale areas as a way to provide better condition for preserving fresh produce.

In addition, a Centre for Food Use is being set up in order to optimise the selection of food fit for sale and to enable its distribution among the social organisations that help people with few resources.

And there will be environmental education campaigns to raise awareness among market wholesalers and employees, and the 6,000 children who visit Mercabarna every year as part of the “5 a day” campaign.

Its ‘Strategic Plan for Food Use’ also sets out other measures it will take to reduce food waste, improve waste treatment and promote responsible consumption.

Image (via Mercabarna): the signatories of the manifesto for the reduction of food waste

The project kicked off with the signing of the “Manifesto for the reduction of food waste” by Mercabarna, the concessionary business association (Assocome) and the main wholesale syndicates for fruit and vegetables (AGEM) and fish (GMP).

The agreement sets out their clear commitment to “handling food more efficiently and making the supply chain more sustainable and responsible.”

The plan draws on research that suggested about 0.5% of the 2 million tons of food sold every year at Mercabarna is wasted.

“Even though this figure is well below that of other markets, shopping centres and homes, it still means that 9,400 tons of food does not reach the consumer,” the release says.

Main image (top) via Mercabarna

Learn more about Mercabarna in this new video:

“Discover Mercabarna, a ‘food city’ with more than 700 companies working to ensure the supply of fresh foods to over 10 million consumers.”

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Barcelona now has seven ‘green’ markets

"The aim is for the network of green markets to spread through the city, favouring the consumption of fresh, quality, local produce, not only as a healthy habit, but also backing local farm production."

Barcelona has expanded its network of ‘green markets’, an initiative designed to boost the offering of local, organic and otherwise eco-friendly and healthy produce sold at the city’s fresh produce markets.

In October 2015, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau announced plans to turn 25 municipal markets into such green markets under the ‘Mercats Verds’ campaign. Seven are now part of the initiative, which also promotes more sustainable facilities.

The programme is supported by measures such as special labelling to make local produce more visible, helping customers become aware of and buy it.

In May this year, Barcelona’s councillor for Employment, Enterprise and Tourism, Agustí Colom said about half the products at the then four markets participating in the scheme are local, “but they’re not identified.”

Colom said the aim is for the network of green markets to spread through the city, “favouring the consumption of fresh, quality, local produce, not only as a healthy habit, but also backing local farm production.”

The seven markets now part of the Mercats Verds’ scheme are the Clot, Concepció, Horta, Les Corts, Lesseps, Llibertat and Sant Martí markets.


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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.