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The Amsterdam Produce Show

Boosting consumption about innovation, attractiveness, taste,convenience?

"As an industry, we are currently faced with the worldwide challenge of feeding 9.7 billion people by 2050, fighting hunger and malnutrition. With 1 out of 10 in the world going to bed hungry each night, preventing obesity and climate change are not just challenges for the government, but are also a challenge for the business community, and we need you," Martijn van Dam, Dutch Minister of Agriculture stressed at the first edition of the Amsterdam Produce Show.

Martijn van Dam, Dutch Minister of Agriculture.
"My first message to you today is that we have a major responsibility to consumers to offer them a wide choice of safe and healthy foods and we need to continue working together, hand in hand. Secondly, international trade is essential in meeting these challenges. Stronger international trade has proven successful in ensuring a global supply of healthy, high quality fruit and vegetables and competitive prices. Thirdly, there is more fresh food on the market, so using better and more sustainable methods is something we will have to build on to meet the needs of future generations." said van Dam.

The Dutch agriculture sector has become the second largest in the world, after the U.S., with fruit exports coming to €90 million last year. Along with export, the Netherlands imports from 170 countries, and send these goods back out to 150. Minister van Dam attributed Dutch agricultural success to cooperation with universities and research institutions, which has kept them innovative and positioned the small country as a world player.

"Tomorrow's global market offers many opportunities, both existing and new. We need to ask ourselves 'what is my unique selling point as an individual entrepreneur/company' and look for your own unique partners to market and work on new ecological and sustainable projects with. Please take an active part in joining us to offer healthy and sustainable food choices, sharing our ideas with each other, which can start with this seminar, The Amsterdam Produce Show." said van Dam.

Host Jim Prevor (left) and panel; Shawn Harris, CEO of Nature's Pride, Dick Spezzano, US consultant formerly vice president of produce and floral for The Vons Companies, Herman Peppelenbos of Wageningen UR and Sijas Akkerman, Consultant, former NGO Natuur & Milieu.

Increasing consumption
For Nature's Pride CEO Shawn Harris, offering ready to eat exotics has been a successful way for her company to increase consumer consumption.

"The import of ready to eat exotics in Europe, primarily avocados, mangoes and berries, has greatly increased consumption of avocados and mangoes by 20% per year, for the last 10 years with a lot of help from taste testing and educating the consumer."

Jim noted that both panelists, Harris and Herman Peppelenbos, from Wageningen UR, referred to the idea that "Innovative products are a crucial part of finding new roads to increase consumption. Around the world it is thought that the key route to success is promotion and the issue has been raised that the way to re-focus the industry efforts are in fact to focus on producing things of new convenience, taste or flavour." said host Jim Prevor.

"Product innovation has been a great driver for us to increase consumption, but it hasn't necessarily worked for the industry as a whole. Still, tomatoes and apples need to be sold, so innovation and new product lines are going to be of the answer. I think that we need to get kids involved to get to know what vegetables are at a very early age to develop their taste for a vegetable, and also the understanding for the consumer about just how healthy our product line is, and we can't do that alone, we need government intervention along with the industry to convince the consumer to eat more fruits and vegetables." said Harris.

For Sijas Akkerman, Consultant, former NGO Natuur & Milieu, it not so much about focussing on what people aren't doing, but focussing on the ones who are. "We have found we can just tell consumers in the Netherlands that they are not eating enough vegetables, when increasing consumption, it is important that the public thinks that a big group of people are already doing the right thing, which seems to have more of an impact. This was shown in a recent campaign we had here to encourage consumers to eat less meat and dairy and more vegetables, where 5 years ago, only 15% of people in the Netherlands were 'flexitarian' and now that figure is up to 60%."

"I think that convenience is key. We have been working a lot of increasing the availability of attractive and convenient products. For example at this event, there is fruit on the table, which is a large improvement to other shows when you often have sweets, however, no one here has taken one, which proves that although they are attractive, they have not met the need of being convenient. In our research we noticed that snack tomato and cucumbers a good example providing a fruit/vegetable that ticks both boxes." said Peppelenbos.

Both Jim Prevor and Dick Spezzano, president of Spezzano Consulting Service and chairman of PMA's Center for growing talent, stressed that the importance with new trends in vegetable consumption, is to make sure that the market share is being taken away from other departments such as salty and processed food and drinks, instead of replacing another fruit and vegetable. Kale was a good example of this, once it became very popular and consumption increased, instead of consumers eating more veg, it turned out that it had just replaced spinach as a side dish.

"I used to get a lot of demands from retailers, wanting to be the first ones to have the first of whatever fruit or veg was coming into season. What I learned at that time was that consumers can actually be turned off all together if you are offering the first tasteless peaches, for example, 5 weeks to early,"

"The bottom line is that we can do whatever we want in terms of promotion, marketing and product creation, but the overwhelming motivation for people to buy is still flavour." concluded Jim.