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Cool Logistics 2014, Rotterdam

Reviewing perishable trade expectations

In 1926, the Michelin star rating system was introduced to help consumers find the best restaurant experiences, and Jelger de Vriend, of Total Produce Direct, asks “what have we learned about consumers in the fresh produce industry and about the journey we have taken with them? What have we done over the past 80 years?”

According to Jelger, “our focus has been on maximising productivity and minimising costs, which has resulted, for instance, in the amazing Dutch greenhouse technology, while outside of the fresh produce world, much more effort has been spent in addressing consumers and making sure the journey is worthwhile.”

“A producer may apply a technique allowing him to increase his tomato yield, even if it has negative effects on the Brix, and thus the flavour, while the Michelin star system has taught us that consumers are willing to make a special journey for exceptional value.”

Jelger affirms that even retailers in the low prices segment are realising that it is important to be more focused on flavour as a way to add value to the purchase. “For example, by controlling an aspect such as the duration of a mango’s shipment, you will ultimately be influencing the flavour it will have by the time it reaches the consumer.”

The point is that the more information a ripener has about the fruit, where it comes from or how mature it was when it was harvested, the better that person will be able to ripen the product. “Consumers, after all, are our future, and if we are able to address their demands, we’ll be doing the right thing.”

For his part, Jean Vanmalle, of Compagnie Fruitiere, addressed some concerns of the supply chain, namely logistics, product quality and profitability. “In terms of organisation and standardisation, we are focusing on IT information systems providing us with forecasts of volume and sales, allowing us to know which commodities to ship to each market.”

The IT system also allows the company to have everything linked. “In all our north-bound routes, and in the future also south-bound, we make use of barcodes that allow for full traceability from farm to consumer.

Jean affirms that one of the issues to avoid in logistics is congestion; “a problem that can be solved through integration of the port. It is also important to be able to react to political issues, as well as to diversify both in your product range and your destinations.”