It's not just clothes and hairstyles that are subject to fashion, there are also trends in vegetables. They see this at the frozen goods company, Ardo in Ardooie, who process fresh vegetables for industry. According to Ardo there are currently a number of vegetable trends on the go, not just in the fresh sector, but also in frozen goods. The Agro Expo horticulture work group recently held a special theme day that was all about 'trendy vegetables'.
The people behind the themed day 'Trendy vegetables', with Jan Hanssens of Ardo in the centre back. Left back is the full automated Ardo cooling cell, with a surface of 1 hectares.
Difference between sectors
Companies such as REO Veiling, Ingro, Inagro, Taco, Boerenbond and the department of Agriculture and Fisheries have, together, decided to organise a day to put the trendy vegetables in the spotlight. Yet according the chief of Ardo's agricultural sector, Jan Hanssens, there is a difference between fresh and frozen vegetable varieties. "What the vegetables look like is less important for us," says Jan. "It's more important what the products look like after freezing. The good quality used to go to the fresh sector and the lesser quality would go to frozen. This is no longer the case these days. The quality is just as good. For beans the quality demands for frozen compared to the fresh industry aren't much different. Various vegetables are even more suited to the frozen sector than the fresh market. Take a crooked leek, for example. We can process it so that the shape is no longer visible. The same goes for carrots. If they're too long, or have green tips, it's not a problem for us due to adapted processing. Although some vegetable varieties have overlaps between the markets, there are also vegetable varieties that are mainly present in the frozen sector. Peas, spinach and beans are good examples of this."
Vegetarian is no longer strange
There isn't just a noticeable difference between the fresh and frozen sectors, there are also shifts within frozen vegetables in demand and popularity of the vegetable varieties. Heidi Goovaerts, Marketing & Innovation Director at Ardo, notes that there are a number of frozen trends at the moment. "The trendy vegetables are seeping through into the frozen sector," says Heidi. "Over the last two years we have seen that there is more demand for vegetarian food, which has benefits for the vegetable sector. At first the vegetarian food was seen as niche. This is no longer the case at all. This is good, as people still don't eat enough fruit and vegetables every day. People are simply eating more vegetables due to the vegetarian trend."
One of the consequences of the vegetarian trend is the processing of vegetables in products, says Heidi. "The veggie burger has now be converted into a high value patty that contains more than just carrots and beans," the head of communications continues. "Now almost any type of vegetable can be in the burgers. This includes lentils, peas, cauliflower or pumpkin."
Smoothies with vegetables
Another increasingly popular item? "Smoothies," Heidi continues. "Not just frozen fruits are being bought and processed into smoothies. Vegetables and herbs are being added to the mix more and more often. A kale smoothie, for instance, is increasingly common. We sell a bag of fruit fruit and vegetables for a smoothie in a portion of 125 grams. The consumer just has to add 150 to 200 ml of fluid."
Organic is booming
But there is more. Organic vegetables are increasingly important in the frozen sector as well, according to Heidi, although the demand for organics isn't the same throughout Europe. "In some areas, such as Scandinavia and Germany, organic is booming," she continues. "It continues to grow. We also see an increase in popularity in organics in Belgium." According to Jan Hanssens it's difficult to convince Belgian growers to switch to organic cultivation, although Ardo has been preparing for this for years, according to Jan.
According to Rik Decadt of the REO Veiling, the Flemish regulations can be a problem for the growers that want to work organically. "People with a lot of cultivation knowledge would be perfect for organic cultivation, but the Flemish regulations don't always allow it," he says. "When you grow leeks and you want to grow organic leeks, you have to turn around your entire process. You also can't grow partially organic and partially conventional in Flanders. It's one or the other. This means the organic sector is often tied to small initiatives, which is a shame. A mixed cultivation is permitted in Italy and Denmark for example, but not in Flanders."
Although trendy vegetables have already proven to be fashionable, we apparently still like the old faithfuls. This is why Ardo mixes Mediterranean vegetables with Belgian classics. "It could be cauliflower mixed with Mediterranean products. Grilling and even frying vegetables is increasingly popular. Think of sweet potato fries in all kinds of shapes. That's a big success."
Everyone knows frozen carrots chunks and peas. But what else is up and coming and for sale frozen? "Parsnips, for example," says Jan. "Both in its normal shape and as fries. The okra we process continues to be popular in Greece. We keep discovering and combining, although a classic like cauliflower always remains important. The origin of the classic vegetables is also increasingly important. Local cultivation is another noticeable trend in our sector."
For more information:
8850 Ardooie (Belgium)
8800 Roeselare (Belgium)
T: +32 (0)51 231 211
F: +32 (0)51 231 289