In recent years, the sales of organic products within Europe and the Netherlands have increased. More supermarkets are choosing to have organic vegetables in their range. With a stable Dutch area and a growing market, this has had positive results for prices.
“This year we were often asked about organic cucumbers and aubergines. I therefore expect a good season for these products,” says Coert Lamers. The supply of organic greenhouse vegetables traditionally consists of cucumber, tomato, bell pepper and aubergine. Besides, Nautilus Organic also supplies organic snack tomatoes, various colours of wild tomatoes and the sweet pointed pepper.
Nautilus Organic serves about half the market of organic greenhouse vegetables. Additionally, crop farmers and fruit growers are also members of the growers’ association. The more than 30 members are spread across the country, and combined they supply more than 100 products to more than 250 buyers, including wholesalers, supermarkets and processing industry. Twenty-five per cent of the products remains in the Netherlands, the other 75 per cent finds its way to consumers in countries such as Germany, Scandinavia, the UK, Belgium, France, Italy and the US via a Dutch service provider.
Coert: “We get increasing demand from the UK. You might expect they’d be more cautious because of Brexit, but the opposite appears to be true. The British now appear to want certainty more than ever. They want fixed seasonal prices, and we can offer them that.” The UK traditionally has much demand for cucumber, bell pepper and vine tomatoes, but also for sweet pointed pepper and aubergine.
Eastern Europe is gradually becoming an emerging market. “The improved prosperity can be noticed. The size of the local production also plays its part. The US is an interesting market for bell peppers, although they grow more locally as well. Products grown on coconut matting are deemed organic there. It’s different in the Netherlands. The organic label is only given to outdoor cultivation products here. That results in unfair competition.”
Not just the current markets are growing, a new market is also presenting itself. “We’re now getting requests for bell pepper from Japan. In the months of May to September, Japan has few domestic products. That’s when they look towards the Netherlands. We’re known for the good quality of our products. We’re now looking at how to set up export to Japan with a partner. We have to make sure to have the right products for this, bell pepper in this case. Japan is a market that demands high-quality products.”
Innovation on the shelves
“We’re constantly talking to partners from the supply chain to optimise the organic supply on the shelves. This year we’ll supply organic cherry tomatoes to a British supermarket for the first time. We’re still thinking about how to innovate on the shelves. A product ending up in a supermarket is often the result of extensive talks. Sometimes we present ideas, and sometimes retail comes to us asking to supply a certain product.”
Packaging is also much discussed with partners from the supply chain. Consumers are becoming more critical about the way organic products are packed. And rightly so, according to Coert. “The wholesaler Udea, which supplies the Ekoplaza, spends much time on that, for example. With them, we’re looking for alternatives that are more suited for organic products.”