Delhaize is Belgium’s biggest supermarket. They have a wide range in fruit and vegetables, and the goal is to keep surprising the consumer. Sven Van De Voorde has been working as category manager fruit and vegetables for nearly a decade, and talks about the developments in this department.
“One of the characteristics of our range is that it’s very dynamic. Delhaize responds to the various seasons, because we want to keep surprising our customers. We see innovation as the solution to stay strong compared to our competitors. With our growers and suppliers, we create a platform where anybody can contribute ideas.”
According to Sven, these days the consumer expects a double response from the supermarket. “On the one hand, convenience is expected: people don’t want to spend too much time on a meal. On the other hand, they also want to have their own input, roll up their sleeves, have fun shopping and be surprised. That combination is very difficult for a supermarket. We see that customers are combining this very easily though, so we have to respond to both trends.” Delhaize is looking into what the developments in the market are, both in Belgium and abroad. “Because there is a big difference between what the customer says and what they actually do. That’s why market research alone is not sufficient. We try out concepts for a certain period of time, and evaluate how they’re doing.”
Regionality - growers
One condition for fruit and veg he says is very clearly increasing in importance, is locality. “Our customers are becoming increasingly chauvinistic, expecting Belgian vegetables on the shelves.” He notes that not all products are easily obtainable domestically. “For instance, we’re regularly looking for organic products and various leafy vegetables, both organic and conventional.” Therefore, Delhaize believes the relationship with growers is of great importance, buying directly from producers. “We look for the best growers and believe in personal relationships. For the growers, it’s attractive to work with us. We visit them a few times a year, respond to their pride to work for a well-known client, and build a long-term relationship with agreements, fair payment and good conditions.
Trends change quickly
In terms of trends and developments, there are always changes, of course. “Consumers change roughly every three years. The hype of chefs on TV is decreasing a bit, for instance, but people do want to cook their own food again. The coming years, we may be headed toward a completely different evolution. We mainly get our trends from England and Scandinavia at the moment. They aren’t afraid to think out of the box there. We can learn a great deal from these countries. Especially in processed products, they are innovative. If you want to know what will be important here three years from now, you need to go to England. Convenience is huge there. We need to filter out the right thing from it. Something we will also see increasingly often here, is mixing vegetables. How often do you eat only one type of vegetable these days?”