By opting for Rotterdam as the location of choice for their head office, Dole Packaged Foods is once again establishing a fruit giant on Dutch soil. Under the leadership of managing director for Europe, Isabelle Spindler-Jacobs, the global market leader in packaged fruit products, healthy snacks and frozen fruit also wants to get more fruit in cups and preserves to European consumers. "In many places there are still only unhealthy snacks available and we believe that healthy snacks should be added to the assortment, including on the road, such as in kiosks at stations."
Spindler-Jacobs worked for seventeen years in various positions for Heineken and one year as CEO for the green energy supplier Qurrent before switching to Dole Packaged Food in November 2019, not to be confused with Dole Food Company, which is well-known in the fruit and vegetable trade. Dole Worldwide Packaged Foods and Dole Asia Fresh Produce are part of the Dole Asia Holdings Pte. Ltd. group of companies, and will remain independent from Dole Food Company, Inc. and the anticipated new US-listed company 'Dole plc'. Under Dole Asia Holdings, Dole Worldwide Packaged Foods is a global market leader in packaged fruit products, healthy snacks and frozen fruit; while Dole Asia Fresh Produce grows and distributes fresh fruit and vegetables in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East.
The move from Paris to Rotterdam is a very deliberate one, according to Isabelle. "The Netherlands is central to our renewed focus on Europe. We have great growth ambitions on this continent. Dole Packaged Food is now huge in America and Asia is our second market, but historically the focus on Europe has always been a bit lower. We hope to change this now. As the largest fruit port in Europe, Rotterdam was a very suitable location. Sustainability is an important theme for us and the Netherlands as a 'food valley' immediately came into play. One of many reasons we chose the Netherlands is because a lot start-ups are located here. We deliberately chose an office location next to the central station. No one here has a car and we do not have parking spaces. We also encourage those who visit us to come by public transport as much as possible. Unfortunately, most colleagues from France did not move to Rotterdam, but that also gave the opportunity to build a new team. Here in Europe we have 25 colleagues with twelve nationalities. Diversity is a spearhead, for example, we have more women than men working here."
Six promises to the world
It was a very conscious choice for Isabelle to work for Dole. "I was looking for a company that is 'purpose-driven' from the deep conviction to make the world a bit better and to narrow the gap between the growing world population and the gap between healthy food. Here in the Netherlands 87% of people eat insufficient fruit every day, for children between the ages of 4 and 12 this is 80%. At the same time you see that a third of food is thrown away by people. We want to reduce this gap and to do so we introduced six promises to the world for this last year:
By 2025, we want to give 1 billion people access to good nutrition
From 2025 we no longer want to use refined sugars
From 2025 we don't want to waste any more fruit
From 2025 we no longer want to use fossil plastic packaging
From 2030, we want to work CO2-neutral at all locations
With all our stakeholders, the staff and people on the farms as well as our customers, shareholders and consumers, we want everyone to work well with Dole
Sunshine For All
"We don't have answers to all our promises yet, but we are very determined throughout the company to deliver on those promises," says Isabelle. "We really want to initiate a systemic change. We cannot do that alone, but we need the help of everyone and everything. That is why we have set up the Sunshine For All Fund for which 2 million US dollars has been released and we invite all partners, from people to companies and start-ups who have great ideas to help us achieve these goals.”
"The Philippines is our largest supply country with pineapple as the largest product group. On this volcanic soil, with sunny weather during the day and cool nights, we have the most ideal growing conditions. But we get our fruit where the sun ripens the fruit best. The sun is incredibly important to us. It is not without reason that we named our fund after it. The sun provides warmth, is there for everyone and does not discriminate. We pay a lot of attention to the working conditions on our plantations. In the Philippines we have built communities that work exclusively for Dole. Things like hospitals and training are also supported by Dole there. We work together with Solidaridad, among others."
No added sugars
When asked about the range of Dole Packaged Foods, according to Isabelle, these are simply healthy snacks and ingredients. "Think of cups with fruit, such as pineapple, peach or tangerines, where each cup equals the consumption of one piece of fruit. Furthermore, we supply healthy ingredients with products such as canned pineapple and peach, which are often used in other recipes. A new product group is that of the supplements. We will publish news about this shortly. We are continuously looking at expanding the range. Everything is an option, as long as it has to do with fruit. An important condition is that we do not add sugars to our products. They contain natural fruit sugar, but that is only healthy. The days when our products contained heavy syrup are really over. That is still in a single product, but they must be completely banned from 2025. "
The new CEO certainly isn't going to go looking for competition with the fresh fruit and vegetable sector. "Fresh fruit is always good, we will always encourage that. There is a moment for everything. Sometimes that is fresh fruit, but consumption is not always convenient. Think of a pineapple, which is easier to carry in a cup. Our advantage over the fresh sector is that the rotation of the products does not even have to be enormous, as our fruit packaged in preserves has a shelf life of three years. It is our task to work on a smoother distribution. On most shop shelves there are unhealthy bars, crisps and cookies in all shapes and sizes, but the healthy snacks are lacking in presence. We are going to work very hard to make our products available in many more places. Anywhere people snack, or need an ingredient to prepare dishes, our products must become available. Currently, our largest markets in Europe are the United Kingdom and Germany, followed by France. But we want to grow strongly throughout Europe."
Dole Packaged Foods products are stored in warehouses in Belgium, the Netherlands and England. Although the shelf life of the products is not easily compromised, the availability of containers worldwide posed a major challenge in the past year. "Ships were difficult to book, especially at reasonable rates," said Isabelle. She calls on the fresh produce sector to share ideas for cooperation. "We are very open to that and we have also made a nice amount available in our fund. This is a global invitation, but I hope that many ideas will come from the Netherlands and Europe. This will have to go further than putting apples in a cup, but I am convinced that there are enough good ideas out there. We are not a charity and have to run our business, but I am convinced that it is the good results that will help us invest to deliver on these six promises."