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Fredrik Pettersson:

“You can’t say no to customers”

It is primarily mixed salads and baby leaves on the shelves in Scandinavian and Baltic supermarkets, when it comes to fresh cuts. The space available for these processed products is also limited. Compared to Western European countries, this market is lagging behind, admits Fredrik Pettersson and Anette Dremo of Dole Fresh Cuts in Sweden. The growth figures for the past few years are, however, through the roof.

Fredrik Pettersson and Anette Dremo of Dole Fresh Cuts in Sweden.

“We don’t have the space in the shops to extend our range”, says Anette. “A retailer will have ten meters of cold storage shelf space, but dressing and sprouts are also on display in the same refrigerators. This means the space that these convenience products get, is limited.” According to them the retail business should invest more in cold storage to meet the growing demand for fresh cuts. “We are constantly extending our range but the space is currently limited,” adds Fredrik.

As much local for as long as possible
In 2005 Dole Fresh Cut only marketed 10 million bags of cut vegetables per year. This year, 58 million bags left the factory in the Swedish city of Helsingborg. This processing company is focused on northern Europe: Scandinavia, and since 2008, the Baltic States. “The sector is growing,” says Fredrik. “We can see that the market in Finland is growing rapidly. The Baltic States are also doing well, despite the fact that we still do not deliver directly to the food services industry there. Danish consumers are relatively conservative, but that also seems to be changing.” The number of companies in the sector is also an indication of how fast the market is growing. In 2005, there were only two companies who focused on processed products. Now there are four production locations.

The lettuce varieties are, whenever possible, bought locally; but the season is short: from May to October. “We are now in the midst of switching to imports,” explains Anette. Spain, Italy and France take over the market in the winter months. “We want to buy as much local produce for as long as possible”, Anette continues.

Washed baby leaves cause upheaval
“The year started very badly. We even had to import iceberg and romaine lettuce from the United States because of bad weather in Southern Europe”, says Fredrik. During the four week crisis, the company even got calls from German businesses, who were aware that Dole Fresh Cut was flying lettuce in. Transport costs were very high during this time, but “you can’t say no to the big hamburger chains” Fredrik points out. “We made a promise to our clients that we always deliver.”

From the beginning in 2001 Dole introduced washed baby leaves, but it was until a large retail chain changed their assortment from unwashed to washed baby leaves that this product took a flight. This caused an upheaval in the market. “It began with just one chain,” says Fredrik. “The market grew with 40% over night. It was a huge change.” Dole’s range has 20 products, of which ten are organic. “In the last few years, the products we have introduced have either been organic or innovative”, says Anette. These include products containing cabbage and kale.

Breathable packaging
Vegetables from Spain are en route for four or five days. To ensure the quality of the products, it is essential that the cold storage chain’s temperature remain between two and four degrees Celsius. “We only work with contract growers and we evaluate each shipment”, Fredrik explains. “This we connect back to the grower. Furthermore, our own quality controllers and buyers regularly visit the growers in Spain.”

The fresh cut products are packed in various types of packaging that ensures the products can last for ten days. “We pack a lot of our products at a lower oxygen level and each product has its own specific packaging, depending on how the product behaves”, Anette explains.

In the supermarket, the space for processed products is limited. “We have to invest a lot to make ourselves known” says Fredrik. “We do in-store promotions. We also promote a segment via social media.” In addition, new products are continually being introduced. Some are more successful than others, but they do draw the consumer’s attention. “Private label is growing stronger by the day in every country or market we work at.” Salad bars, where consumers can combine their own ingredients to create a salad, are, a great success in the Swedish retail market.

“We were too early with the Juicy Greens,” says Anette. The idea was simple: a package with vegetables, add apple juice and spices, and make a smoothie of this in a blender. Yet, it did not take off. “It is difficult to educate consumers on how to use a product”, says Fredrik. The idea became, however, popular in smoothie bars and at festivals.

More information:
Dole Fresh Cuts
Fredrik Pettersson

Anette Dremo

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