“Consumers want smaller packaging for frozen vegetables”
In the Southwest of Flanders it’s all about frozen vegetables. Here, vegetables are grown and processed that eventually end up in the freezers of consumers. One of the companies involved with the Belgian frozen vegetables is Dicogel Begro from Ardooie, which consists of Dicogel, Begro and Westfro.
Flemish company Dicogel Begro has three branches now that process frozen vegetables. Westfro was acquired in 2014. “Everything we process for retail is done under private label,” says CEO Yves de Vinck. “Besides, we also work for industry, Another part is supplied to the catering industry. Annually we produce about 200,000 tonnes of frozen vegetables. All kinds of vegetables are processed in our plant, but peas, beans and carrots still do best. We’ve also seen smaller packaging gaining popularity.”
Europe’s vegetable garden
The majority produced by Dicogel Begro is sent to countries throughout Europe. A small part is meant for the export outside of Europe’s borders. “Those frozen products are shipped to regions in South Africa or South America,” Yves explains. “Everything we export is processed in our own company. From washing to sorting, and from cutting to packing. We get the vegetables from the regions around the companies as much as possible, from Southwest Flanders. About 30 per cent of European frozen vegetables comes from that region.”
Besides Flanders, there are also regions in the north of Spain where they focus on the frozen sector. According to Yves, the production area in Southwest Flanders is unique within Europe. “The production area is also called ‘Europe’s vegetable garden’ because of that,” he says. “This is because of a combination of climate and very suitable soils for a wide range of cultivations. That’s why this region is so popular.”
Since the Flemish frozen sector came into existence in the 1970s, frozen vegetables have been doing well. Yves has also noticed that with his company. “In recent years our company grew by nearly 40 per cent,” he says. “This is due to the takeover of Westfro in 2014, among other things. Additionally, we’ve realised an organic growth that is about ten per cent every year.” Vegetable mixes in particular do very well for Dicogel Begro. The cause of the popularity of the mixes is because of the shift happening in the frozen sector. “Peas, beans, carrots, spinach: we mix them all,” the CEO says. “About half of what we produce is a mix of multiple vegetables. Besides the vegetable mixes doing better, we’ve also seen demand for the amounts of vegetables changing. Nowadays, customers prefer smaller packaging compared to a few years ago.”
The mindset of people in the past, compared to now, is one of the causes of that, according to Yves. “Our grandparents often had large freezers in their sheds. That’s not seen as much nowadays,” he says. “People now often have a smaller freezer section in their refrigerator. More than 2.5 kilos won’t fit in that. People now also prefer eating their portions in one sitting, while eating patterns in the past meant the same food was eaten every week. The freezers were therefore always full of the same vegetables in the past, enough for the entire period. Now, people prefer choosing what they want to eat in supermarkets on the same day.”
Yves de Vinck
Publication date: 11/21/2017
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