Fresh herbs are now indispensable in many households. This product group is a definite keeper in many kitchens. But how's the herb market developing? What are the sustainability and transport trends? Marcel Schers of Xfresh, in the Netherlands, gives more insight into several topics.
Breeder Jaganath, Kenya
"European herb production's on the rise"
"A lot of our herbs are imported from Africa. But, more and more of these are coming from Europe. Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal are playing increasingly important roles in this," says Marcel. "This trend began a few years ago already. The coronavirus outbreak has, however, sped things up."
"COVID-19's forcing us to rethink the calculation's transportation cost component. That's causing a shift in sourcing. There have been airfreight tariffs increases from Africa. That, combined with the weather conditions there, make European products more attractive. An advantage is that this has broadened our range."
"There's an added sustainable benefit - consider how much less distance the products have to travel," adds Marcel. Africa will, nonetheless, retain a significant share of the global herb market. Marcel thinks herb farming in Northern African countries like Senegal and Morocco will expand considerably in the coming years.
"Smaller herb packs' popularity's growing"
Another trend in the herb market is the ever-increasing focus on the products' shelf life. In recent years, many resealable packagings have come onto the market. These allow people at home to use and keep herbs in their fridges for longer. "I expect these small packages to be used more and more."
"Especially now that hygiene is getting more attention, due to COVID-19. Thanks to the corona crisis, people are cooking at home more. Or they buy pre-packaged quantities for dishes that have herb mix combinations, packed in precise amounts. That means there are fewer left-over herbs and, so, less waste," continues Schers.
"Innovation will continue in the area of packaging. Think of sustainable packaging materials and production processes. Xfresh and its suppliers have taken significant steps regarding sustainable packaging, in particular, in recent years."
"For example, we have 'breathable' small packs. We've also extended our herbs' shelf life. We've overhauled our export crates, making them more innovative too. They're of the optimal size, so their space is used more efficiently. No tape's needed to seal these boxes either," says the herb trader.
Transparent supply chain
Xfresh has been trading from the Netherlands under this name since January of this year. It focuses on the European market. The company was, however, founded five years ago. It began as a subsidiary of Xpol, a floricultural business. "We noticed that fresh herbs and vegetables have much in common with flowers. But, ultimately, it was better to control these products supply chains separately."
"The herb and vegetable activities were, therefore, separated from Xpol. We then continued on our own," Marcel explains. Xfresh aims to keep making a difference in the herb market. "We have a transparent supply chain. Our clients - the supermarket chains and food service industry - know exactly from which nursery their products come."
"We also package most of our supply at the source. In our chain, we work as partners, not competitors. That all contributes to a good mix for supplying fresh, longer-lasting, tasty herbs. In the future, we want to add more organically-grown herbs to our assortment, too," concludes Marcel.
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