When there’s more cooking going on, sales of fresh herbs increase. So in the period leading up to the holidays, demand for fresh herbs is higher than usual.
Vitacress Real grows a wide range of herbs. The company has its own nurseries in the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and Spain. Beyond that, the company imports herbs from Kenya, and they work together with partners in countries like Italy and Morocco. “Now that it’s too cold here, we mainly have herbs from our own cultivation in Spain and Portugal,” director Ralph Coenen says late November. In Spain, all herbs come from outdoor cultivation. The herbs there, just like virtually all other Spanish products, have suffered from the hot spring and wet autumn. “Herbs are very sensitive, so it’s easy to get damage. Therefore, after this season we need to be extra critical to be able to supply the right quality,” he explains. “It’s the year of El Niño, so we had already taken some precautions. The clients can be supplied to for one hundred percent, despite us having grown.”
Shortage basil and chives
He notes production is recovering now. There haven’t just been cultivation problems in Spain. Israel in particular is facing quality problems due to unusual weather conditions. This causes shortages. “Especially in basil and chives, the volumes are limited. If you’ve made agreements, there’s no problem, but because everyone is looking for alternatives, there’s not a lot available for the free market. Finding these extra volumes does make it a challenging season,” Ralph says.
High demand around the holidays
Vitacress Real is a member of producer organization Fossa Eugenia, and grows both freshly cut herbs and potted herbs. The potted herbs go to various supermarkets, and the cut herbs are destined for both the supermarkets and the wholesalers. The growth of herbs in pots, Ralph says, is relatively less strong than that of the cut herbs. So the fresh, cut herbs make up the biggest share of Vitacress Real’s sales. He says: “Chives, parsley, basil and mint are the most important products there. Around the holidays, demand for these herbs is also highest. In this period, three times as many herbs than usual are sold. When there’s more cooking going on, the consumption of herbs also increases. We notice demand is starting to come now.”
Scoring special mint varieties
Mint in particular has grown enormously in recent years. The herb is mainly used in tea or cocktails. There are a lot of different types of mint. “Our product range is also still expanding,” Ralph says. “There is a lot of demand for special mint varieties like ginger mint or lemon mint. A product like coriander, a herb that’s used in many different cuisines, is also growing. The large volumes are still found in the main products.” He also notices the demand for herb mixtures. “This is mainly the case in supermarkets. Wholesalers order more volumes. Now and then we do an Italy mix for instance, but the focus is on the mono segment.”
Encouraging use of herbs
The herb producer says it’s going through a significant growth. Where possible, the herbs come from their own production, so they can keep optimal control over the chain. All herbs from abroad are packaged at Vitacress Real in the Netherlands. “We believe a lot more is possible in the herb segment. The increase in cooking shows and such is already a good start. This encourages consumers to work with herbs. For the coming years, we expect this development to continue, and that consumers will know better and better which herbs they can use for what. At the moment we are mainly busy with the approaching holidays, but it will certainly work out.”