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The National Fresh Congress

Fresh products' role in e-commerce, perception and convenience

The National Fresh Congress was recently held in the Netherlands. This year, the focus was on the role of fresh products in e-commerce, perception, and convenience. Fresh products remain the anchor point for many developments. The fresh fruit and vegetable sector is an important category within the fresh produce sector.

Consumers in this chain are still not considered to be the central point. Much can, therefore, still be gained. Particularly in the area of convenience. For new concepts to succeed, the entire fresh fruit and vegetable sector's chain is needed. This was emphasized by Ingeborg Kleijer van Greenyard, one of the speakers at the congress.

First up, trends were discussed. FMCG Director, Peter van Pijkeren of the market research company, IRI, made it clear that there is no such thing as an average consumer. There are vast differences in preferences and wishes within the Netherlands. Generally-speaking, it can be said that quality, taste, and, of course, important answers are at the top of this country's consumers' wish lists.

IRI figures show that, in e-commerce, vegetables saw the most significant increase in volumes. This is based on data from local supermarkets, Albert Heijn (AH), Jumbo, Plus, and Deen. Online shopping will become increasingly important in the future. Currently, young millennials buy 10% of their fresh products online. It is expected that, when they get to run their own households, this spending will rise further.

Ingeborg Kleijer, Greenyard's Category Marketing Director, has a background in A-brands. She made it clear that the focus in the fresh fruit and vegetable sector is on Field to Fork. This is instead of the other way around - from Fork to Field. This is a practice she has fully implemented at Greenyard. Central to this is solving consumers' problems and helping them overcome barriers.

A-brands constantly monitor what is going on with consumers. They then find a specific solution for consumers' needs. The fresh fruit and vegetable sector has always been, and still is, transactional - from supplier to retailer. "You have to build good concepts together", emphasized Ingeborg. She is the brains behind the, now successful, Bakker Barendrecht meal packs. This concept only really took off when AH Category Managers started promoting these products.

The National Fresh Congress was not just all about the fresh fruit and vegetable sector. Jaap de Wit, chairman of the Stichting Keten Duurzaam Varkensvlees (Sustainable Prok Chain Foundation) at Westfort Meat Products gave a presentation about the concept. He also talked about the Antibiotics-free Life Guarantee quality label. Products brandishing this label of quality do not always get guaranteed added value. This is something farmers who are Planet Proof also have to deal with.

A sense of humor and good, healthy, is of the utmost importance to Lieven Vanlommel. This Belgian fresh, convenient food entrepreneur is the CEO and founder of StarMeal/ The Foodmaker. He has developed organic salads and meals, with ingredients harvested and produced by The Foodmaker. These products are sold in the company's own shops as well as in partnership with Delhaize. According to Lieven, StarMeal's story is “proof that it is possible to build a brand within the fresh sector". The Foodmaker's latest concept is the recently-introduced salad bar. This is a shop-in-shop concept at Delhaize. According to Lieven, initial results show amazing sales numbers.

The tenth Boon's Market was recently opened in the Dutch town of Barendrecht. This supermarket is entirely focused on delicacies and fresh produce. Commercial Director, Willem Boon of Boon Sliedrecht, shared the latest developments within the supermarket chain. He believes physical stores will continue to exist. However, here, a contract with consumers is of the utmost importance.

"It is easy to build a nice store. It is the people who make the difference", he says. Boon is, however, not neglecting the online market. They cater to the ageing population with their Zorgboodschap (Care Groceries) online concept. Zorgboodschap is an all-inclusive supplier for people who are in need of hospital or out-patient care. They have a tailor-made solution for each and every end-customer, large or small. They supply both daily as well as professional groceries such as (special dietary) meals.

Willem anticipates a cross-over between these worlds. "Perhaps we will soon have a shelf of sodium-free meals at Boon’s market", he says.

National Fresh Congress participants took part in an online Kahoot! quiz

Read more about the speakers' presentations on the fresh fruit and vegetable sector in the coming days. 

Networking during lunch

The Congress' afternoon's program included a tour, in front of and behind the scenes, of Valks Fresh Market and Fresh! Leidsenhage. This fresh market is in what is set to become the largest shopping center in the Netherlands in 2020.

Van der Valk Fresh Market's vegetable section

The tour of Fresh! Leidsenhage

A group of participants visited different businesses in Fresh! Leidsenhage, which has an area of 2.500m2. These businesses will have to vie against, among other places, a food court and supermarket, which will take up more than 4.000m2.

Henk Middendorp talks about his fruit and vegetable business

A salad bar in Fresh!

A juice bar in Fresh!

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