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Nijs and Teun van Zuilen, BerryBrothers:

"We're increasingly being seen as a year-round soft fruit supplier"

The new Dutch soft fruit season is about to start at BerryBrothers. They sold the last of their stored redcurrants last week. "We're often out of stock by late March. This year, that took slightly longer. The quality of the redcurrants from storage was superb. We've innovated a lot in cultivation, and we're now reaping the rewards," begins Nijs van Zuilen.

One of those innovations is cultivation in pots, which allows for even better water and nutrient supply control. "The plants are much more vital, with more robust berries for storage. Picking performance is also higher, which, given the recent labor costs increases, is a must."

Good storage year
"Redcurrant sales were good and there seem to have been fewer of these in storage across Europe, including the Netherlands. And, when there are slightly fewer redcurrants, prices rise. It was a good storage year, quality and price-wise," says Nijs.

Preparations for the new season are now well underway. "We expect the first redcurrants around May 15 and will also start with the first greenhouse blackberries around that time. For those, we're focusing on the Sweet Royalla variety, a high-quality blackberry that suits our customers. We begin growing raspberries around the same time, too. We plan to expand that cultivation area in the coming years. Later in the year, we'll also start producing blueberries and white currants."

"It's great that our clients also find us in the winter for imports. We source plenty of fruit from Peru, Morocco, and Portugal and currently import redcurrants from Chile. We remain growers but are increasingly seen as year-round soft fruit suppliers for the entire package. The imported fruit complements our season well, helps level out the labor peak, and keeps buyers on board. It works perfectly," Nijs explains.

He describes BerryBrothers' sales markets as very steady. "The Benelux and German-speaking countries are our main markets, which don't fluctuate much. Our sales are nicely distributed between retail, wholesale, food service, and Dutch exporters. Online retail is a relatively new channel. Since their shoppers can't see the products, more and more of those stores want to buy the best products directly from the source. They're in good hands with us."

Future-oriented Cultivation
At one of their locations, brothers Teun and Gijs are busy taking over the nursery from their father, Albert. "As the new generation, we look at future-oriented cultivation. Here, the focus is on mechanization, working conditions, and reducing pesticide use. All the techniques currently used in soft fruit cultivation show increased similarities with modern horticulture. That's good because our soft fruit's quality is improving," says Teun.

Teun and Gijs van Zuilen

Construction of a new redcurrant growing system will commence in the fall. "Not many new redcurrant varieties are being developed. There are only two main ones. Climate change is making growing more challenging, and it's important that, as berry specialists, we try to find new varieties. We're collaborating with Wageningen University to optimize redcurrant storage further."

Closed cardboard packaging
Developments in packaging are also ongoing. "There's more and more demand for cardboard packaging. We already supply many cardboard trays but are now introducing the first closed cardboard packaging with a sleeve over the tray," Teun explains.

Construction of the agro-apartment is well underway at their main location. "Future-oriented entrepreneurship isn't only about cultivation; good housing is crucial, too. We're thus delighted to realize this housing. The first residents will move in in June, and eventually, it will sleep 180 people," Nijs concludes proudly.

For more information:
Nijs / Teun van Zuilen
18 Nijken, 6088 NR
Roggel, the Netherlands
Tel.: +31 (0) 646 708 453
[email protected] / [email protected]

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