In recent years, the French fruit and vegetable sector has seen the emergence of a new way to market vegetables. The labels Cultivated without Pesticides1 and Zero Pesticide Residue have found their place in the market, filling up the gap between the organic and conventional offer.
Cooperative Savéol, from Brittany, decided to take a chance with Cultivated without Pesticides1. "A label which best reflects their commitment to an eco-responsible approach for quite some time already", they say.
From an internal observation of technical performances to a range Cultivated without Pesticides1
Consisting of 120 growers from Finistere and 2,500 employees, the Savéol cooperative covers 219 hectares of tomato and 47 hectares of strawberry production.
While the new eco-responsible labels now regularly make the headlines, the commitment of the cooperative for this approach is not new.
“This is truly part of a long-standing progress initiative. Since 1963, we have integrated an insect farm within our cooperative. Now called Savéol Nature, this helps our growers in dealing with diseases and pests. This way, we can avoid the use of chemical treatments as much as possible."
This resulted in the desire to highlight these efforts for the consumer. The range of tomatoes Cultivated without Pesticides1 was created in 2015. "It currently represents nearly 10% of our offer,” explains Claire Malgorn, in charge of customer marketing at Savéol.
A range that Savéol aspires to develop
“This year, we have performed the final tests on a range of our gariguette strawberries that have been cultivated without chemical crop protection. "Although the first volumes are limited, they are the embodiment of major progress for the fruit and vegetable sector. This approach must be carried out collectively within the cooperative. The producers, agronomists, quality service and even the packaging stations must all be involved in order to guarantee to the consumer a product that is cultivated without pesticides, from the blossom to the plate, including the packaging.”
A major communication plan to familiarize consumers with the label
The interest for these eco-responsible certifications keeps growing, but some fear that the emergence of these new labels weakens the message for the general public. That is why Savéol has invested a lot to set up a major communication plan which aims to inform the consumer about the implications of this approach.
“1 consumer out of 4 buys these fruits,” says Claire.“We explain to the consumer the characteristics of the label Cultivated without pesticides1 label, which guarantees that no synthetic treatment is used during the entire production process."
"We also explain the Zero pesticide residue which ensures the absence of residue on the final product. So we are one step ahead. In order to make this distinction clear for the consumer, we have communicated a lot on our website, via social networks and more directly in supermarkets. A study from 2018 by CTIFL has proven that the “Cultivated without Pesticides1” label is the number one reason to buy these products. All the growers of the cooperative are committed to the PBI (Integrated Biocontrol), which favors biocontrol products and insects on all “our crops, including the conventional range,” explains Claire.
“We want to introduce our brand Cultivated without Pesticides1 in Spain and Italy”
According to Patricia Dinahey, the range Cultivated without Pesticides1 of Savéol has been successful in France because the market is receptive to environmental issues, but also thanks to the cooperative’s reputation. “We are fortunate to have a brand that enjoys a quality image and is recognized. Three French consumers out of four are now familiar with the Savéol brand.”
The cooperative does not want to limit its range Cultivated without Pesticides1 to the French territory but intends to export it as well. “Currently, 10% of our revenue comes from abroad. We are growing in Germany, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium and England with this promise of taste that characterizes our brand. We even exported our range Cultivated without Pesticides1 to Hong Kong. We now wish to introduce it on the Spanish and Italian markets where there is a definite interest from the consumer and large retailers for products without Pesticides1. But unlike France, these markets are not fully mature. It will therefore be necessary to make the range and our approach known,” concludes Patricia.