A ‘one-stop-shop’ for dates. That's how Dirk Jan van Dijk describes his business, Palm Fruits, in the Netherlands. "We have something for everyone - different qualities, packaging, and varieties. We've recently expanded that a little further. We've added new consumer packaging for our 'La Palma' brand."
“Palm Fruits offers a wide range of dates on the European market. That's thanks to our partnerships with the largest global date growers' cooperative. Every year, we have access to 19 million kgs of Israeli dates. Of this, 2,5 million kgs are organic. That's about 20% of the worldwide date production. Some 70 growers are affiliated with this organization."
Recently, logistics has been somewhat challenging. That's caused a few delays in deliveries. Dirk Jan, however, emphasizes that this hasn't prevented exports. "We didn't have to turn clients away due to no stock during the lockdowns. Our growers' dates are frozen, on-site, after being harvested. That keeps them fresh. They arrive by ship, and we then ensure a suitable supply for the retail and wholesale markets. These are our main clients. We supply these in 400g to 5kg packs."
Because he can give clients what they want, demand for Dirk Jan's Medjoul is on the rise across Europe. "The demand for size, variety, brand, and packaging is very different in, say, Poland than in the Netherlands, Germany, or Scandinavia. Regardless, we can still supply the right product no matter where. Demand is increasing everywhere."
"Date consumption is traditionally highest within the Muslim community. So, we begin replenishing our stocks in January already. That's in anticipation of Ramadan that starts in April," explains Van Dijk. "But dates are healthy too. This is another reason demand is rising among other target groups. After all, it's much healthier to eat these sweet dates after exercising than an energy bar."
Supermarkets show proof of the increasing popularity of dates in the European market. "We advise retailers to move dates from the nuts shelf to their fruit and vegetable aisle. They do so or add them to the fresh produce section. Fresh Medjoul dates belong next to grapes and soft fruit. They're fruits, after all."
However, the growing popularity of dates also means more countries are seeing opportunities in Europe. "There are sometimes dates on the market from countries like Morocco and Jordan. But the companies that supply these often can't deliver these year-round. They, therefore, can't guarantee continuity. That's one of our strengths - we always deliver. Any which way, our clients always get the dates they want," Dirk Jan concludes.