The Greenery’s mission is to make fruit and vegetables affordable and attainable for consumers. The company does so by being active throughout the supply chain with their own growers, their own distribution centres, self-developed packaging, a professional marketing department and European retail customers. “No other party takes care of everything themselves like we do. I mean that regarding the width of our assortment and the involvement of all links in the supply chain.” Pieter Hogeveen, innovation manager for The Greenery, talks about innovations for The Greenery in the field of products, packaging, big data and process optimisation. He also talks about the participation in Markt Match, the two-day event for which 200 young people developed new concepts to renew the food sector.

Innovation throughout the supply chain
Innovation takes place throughout all the links of the supply chain for The Greenery. “We have product innovations, such as Sweet Sensation. This is a new pear variety. The pear tastes fresh and sweet, doesn’t have to be peeled and hardly drips. Besides, we have a large assortment of soft fruit that is constantly being innovated,” Pieter says. Together with growers, agronomists and international agriculturalists, The Greenery is always looking for the best varieties in soft fruit. With two of their own locations for testing new varieties and in close consultation with their own agronomist and growers, varieties are taken up into production concepts and marketed. Only the best selected soft fruit varieties are eligible for the Sweet and Sunny brand. These varieties stand out regarding flavour and appearance.

Pieter explains that besides product innovations, an important innovation is also being made in the field of packaging. “It’s a great annoyance for consumers: lids coming off the strawberry and soft fruit packaging. The result is squashed fruit spread through the entire shopping bag. The Greenery recognised this problem, and developed a resealable top-seal. This packaging contains 30% less plastic, it can be printed better, and it offers consumers convenience. The packaging is also a solution for the home delivery of soft fruit when ordered online.”

Supermarket performances improve with big data
Besides innovations in the field of product and packaging, The Greenery also offers modernisations towards retailers. “The Greenery gathers market data all the time to provide retailers with insights into how they perform and how they’re positioned regarding the market. Additionally, we research consumers’ purchasing behaviour, we work with trend watchers and we regularly talk to consumers to research how we can help them to eat more fruit and vegetables. That way, The Greenery thinks with their customers about their category management, and we advise them about, for example, their shelving plan and which products would be best for them.” Pieter expects to do even more with this in future: “I think there are many opportunities in big data combined with artificial intelligence to better decide what we can do to improve the performances of fruit and vegetables in supermarkets.”

Process optimisation with robots
An innovation focused less on the customer is the robotisation in distribution centres. “This way, we can work quicker and with fewer mistakes, it guarantees better quality and unburdens our employees doing heavy and repetitive actions. This is less a value proposition towards our customers, but this way we make sure all of our processes are settled, so that we can improve customer satisfaction in the end. After all, this results in fewer defects, fewer returns and less waste. That’s valuable to everyone,” Pieter says. “I also see potential to start offering propositions like ‘picked today, eaten today’ to our customers because of robotisation.”

Building ecosystems for innovation
Pieter explains his vision for the cooperation with and joining of forces in the food sector. “In my role as innovation manager, I believe in building ecosystems. I no longer believe relevant innovations can be thought up within the four walls of our company, but that this should honestly be done in cooperation with supply chain partners, knowledge institutions and start-ups. To gain knowledge, build relations, enter into new cooperations and to let wonderful propositions blossom from an innovation perspective. It then helps if you know each other and can physically meet. From the perspective of labour market profiling, I believe we can put the fruit and vegetable sector on the map even better by joining forces.”

Prize giving of Markt Match. Left to right: Steven Martina, CEO The Greenery, Irenke Meekma, General Manager Bakker Barendrecht, the winning team ‘Goed Brood’, Sharon Janmaat, project manager Rotterdam Food Cluster, André Dijk, CQO Hessing Supervers, Johan in ’t Veld, CEO Coolfresh en Coen Struijs, Account Manager Groot Zakelijk Rabobank.

Markt Match: breeding ground for talent and new innovations
The positioning on the labour market was one of the reasons to participate in Markt Match. Just like other partners, The Greenery also made an effort to make this event successful. During Markt Match, CEO Steven Martina was chairman of the jury, and multiple employees of The Greenery from various disciplines were present to talk to the participants about their ideas. According to Pieter, the event was definitely a success: “The set up and professionalism of the event were definitely successful. There was a great vibe, good atmosphere and many enthusiastic students. We positively showed the sector to a new generation.”

Besides, according to Pieter it was a breeding ground for new innovations and a good occasion to position The Greenery as an innovative company. Which innovation was most memorable? “I liked the ‘Opgeweckt’ concept a lot, a concept that renews the preserving techniques of the past. Unfortunately, this concept didn’t win any prizes.”

For more information:
Rotterdam Food Cluster