Growers don't have it easy right now and retailer Hoogvliet is doing everything they can to help suppliers. "Hoogvliet works with seasonal prices for most of the products, which guarantees a fair price for the growers all season long. When possible, we consciously choose Dutch fruits and vegetables, these products have a Dutch flag on them," says Ed ven Venrooij, category manager for Hoogvliet. On flyers in the store it is emphasized that Hoogvliet supports Dutch farmers.

Dutch tomatoes year round
According to the supermarket supplier Dutch consumers are indeed chauvinistic. "Our customers really want Dutch products. So we always start with domestic products as soon as they are available and able to be shipped out. In the beginning of the season the prices are higher, but customers are willing to spend the money. We do not sell imported (vine) tomatoes but instead year round Dutch tomatoes. This is something that makes us unique. They are more expensive, but the consumers are willing to be a charged a bit more. We are very satisfied with our sales, and with our Dutch growers as well."

Ed van Venrooij

When taking a tour around the fruit and vegetable section in Hoogvliet the unique vision of the retailer is apparent. Hoogvliet has 63 branches in North Holland, South Holland, Utrecht and Gelderland. The prices of the products are shown on electronic price tickets, this is the only supermarket in the Netherlands that has this technology thus far. "This way we can change the price of a product at the same time throughout all the branches," tell Ed. Hoogvliet works weekly with the five sharp vegetable offers that appear in the folders, and they have extra discounts on Mondays and Tuesdays. In terms of prices, we have been proven to be the cheapest, but that goes hand in hand with high quality."

Local shelving plan
Every Hoogvliet branch has a sample platter so customers can taste the season's products. "In terms of our message and communication, this is the same throughout all the branches, but each branch has it's own local set up. For example, in Katwijk we sell a lot of peeled turnips, but in Leiden, which is a big student town, peeled turnips are not very popular. In Leiden mushrooms sales are higher than average. So obviously it would not make sense to have a big presentation of turnips in the Leiden branch."

Hoogvliet collaborated with TNI to develop to concept in which consumers could save cars full of different snack paprika's and snack tomatoes, each with their own name. "The Netherlands is country that likes to save, and that really works. The Suske-en-Wiske packaged fruit from Fruitmasters is an example of a product that we have supplied for years. Customers will immediately ask where the Suske-en-Wiske fruit is of we don't have it for a short time," says the category manager. Customers even notice small changes, like when we put a green paprika in the light-paprika-packaging, instead of the normal orange paprika. "By itself the green paprika was the least selling paprika of all the colours, so why wouldn't you put it in the package in place of the orange?"

Banana sales

Hoogvliet has brochures with information over the origin, availability, and application of products in which little is known. "Unknown means unloved, but by communicating the unknown our customers will more actively search for healthy, unfamiliar products," says Ed. "Fibre and nutritional values of the products are displayed on boards. For example, many customers are not aware of the nutritional value of bananas, and bananas are the most sold product on the fruit and vegetable shelves. The banana price war has not devalued Hoogvliet. "We are indeed going to sell the bananas with no popular brand at a cheaper price, but we also offer well known banana brands and baby bananas as well. Banana sales have only increased."

Sales of organic products has also increased considerably at Hoogvliet. "The yearly EKO-counts done by Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth) have shown that we have the most organic products of all retailers in the Netherlands," says Ed very proudly. "We work as long as possible on a long term basis with our growers. We do not jump from grower to grower, we want to build something together. But that also does not mean that we are not open to new developments. Flower Sprout, Q&Me-cucumbers and Lamuyco-paprika's are just a few examples of the products that we offer. Our assortment of freshly-cut fruit is growing well and in the last few weeks Kiyomi's (a Japanese citrus fruit) have done quite well. And sometimes arrangements happen quite quickly. For example, potato grower Niek Vos, from the bio-dynamic cultivation business, called me up from Flevopolder. Now we offer Niek's products weekly. But a new product does have to be special in some way!"

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