There are many tomato farmers around. Dutch growers, Looye Kwekers, are also specialized in this. Owner, Jos Looije, is not so concerned about the numbers. He is too busy developing a strong brand. "A tomato is made up of 90% water. So, you must sell an emotion to build a brand," says Jos.
Building a brand - very few tomato growers in the Netherlands bother with this. Looye Kwekers have three - Honing tomatoes, JOYN, and, since this year, MOYO. This last brand is aimed at children. Things are going well. These products' brand awareness increases year on year.
Jos also sees few people selling emotion. "Far more growers should do this," Jos said last month. He was at the Global Tomato Congress. There Jos told how he decided to start building a brand with Honing tomatoes. That was 12 or 13 years ago.
He came to this decision after he had gone to see what was happening in English stores for himself. "There was a difference in production and sales prices. I, however, did not consider this to be the retail sector 'stealing money'. I saw it as an opportunity."
A product's grower and supplier are very important for direct clients, as well as consumers. That is why the Looye name is going to become increasingly important, says Jos. That will remain so in the future too. "In this way, we make a direct connection with the consumer. The aim is to get more people to enjoy our tasty tomatoes."
Building customer confidence
The most challenging part of building a brand, according to Jos, may well be having to say 'no'. "If the quality does not match our high standards, you have to say no. You do not want to disappoint consumers. That is the last thing you want. If that happens, all the trust you have built can disappear in one fell swoop."
To illustrate his point, Jos uses mandarins as an example. "These taste excellent just after the first harvest. Then, over four weeks, their flavor slowly fades. That, while they still bear a brand sticker."
"After six weeks, these mandarins are significantly less tasty. The consumer then associates the brand name with this. You have then lost their confidence, all in one go," explains Jos.
Honing tomato ketchup
What does Looye do with the tomatoes it sells as a premium brand to retailers? "We sell these under a private label." And the split fruit? There are slightly more of these at Looye due to their specific taste-focused cultivation method. "We make ketchup. Here, brand building is a little more difficult. There is competition in this area from the large sauce and soup giants," concludes Jos.