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Sven Henze, Bio Freshi:
"When it comes to organic products, you also expect responsible packaging"
Sven Henze started work as Operational Manager at Bio Freshi on 1 October 2017. He previously worked at the Dutch organic wholesaler, Udea, for twelve years. Bio Freshi is a fresh organic fruit and vegetable service supplier, based in the Dutch town of Breda. They currently import large volumes of sweet potatoes, pumpkins, plums, apples, pears, ginger, turmeric, and blueberries from North and South America.
Sven has set a goal to create a strong movement around environmentally-friendly packaging options. These include laser etching and biodegradable net packaging. "Bio Freshi has been using laser etching technology for some time now. They use this to market courgettes, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. It is a fantastic way to reduce using plastics. Scandinavian and German buyers, in particular, are very enthusiastic about this. Laser etching really comes into its own with many of the products we sell. These include pumpkins and sweet potatoes. You can clearly see the reference to organic on these products. Laser etched products find their way mainly to places that sell organic products alongside conventional ones. It does not make sense to have this additional reference where only organic produce is sold."
Bio Freshi also supplies products in biodegradable net packaging. "It is actually absurd that so many (organic) products are still sold in regular net packaging. Think of, for instance, oranges, lemons, and avocado in Girsac packaging. Then there is also traditional net packaging for onions, shallots, and garlic. This is a lot of plastic, relative to the product. Especially when it comes to Girsac packaging. It would be fine if there were no alternative", continues Sven. "There are, however, more sustainable alternatives that place less strain on the environment. It takes a lot of time and persuasion to get clients to consider an alternative. Although, in reality, they do not have to do much. That is then also the pitch - you do not have to change anything. We have already done that for you."
They have had positive reactions from clients that have made the change. "Of course you say something about the product inside the packaging. The makes for more awareness. Clients appreciate this", he says.
Bio Freshi is also in the process of replacing the 'single-use plastics' that blueberries are sold in. "We get as many blueberries in bulk as possible. We then use our in-house sorting line to sort these large volumes in the desired sizes. These are between 50 and 500 grammes per package", says Sven. "This has been a huge success with our growers who supply this product in bulk. You use far less plastic in this way. Especially in winter. Then transportation takes longer. There are also, as a rule, more issues with quality. You will not believe how much packaging is destroyed because a product needs to be repackaged. There is a lot of packaging that never even reaches the consumer. There are also many alternative such as pulp and sugar cane trays."
Scandinavia and Germany are Bio Freshi's biggest sales markets. "We are growing in Switzerland and Austria. We do a fair amount of trade with Spain. We also have a healthy client base in the Dutch market", says Sven. He does not concern himself with the price difference between conventional and organic trade. "We work with a simple cost model. We are able to put our organic product on the market at attractive prices. We do this by means of good grower prices and a transparent chain. It does not serve anyone always to compare organic products with conventional ones."
The logistical distance of foreign products is an issue. Despite this, according to Sven, the demand keeps increasing. "Within Europe, most clients easily find products themselves. We can distinguish ourselves in those channels that do not affect the European season. From later in the year to now, we do this with, for example, blueberries. This is also the case from February to May with pumpkins. During this period there is no competition with the European season. There is still, however, a demand for these products. About 90% of our foreign trade arrives by boat. We only use air freight for the more delicate produce. These include spring onions, green beans, and green asparagus. In exceptional cases, we also use this mode of transport for, for instance, blueberries. This is when we want the season to get going a bit sooner."
Sven finds it difficult to predict how the organic market is going to develop. "I expect consumer awareness of health issues to continue growing. This will be to our advantage. It is up to us, as organic product suppliers, to keep ahead of the pack. This starts with being critically aware of where your product is sourced and how you put it on the market. We opt for honest partners who are truly organic. Those who put their money where their mouths are. If the packaging then makes it mark on sustainability, then the circle is well on it's way to being complete."
For more information:
Mob: + 31 (0) 646 133 779
Publication date: 4/16/2018
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