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Robbert Leisink, The Grower Retail Connexion:

“Resolutions in January are always followed by high consumption of soft fruit”

The Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong and Berlin, the Produce Shows in London, Amsterdam and New York, the Fruit Attraction in Madrid, the Macfrut in Rimini, the AGF Detail in Houten, the PMA’s in Orlando and Santiago: the 'Grower RetailConnexion' was present at all of these fairs this year, to get customers and cultivators excited for their Body and Brains concept. “We received very good feedback for this concept for high-quality fruit in an innovative packaging and with a logo that will trigger consumers. We can actually start supplying this packaging mid-January. We cannot wait,” says Robbert Leisink.

Import season
The current soft fruit import season has gone well, according to Robbert. “The import season for blueberries started with high prices, and we did not really have a drop in prices. During the entire season, we had two weeks when prices halted because of changing weather, but even then, prices remained at quite a good level. Programmes continued as usual, although day trading fell behind a bit. Fortunately, we had good quality and flavourful berries all season.”

“By now, demand is at a good level, and we have been at the same price level for more than three weeks already. In January and February, larger volumes from Chile will enter the market, and that always cause pressure on the prices. Fortunately, many promotional actions are planned during these months to sell volumes. After New Year many people will have made resolutions, and they will start doing sports and eating healthy, and the consumption of soft fruit is definitely part of that. The trend is for more healthy snack moments during the day. With the Body&Brains concept, retailers can make an additional contribution to making consumers aware of the importance of eating and snacking healthier.”

“With Body&Brains on the shelves, we can kill three birds with one stone,” Robbert continues. “A consumer who is more aware, a retailer contributing to this, and higher soft fruit sales, and it will also be good for us as a sector, for we have concluded that the presence of Body&Brains on shelves also results in increased sales of own brand soft fruit. And that is a fantastic win-win situation.”

Growers Packers is a club member of Planasa, the multiplier of Adelita and Lupita raspberries. “We have these available year-round, they are distinctive in size, flavour and shelf life. We have very good results for the cultivation of Adelita in the Netherlands, both in greenhouses and outside under covers. We have entered into conversations with various cultivators in Belgium, Germany and Austria to also start cultivating the raspberries in these countries,” Robbert explains. The majority of the soft fruit is sold within Western European retail by Growers Packers. “Blueberries are always available, at least they are if they are planted in time. However, with raspberries there are moments with serious shortages, such as in September and October. With local Adelita we see the possibility of filling these gaps.” 

“We see that our approach is successful with its direct lines towards retail, for which we operate transparently, and are honest towards cultivators and buyers. We are also working with colleague companies as much as possible, with the intention of making each other stronger. In the end, that is the most profitable to the sector,” Robbert says. The company does a lot to keep quality high. “At least 95 per cent of all pallets are inspected and tasted before departure, whether they are from Spain, Chile or Poland. The other five per cent are inspected by third parties, but according to our criteria. We focus on both flavour, appearance and shelf life. This automatically results in better outcomes for our customers and cultivators.”

There will also be plenty of challenges in 2017. “Soft fruit belongs to the more expensive fruits on the shelves. As suppliers, we are therefore all responsible to make sure the consumer is pampered and remains satisfied with their purchases, because that is the only way to ensure repeat purchases, allowing us to grow further as a sector. It is always possible to improve, even if you already think you are doing well. For example, improvements could be made in the supply chain, from cooling to shelves. We are ready to have another wonderful year, and we expect plenty of doors will open to us!” 
For more information:
Robbert Leisink
The Grower Retail Connexion
Venrayseweg 106C
5928 RH Venlo, the Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)88 888 578 8
Mob: +31 (0)6 203 373 49
[email protected]
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