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Niels van den Berg, Rungis:

“Organic is part of the complete sustainability policy”

Catering supplier Rungis is preparing for the home stretch of 2018. “A busy period for us,” says Niels van den Berg, responsible for communication and trends. It’s also going well with organic brand Ecoville. “Demand for organic is steadily growing,” he says.

Rungis supplies fruit and vegetables to Dutch catering. “We supply a broad range of fruit and vegetables to about 600 restaurants in the Netherlands. Ecoville is our organic brand, which has been specialised in contact with organic growers and restaurants for many years now.” Niels also has a catering background. “I’ve always worked in restaurants before this. I’ve always cooked and even became a master chef. A lot of our employees have catering backgrounds.”

As mentioned before, Ecoville is Rungis’ organic brand, and Niels sees demand for this increasing annually. “Demand for organic is growing, but not spectacularly. Ten years ago, organic was more separate, now it’s part of the complete sustainability policy. You can tell the sustainability aspect is gaining ground among customers, and with us as well, of course. People don’t just care about organic, but also about seasons and origins, for instance. It’s much more extensive than just organic.”

Ecoville buys directly from the growers, and they enter into clear agreements with them. “We prepare a crop plan with the grower. Together, we decide how much they’ll grow of a certain crop based on demand. That’s why we can practically always meet our customers’ demand. We also specialise in niche products, because that’s how we can make a difference. Customers can come to us for products they can’t find in supermarkets. One example is seaweed from the Eastern Scheldt, although this isn’t organically certified. This is harvested twice per week, and we store it in basins filled with Eastern Scheldt water.”

“We work with Kleine Hoeve in Breda, among others. This is a care farm where they grow organically on a small scale. We buy their entire harvest, so they won’t have to worry whether it’ll get sold or not. They grow many different kinds of vegetables for us, but on a smaller surface. This way we make sure we have a supply that is more difficult to buy at auction.”

The end of the year is fast approaching, and the holidays are now upon us. “The holidays are always a busy period for us. Demand for organic vegetables is steady in this period. Various products stand out this time of year. Cabbage is my first example. This period, many great cabbage varieties are available, from sprouts to miniature cabbage to cavolo nero. Another great product is yacón. This is very juicy, like a pear, and tastes very sweet.”

The media is reporting that more restaurants will close during the holidays this year. “We haven’t really noticed this,” Niels says. “But I think this would make sense. For restaurants, the business market is very important, and there isn’t one at Christmas. A lot of guests go skiing then, for example.”

More vegetables on plates
For some years now, there’s been a trend for more fruit and vegetables on plates in the catering industry. “That trend will definitely last, and guests are appreciating it more and more as well,” Niels explains. “It’s quite a challenge for chefs, because the preparation really has to make sense then. Flavours have to be just right. It’s much more difficult to turn vegetables into something special than to cook a steak,” he says.

Niels sees opportunities – and also challenges – in the flavours of fruit and vegetables. “We mostly want to be distinctive in flavour. That’s decisive, and we work with the growers to that end. That way, everyone will work the same way,” Niels concludes.

More information:

Niels van den Berg 

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