“Modern consumer eats a mixture of fresh and frozen food”

The frozen vegetable industry is a relatively young one, having matured quite recently in Belgium after a sudden surge in the eighties. Today though, the country is market leader in Europe. Romain Cools van Vegebe has been in the business for 15 years. The most recent changes he witnessed are those in logistics and sustainable resources.

According to Romain, the business is in a tight squeeze. He records two main culprits. “First there is the stagnation on European markets when it comes to frozen food consumption, leading to increased competition. We try to remedy this by looking for customers outside Europe. Second, there is the added competition of countries like Poland and Spain. Spain in particular has received much government funding recently, making it a formidable adversary.“

Romain admits that increased competition has also yielded some positive developments. “There have been many innovations. Perhaps not so many in the field of productivity, but in technology, storage and logistics. Quality and sustainability have become keywords.”
Recently, several companies like D'Arta, PinguinLutosa and Agristo, worked together with POM West-Vlaanderen in setting up rail transport to Italy. “We are also looking at other ways to improve logistics.” Improvements in sustainability are not always visible, explains Romain, but they are there. “They take place in the field of energy, water, waste disposal. Also, organisations are increasingly working together to make the soil more durable.”

Romain is convinced that the frozen food sector is more conscious about energy and waste disposal. “We use everything, everything gets frozen. On fresh food markets, a lot of leftovers need to be thrown away.” To promote these and other benefits of frozen food, the sector has started several campaigns, most of them in order to improve the industry’s image. “Of course, some products simply can’t be frozen. Look at lettuce and tomatoes. They have to be eaten fresh. I think the modern customer eats a mixture of fresh food and frozen food. That will likely never change.”


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