The exotic fruit and vegetable assortment is expanding. Now that avocados and mangoes are becoming more familiar, it is time to also introduce consumers to other products.
Yex sees it as a challenge to surprise consumers with products from all over the world. The import company wants to make exotics commonplace. How? “By sharing our passion for exotics and introducing everybody to unfamiliar and surprising flavours,” says manager Martijn de Graaf. “We therefore also think it is very important to continually inspire and inform consumers about the exotics. Consumption is increasing, but there is still much ignorance in the field of product knowledge. Avocado and mango are fairly well established by now, but that is about it. By thinking as consumers and introducing our products directly to consumers we hope to bring more and more exotics into consumers’ homes.”
Product does not sell itself
Informing and inspiring is done in various ways. For example, much research is done with consumer panels, and there is a pilot shop in the Markthal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In the Markthal, an assortment of exotics is offered. Consumers can see, feel and taste the products here. “Mangosteen, for example, can hardly be found anywhere, but does very well in the Markthal. This is not just due to its good flavour, but also to the manner of presentation. Our team is there to tell the story behind the product. Mangosteen is known as the queen of fruits. This, in combination with tasting, sells.” Brand Manager Jeroen Groenewegen adds that information about the use of the product is just as important. “When mangosteen are just lying in shops, there might be interest in it, but people do not buy them because they do not know what to do with them. We, together with retailers, are now also looking at possibilities to trigger consumers to buy them in shops. Exotics are offered in Dutch supermarkets, but there is still much more potential by means of support in shops. Retailers also benefit from our approach to getting products into shopping baskets.”
The consumer panel was launched last year. About four times per year, the group of ‘average’ consumers meet at the office in Poeldijk, and products are tested for flavour, packaging, accompanying information and other things. Questionnaires are also regularly sent out. “We use the information to advise our customers,” says Jeroen. “It is very useful information. We as experts might be very enthusiastic about a certain product, but consumers might disagree.” Yex also informs and inspires with flyer material in shops. Preparation of the exotic is explained in three steps, and the flyers also contain recipes. For more information, recipes, application and storage tips, the website 'Discovered' is referred to. Recently, Discovered also became available via Whatsapp. Consumers can easily ask questions about products, or share tips and recipes, during office hours.
Story behind the product
Additionally, the exotics importer is currently working hard on telling the story of the farmers. “We would be nowhere without farmers. We are dependent on the source,” Martijn explains. “Arriving at a farm after hours of driving on unpaved roads, and then seeing how passionate they are for their product; should consumers not also know this?” The stories of the farmers are casually told on the website by the cockatoo Yexi. The cockatoo, which is also part of the logo, symbolises the adventurousness of the importer. Earlier this year, the company adopted the pink-breasted cockatoos in Blijdorp Zoo, in Rotterdam. Jeroen: “The virtual sister Yexi can now also be bought as a cuddly toy. These cuddly toys are spread globally to make the brand bigger. Next year, the Discovered line will be completely revised, and will be given a new and fresh look, which fits our vision for the brand’s future even better.”
To emphasise the message behind Discovered, Yex started a cooperation with Dafne and Sanne Schippers this summer. Because of that, the brand is now Official Food Partner of dafnelikes.com, the foodplatform of first-class athlete Dafne and her sister Sanne Schippers. “The familiar way, but also the enthusiasm, with which they inspire their followers to cook with new and healthy, but mostly tasty products, is something that really fits us like a glove,” Jeroen says. “Dafne travels all over the world for training and matches, and comes into touch with all sorts of special products. The fun thing about Discovered is that it also has exotic fruits and vegetables they do not yet know, making it even more challenging to create something surprising for their blog.” The cooperation might be professional, Martijn is convinced that the enthusiasm Dafne and Sanne have for the Discovered products is genuine. “Of course, it is an added bonus that Dafne is known all over the world because of her participation at the Olympics, and that has already led to more followers at our social media channels.”
Helping consumers and retailers
This year, Yex managed to become more visible on shop floors. Next year, the importer hopes to continue in this line. “We also want to remove any possible thresholds for consumers. So much food is being wasted. We really have to stop doing that. People should be made aware that simple recipes are definitely possible with exotics.” Looking at other markets, such as Scandinavia which has a much wider range of exotics, Martijn and Jeroen think some improvements could definitely still be made. “However, this does require some attention. You cannot just put products in shops without any packaging. Consumers, but also retailers, have to kept informed and inspired. Only then will exotics end up in shopping baskets.”
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