Kenyan herbs are becoming an increasingly important part of the assortment of service provider Xpol in Rijsenhout, the Netherlands. Xpol guides the process from grower to consumer. “It’s clearly visible that consumers are using more and more fresh herbs,” says Marcel Schers of Xpol. As commercial manager, he’s involved in new trends in vegetables and herbs every day.
“Our approach is different from others. We’re not a trader, but a service provider,” Marcel explains. “We explain that consumers are using more and more fresh herbs due to their preference for healthier and less salty food. Ready meals, for instance, contain considerable amounts of salt.”
Kenyan herbs more intense
Herbs from Kenya have a more intense flavour, according to the manager. This is in part due to the intensity of the sunlight and the radiation near the equator. According to Marcel, the supply of herbs from growers in Africa increased in recent years. Multiple growers of flowers originally have started growing herbs as well. Xpol has consciously chosen to work with growers who have years of experience. “With newcomers on the market, you often get poor harvests,” Marcel says. “Growing herbs seems easier than it is. That’s why we’ve chosen not to go into business with every grower. In the end, we want to be able to guarantee quality.”
Xpol works with the ‘Inclusive Business’ method, which they developed themselves. Xpol’s supply chain has various parties — from grower to retail —which see each other as partners and not as competitors. “This is the model of the future particularly for the food question regarding the growing global population. Trading purely from a profit motive and as day trader will change more and more into ‘inclusive,’ is the conviction within Xpol. By working as partners, you can improve the supply chain.” Within this working method and philosophy, Xpol also works according to a ‘packed at source’ principle. The majority of deliveries are packed per size by the grower, including the amount of waste. Because the product doesn’t have to be repacked in Europe, less packing material is needed, and less product is lost. The grower also has less loss and waste, making it all much more sustainable.
Health trend continues
The demand for healthier products will continue to be an important trend, Marcel thinks. Organically grown herbs are also a part of that. “Some steps still have to be taken in that. It’s remarkable that consumers want organic, but they don’t want insects on their mint when making tea. So some steps clearly still have to be taken. That makes sense, because food is still a natural product, and improving quality is a constant challenge and priority.”
In charge of innovation
Via the Xpol platform, the service provider supplies the lion’s share under private label to supermarket chains, catering and wholesalers throughout Europe. With their own brand More, Xpol is in charge of their own innovations, in the field of sustainable packaging, for example. “We use cellophane, for instance, because it breathes and it’s adjusted for each type of herb specifically for an optimal shelf life. We’re also conducting a number of tests in the field of alternatives for plastics,” Marcel says. “We’ll continue to optimise, because we believe a satisfied consumer will return to our customers. It’s a win-win situation for the entire supply chain.”