The group of culinary lovers is increasing. Stimulated by many cooking programmes, food magazines and festivals there is an increasing interest in special products and this is no longer limited to the better restaurants.
Catering wholesaler Rungis is known for their extensive supply of special potatoes, vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, and herbs. Signalling gastronomic trends is an important spearhead for the wholesaler. The assortment is regularly topped up with products from close by and far away that fit into the seasons they have created. “Nowadays we are even closer to the consumers since we started with the web shop at the end of last year,” according to Niels van den Berg of Rungis. “Together with the well-known wholesalers Schmidt Zeevis, Nice to Meat, Treuren and Vanilla Venture we offer our products at DirectlyFrom.nl. It gives consumers access to products that otherwise only chefs would have. It also gives us more insight into what is going on among consumers.”
Products with something extra
The current online supply covers 528 products, a selection from the assortment of 2500 products the chefs can pick from at Rungis. Niels says that the supply in the web shop changes regularly. The products that are active have to be available at that time. “The products have to have something extra. Think organic, niche, better in quality or with a unique size. These products aren’t just lying in the supermarket, but are offered at an affordable price so we are accessible to everyone. We focus on people who want to cook for their family and friends at the weekend and want to make it special, or culinary lovers who want to prepare something special once a week,” he explains. “As meal box suppliers we want to let consumers pick their own ingredients. All kinds of recipes can be found on the website to inspire them and we also send out a newsletter every week with new products, product information and application options.”
A product which is popular in the web shop is the fresh Italian truffle. “We are in the season of the autumn truffle at the moment and will soon move to the black winter truffle. The Italian truffle is really a delicacy and one of a kind,” Niels says at the end of November. The Japanese Yuzu, which is always anticipated with excitement, is also in season. “This rare citrus is loved due to the characteristic flavour and scent. The valuable juice is used a lot in Japanese cuisine and the yuzu is also increasingly appreciated over here. The peel and the juice of the fruit in particular are used to accentuate flavours in various dishes.” Fresh Japanese yuzu is still hard to get in Europe due to phytosanitary regulations. Years ago a new isolated yuzu plantation was planted in Japan. The fruits from this plantation were found to be clean and are allowed to exported to one importer in the EU: Rungis. He says the Koppert Cress cress are also unique. In their own words DirectlyFrom.nl is the only supplier of the entire cress assortment directly to the consumer.
Foodies on the rise
Niels notes that the professional chef today isn’t much different from the enthusiastic home cook. The knowledge of products and passion for food has hugely increased, he says. This is partially thanks to the large supply of books, professional magazines, websites, tv shows, blogs and festivals with food in the starring role. People also travel to more faraway destinations where they are introduced to special products. “The time when you could tell pretty stories is over, the real lovers know a lot. Trends generally still start among professionals, but consumers follow very quickly nowadays.” When asked what products are trendy at the moment, he names coloured vegetables such as purple Chinese cabbage, purple kale and coloured beets, but sea vegetables such as spaghetti seaweed and samphire also do well, as do spuds and wild herbs. Fruit purees are also in demand. “The chilled fresh fruit purees are often used for desserts, juices and cocktails. They have the pure flavour of the fruit and unlike regular dessert sauces do not contain much sugar.”
Everything stands or falls with the flavour of a product. “A product can look as special as you like, it’s the flavour people remember,” according to Niels. He also sees that the power of simplicity is increasingly important, or making a nice dish with three ingredients instead of ten. “This isn’t as easy as you might think. Those few products have to be completely right. More flavour can sometimes be achieved with a small change to the preparation. For instance cooking carrots with a lump of butter and some water instead of traditionally covering them with water. Roasting vegetables also gives a more concentrated and pure flavour.” Instead of investing in the traditional frontrunners for the holidays, Rungis is opting to inspire chefs and consumers with other special products. “Products we think will fit in nicely, perhaps added to with recipes, but the choice is in the hands of the customer themselves. That freedom and adventure is something people are really open to at the moment.”
Niels van den Berg