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Growth due to specialisation on tinned food market

Aarts Conserven preserves asparagus, cherries and pears. In 1934, asparagus grower Mart Aarts started preserving asparagus according to traditional methods. Ever since, the ‘white gold’ has been an integral part of the assortment.

The asparagus season also means a busy period for Aarts Conserven. Although other products are also preserved, asparagus is the most important product for the processor from Lottum, the Netherlands. “In January, agreements are entered into with growers about volumes and sizes,” according to Martin Damen from Aarts Conserven. “They’re the same asparagus as for the fresh market, grown on the sandy soil of Brabant and Limburg.” In addition to direct supply from growers, Aarts buys a share on the free market through auctions. During the period when many actions are planned in supermarkets, it’s more difficult for the processor to get product. “We see supply stagnating considerably then. We also buy asparagus from Germany, for that matter. They have much more availability. The Dutch area is about 3,500 hectares, while the German area is about 30,000 hectares. The quality of these asparagus is definitely comparable to the Dutch product.”



Aarts Conserven supplies the asparagus in various sizes. While the thicker ones, just like on the fresh market, are mostly eaten during the evening meal, thin pointed asparagus are mostly used to create snacks. The sliced asparagus do well in soups, and are used more and more in salads nowadays. Despite not much variation being possible in the assortment according to Martin, pickled asparagus are produced for the German and Austrian markets as well. These are consumed as snacks there. Aarts Conserven will soon also introduce organic pointed asparagus, making the company the only European player to process organic asparagus on a large scale. The tinned product is available in supermarkets year-round. Martin says the thicker meal asparagus is mostly popular during the season, and during the holidays. “Why consumers choose our product? Convenience and quality. Asparagus are fairly toilsome. We peel the asparagus before they’re tinned, resulting in quite a bit of time saved during preparation. Besides, we process the same product as is offered on the fresh market, and we can therefore offer the same quality. The catering industry, for example, uses our product a lot, even during the season.”

Distinctive on the tinned food shelves
The asparagus are only processed during the season, in the months of April, May and June. After the asparagus season, cherries and pears follow. “Complemented by other products, such as plums, mirabelle plums and fruit stuffing, we achieve year-round production.” The fruit is also bought directly through growers and at auctions. The tinned food market is under pressure, but sales results for Aarts Conserven, and especially those of asparagus and pears, are showing a rising line. Martin: “Especially products that get a lot of attention in magazines , cooking shows on television, and so on, are doing well. Cooking pears do very well during Christmas, but also with game for example. We have noticed that consumers like to choose convenience. That we are specialised in a number of unique products, making us distinctive, could possibly be a contributing factor for the positive index. Asparagus, for instance, have some competition from China, but that is based purely on prices. The quality of the Chinese product cannot be compared to that of our asparagus.”

Improving the image of tinned foods is an important point of attention for Aarts. In 2012, the producer reduced the addition of salt considerably, and lowering the sugar content is also given attention. Tinned foods have a certain image, and according to Martin, that’s purely psychological. “We enjoy showing our products, and therefore choose glass jars. That way, we’re trying to improve the image. Tinned foods are actually just convenience products, but packaged differently.” Despite the market being under pressure, Aarts Conserven wants to be innovative. Last year they introduced an organic fruit line, which contains six products by now. In June, the assortment will be expanded even more with organic pointed asparagus. “We’re also trying to look outside of the country’s borders more and more. Up till a few years ago we did practically nothing in Germany. This market is now growing for us, especially in the field of asparagus. They are starting to realise that the quality of Chinese asparagus is not as good as ours. We can also market the asparagus as a German product, if necessary, which is quite important for German consumers.”

More information:
Aarts Conserven
Martin Damen

Publication date: 7/13/2017


 


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