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Marie Legendre, Syngenta: “You can’t just throw products on the market anymore”

Are club concepts the future?

Club varieties such as Kanzi and Pink Lady have been doing well for years. Due to the considerable brand promise, consumers are willing to pay a higher price. The vegetable branch also has increasing demand for special varieties with their own story.

Club varieties are grown and marketed under specific conditions. This requires a good cooperation in the supply chain, a characteristic production strategy and purposeful marketing. Although there aren’t really any proper club varieties in vegetables yet, a lot of experiments are being done with comparable concepts in the branch. The tomato branch is a front-runner in this. Well-known examples are Honey tomatoes and Tasty Tom.

Tomatoes number one
The question why these kinds of concepts are mostly successful in tomatoes is asked more and more. Sandra van der Veer of grower’s association Van Nature: “There are dozens of different tomato varieties of the same type, much more than for most other vegetables. Exclusively marketing certain varieties could be a logical next step.” Marie Legendre of Syngenta adds: “We don’t really believe in exclusive varieties, but we do believe in conceptually marketing special varieties. Tomatoes can be eaten in many different ways, as a snack, in pasta or in a salad. Each variety lends itself to being sold as a certain concept.”

Just like club varieties, the tomato varieties Lemonade and Nebula from Syngenta are grown and marketed in cooperation with other parties. Yet these can’t really be compared to club varieties as seen in top fruit, according to Marie. “A club variety is a proper brand. Our varieties aren’t.” The Kumato, Syngenta’s dark tomato, is a consumer brand, and therefore much more comparable to a club variety.

Cauliflower and sprouts
Not all tomatoes are suitable for developing club concepts. Marie: “More crops have potential in this field. For example, specialities in sprouts, cauliflower and bell pepper. Our purple sprout, Coraletta, is a brand, just like Kumato. We also have purple, green and orange cauliflowers in our range. Just as with club concepts, we’ve marketed these products with selected partners and a focused approach. It’s helpful that the products can easily be packed. Consumers enjoy bringing a nice-looking and handy box to their job or school.”

Story is important
More than anything, a good cooperation in the supply chain and support in marketing are conditions to make the variety successful. Marie: “You can’t just throw a product on the market and hope it becomes successful.It needs to have a story, and this needs to connect with a certain target audience that recognises and buys the product. In marketing terms, we’re talking about value-added products. The opposite would be a bulk product.” Growers, retailers and other parties involved work together to decide the content of the story. Marie: “For example, consumers like sustainable products. This can be communicated with marketing quite easily. The most important thing is to recognise your target audience, because it only becomes fun if you know who you’re talking to.”

Quality guarantee
Grower’s associations who want to work with brand concepts have to be willing to set themselves high requirements, otherwise the product would have no added value. Sandra: “Developing club varieties is more difficult in vegetables than it is in fruit. For vegetables, I think there’s more of a future in working with brand concepts, for which flavour and quality specifications are decided for the product.”

Each supermarket has its own variety
In the UK, many retailers want their own product name. Marks and Spencer, for instance, sells Syngenta’s Nebula variety under the Sweet Rosso name. Marie: “Supermarkets in the Netherlands are also asking for this. We should all start working this way with the supply chain more and more.”

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