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They’re just like superfoods: traditional Dutch vegetables

Goji berries, coconut oil or seaweed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The health benefits of superfoods sometimes seemed to good to be true. The superfood trend is no longer at the same level it was a few years ago, so how is it doing now, and are there any new health trends in the field of fruit and vegetables?

A few years ago, the retailers in particular responded to the trend of superfoods. Dutch food magazine Allerhande, which is published under authority of Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn, joined the hype surrounding antioxidants and minerals at the time. “Nowadays, Albert Heijn still offers superfoods, but it’s no longer a hype,” says Rutger Anema from Allerhande. “It has become normal by now. We now choose our own, home-grown ‘superfoods’ more often, such as cauliflower, kale or beetroot.” 

Michel Groothuis of organic food wholesaler VehGro has also seen the superfood market stabilising. “The movement that started a few years ago made us think about our food more consciously,” the manager of the company says. “It wasn’t just a trend, eating healthier in general has become a way of life.”

#Superfoods @Instagram
A few years ago, they suddenly appeared: various berries and grains were suddenly in the shops and social media channels exploded. Michel Groothuis from VehGro saw the trend slowly blowing over to the Netherlands from the US and Australia. “When trends arrive from the US in Europe, they usually first become popular in the Netherlands and Germany,” says the owner of the import company. “The superfoods became this big, thanks to social media. The products often have beautiful colours and it often involves fruits that don’t grow here, like the pips of the pomegranate. Everything that doesn’t grow here is naturally more interesting. Most of the superfoods we import are Amazonian. We have also noticed that the organic aspect of superfoods is very important. The healthy products that grow there have been grown without the use of pesticides, and are therefore naturally organic. Besides social media and the manner in which they’re grown, the health aspects also played its part. Older people want to stay fit longer nowadays, and the interest of young people for healthy food also continues to increase. That is one of the reasons why healthy food is so popular. In the end, that contributed to the popularity of superfoods.”

Rutger Anema from Allerhande has also seen demand for superfruit increasing due to the worldwide web. “The bloggers on social media have indeed managed to turn this into a trend,” he says. “It’s about healthy food, perfect food supplements, which also became popular. It almost became the case that if you didn’t eat superfoods, you were unhealthy. That is naturally nonsense. It’s difficult to define the difference between fruit and vegetables and the super variants exactly. They have high nutritional values and high concentrations of, for example, vitamins and minerals. Superfoods are healthy, but it doesn’t mean traditional types of fruit and vegetables are less so, on the contrary.” 

Carrot dog
According to Rutger Anema, the biggest trend involving superfoods has stopped by now. What will the next trend be? “Our own, home-grown ‘superfoods,’ such as potatoes, carrots or cauliflower,” he says. According to him, we want traditional products, but slightly different. “The traditionally Dutch vegetables are going to be the next big thing in 2018,” he says. “Take tomatoes, potatoes or beetroot for example. It won’t be the case that those vegetables will be prepared the way our grandparents prepared them, but they’ll probably be prepared differently. Take carrot dogs, for example. That’s a vegetarian hot dog, prepared as if it’s actually meat, even the manner in which it is marinated is identical. The only difference is that it’s a carrot instead of meat. I think we’ll see things like that more often next year. Vegetables will be less of a by-product and start playing more of a central part during meals.”

Whether they’re superfoods or not: it’s mostly important to have a varied diet and to eat organically, preferably, according to Michel Groothuis from VehGro. “There’s nothing wrong with the Dutch potatoes,” he says. Good nutrients can be found in various types of fruit and vegetables, all over the world. “Goji berries from Tibet or cranberries from Canada, for example. They both have high contents of antioxidants and vitamins that are good for you. But carrots and kale are just as healthy. Looking at it like that, carrots could also be a superfood, they’re very healthy. The term superfood could be interpreted much more widely than you’d think at first.” 

Marketing trick
Both superfoods and ‘regular’ types of fruit and vegetables contain nutrients that are good for us. It’s therefore not that superfoods are superior compared to their ‘regular brother.’ Does that mean the trend of superfoods is just a marketing trick? “No, that’s not the case,” says Prof Dr Laurens Sloot from the University of Groningen. He is a professor of Retail Marketing in the North of the Netherlands, and he says the results of the trend can be favourable for consumers. “Superfoods are no marketing trick. However, the question remains whether it concerns a trend or a hype. The attention now paid to superfoods indicates that consumers are looking for a better balance between food and health. It’s the job of the food and agricultural sectors to respond to this regarding product development and product concepts, preferably with an added value for both customer, retailer and supplier.”

Michel Groothuis from VehGro agrees. “The products that became hip at the time were very healthy as well,” the CEO says. “In my opinion it was marketing at first, but it soon became apparent that people wanted to eat healthier and more organically. Young people in particular might have turned the trend into a mental legacy. As soon as young people become interested in something it starts to live. That can also be seen in superfoods.”

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