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No more excuses not to eat healthy

Consumers still eat too few fruit and vegetables. It’s not just up to producers to change this, but by means of inspiring products, they can respond to trends that can positively contribute.

Health completely applies to Greenyard's vision. “Making consumers healthy, and letting them enjoy the products at any time of the day is our starting point,” Geert Indigne, Marketing Manager of Greenyard Fresh Belgium, explains. “For that, speed, convenience and pleasantness are central. We give consumers free choice. If you have a lot of time, there’s plenty of choice in the unprocessed range. If you have less time, convenience products, such as meal salads, wok and stir-fry vegetables, but also, for example, frozen cauliflower, could be a solution. Combinations are also possible. For example, a fresh lettuce with ready-made couscous or tinned corn. And what about frozen fruit so that consumers can also enjoy a tasty and healthy smoothie in winter. What we’re trying to say is that consumers can choose and combine products at any time of the day. There are no more excuses for not eating healthy.”

The consumption of the average Belgian population is 310 grammes, but the recommendation is 550 grammes. Why do people actually consume less or too little? “Often because it takes too long or because people don’t know how to prepare the product,” says Geert. “We want to anticipate that with our range of convenience products. Take our wok mix for example, this will allow for a tasty and healthy meal with plenty of vegetables to be prepared in just five minutes. Or a mix of vegetables to make soup, for which only broth has to be added. Consumers buy all the necessary vegetables in one go, preparation is quick and easy and they also save on food waste. Greenyard doesn’t want to lecture people to eat more vegetables, but by offering a solution, we can show consumers that varied food is not difficult or time consuming.”

Greenyard has four divisions: fresh (formerly Univeg), frozen (formerly Pinguin), prepared preserves and glass jars (formerly Noliko)) and horticulture (formerly Peltracom). The entire supply chain is contained by the group. Greenyard Fresh Belgium is the Belgian branch for the fresh produce, both processed and unprocessed, and is part of the fresh division. The sliced ​​vegetables are offered year-round. “Regarding purchases, we try to source locally from Belgium as much as possible, and we also take into account typical seasonal products such as asparagus in spring and pumpkin in autumn,” Geert explains. “Our slogan is therefore: as far as needed, as nearby as possible. In addition to the products, the way we pack is just as important to us. For packing in bags we invested in new 1 mm ultrasonic welding seams, which needs at least seven per cent less packaging. The welding seams are much firmer as well. Nature, or respect for nature, is part of the larger pillars within our group’s vision. We are constantly looking at the potential in the field of energy and water saving.”

Kale most sensitive to trends
The changing eating moments are also an item from the Belgian producer. Examples are a mixture of young leafy vegetables including kale for making a smoothie. “In this manner we promote the possibilities of using vegetables during breakfast or after sports. Another good example is our shaker with snack vegetables on-the-go and the ready-to-eat snack dish with vegetables and a dip. This healthy alternative to the appetiser is truly successful. It's as easy and delicious as a bag of crisps or nuts.” Another trend is the increase of single packs of lettuce mixes and sliced ​​vegetables. Geert: “We really see an obvious growth here. Not just convenient for the growing number of small households but also in the busy everyday lives of many families. Eating together at the dinner table every evening seems to become an exception. A single pack is also easy to bring along with you for another eating moment, such as for a lunch at work.” He tells us that the oven preparations are popular, as well as vegetable chips and vegetable pasta. He mentions sweet potato, which is increasingly often processed into stir-fry mixes and vegetable chips. “However, most sensitive to trends is kale. In the Netherlands kale is often eaten, but in Belgium, the product has only really become popular since the kale trend started in the US.”

Focus on tasty
The changes in the eating moments were already reported in the processed fresh produce-themed edition of Primeur last year. This also provides Heemskerk fresh & easy with the confidence for the future. The family business is traditionally focused on slicing, washing and packing vegetables, but is now mostly focused of supplying fresh convenience products and concepts to retail companies and fast food service both domestically and abroad. “Last year, we adapted our mission and our vision, using the clock for the various eating moments,” says commercial manager Jantine Star-Heemskerk from Heemskerk. The producer closely follows developments in food and fresh produce. “When possible, we introduce new products, translated into our Heemskerk clock. We see it as a task to show consumers the options, and how delicious fruit and vegetables are.”

The expansion of the three traditional eating moments to seven offers producers of convenience more options, and makes it easier for consumers to get the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables. According to Jantine, this is practically impossible with just the evening meal. “By starting your morning with yogurt and fruit or a vegetable smoothie, lunching with a salad or some raw vegetables on a sandwich, and a fruit or vegetable snack in between, you’d already be quite close.” She admits it's not easy to increase the consumption of fresh produce. “Changing behaviour takes time. It is something that should be addressed in all respects. Our innovation leads to inspiration.” In her view, the focus should be on ‘tasty’ rather than just ‘healthy.’ “Everyone knows fruit and vegetables are healthy, but it should not be an obligation. A bowl of iceberg lettuce is not very tasty by itself. Adding products such as cucumber, walnuts, tomatoes and vinaigrette will make a salad delicious.” The commercial manager would like to see people learning to appreciate fruit and vegetables. That it’s not just eaten because it’s healthy but also because it’s tasty. “People feel better when they eat healthy and varied. Not everyone realises this yet.”

Balancing eating moments
Last year Heemskerk started with sliced fruit. The product group was discontinued years ago but could no longer be missing for the completeness of the category vision. Since then, fruit is added to salads more often, and breakfast products with yogurt and fruit and vegetables are also part of the assortment. “We are actually always in the process of product developments, looking for new compositions. Last autumn, for example, we looked at the possibilities of buying kaki and we introduced a mix of chopped kaki and apple with one of our fruit vendors. Other novelties include vegetable snacks for dipping and sports salads. Existing products also offer plenty of variety. Take kale, which is still a major product. There is a spicy kale variety, and the vegetable can also be processed in raw salads.”

The producer tries to go in the direction of an assortment that can achieve a balance between the various eating moments. According to her, proper trend products are currently not really the case. Varied food, knowing what you’re eating and natural products are the norm. “We see that oven preparations and new applications such as vegetable pasta and chips are popular. Mixed packages containing all the ingredients to put a fresh meal on the table are also doing well. We have not marketed our own yet, but we are working on it. Certainly in weekends, these packages are ideal. Consumers have more time to prepare food alone or together then. The packs offer convenience, inspiration and, moreover, they prevent food waste. The importance of fruit and vegetables is constantly emphasised. Being able to make it fun and easy gives us the energy and trust for further development.”

Increase of on-the-go products in supermarket
“A trend we’ve see is supermarkets developing more and more in the field of direct consumption,” says Aloys Meinema from Hessing Supervers. Hessing processes fresh produce into, among other things, ready-to-cook vegetables, processed fruit, fresh juices and meal salads for delivery to supermarkets, fast food chains, wholesalers, catering companies and inflight catering for airlines. Most of the products on the convenience shelves of supermarkets are offered for home consumption, but he sees that the products for consumption within an hour of buying are increasing. “Actually, like the AH To Go and Jumbo Food Market. Products that require virtually no preparation and can even be heated and consumed on site. In addition to our standard traditional package, we also introduce more foodservice-like concepts for direct consumption.”

The expansion of the number of eating moments is also a development that cannot be missed. “There are more eating moments, such as breakfast and snacking with fruit and vegetables in the form of ready-made products. In addition, we see that consumers are realising that too few fruit and vegetables are eaten, and they seek a different solution.” New products such as vegetable spreads and vegetable pasta can help with that according to him, but new packaging also address this issue. As an example he mentions packaging that are easy to put in the car and can be opened and used with one hand.

Point of attention is still that many consumers don’t seem to grasp other eating moments for fruit and vegetables being logical. “Because of logistics and IT, most of the fresh produce products are presented in the store, which gives the supply the feel of an evening meal in particular,” he says. “This could be done differently. Foodservice locations such as Starbucks or Stach Food are more developed in this field. The best kind of presentation is not simple and takes time. People have a certain mindset when they enter a supermarket. The first steps have been taken. More and more snack vegetables and fruit water are placed by the cash register. I am convinced that we will see more of this in future.”

Smeding Groenten en Fruit introduces vegetable pastas from FRSH Matters. This anticipates the trend towards healthy, nutritious and low-carb foods. The vegetable pastas are made from one hundred percent vegetables and without E-numbers or preservatives. The four types are sweet potato, red beet, courgette and orange carrot. The vegetable pastas are pre-sliced and ready for use. The range of FRSH Matters is exclusively available through Sligro.

More information
Greenyard Fresh
Geert Indinge

Jantine Star-Heemskerk

Hessing Supervers
Aloys Meinema

Publication date: 5/10/2017


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