The Greenery and its growers are ready for the Dutch, non-heated, soft fruit cultivation season. "The recent years' varieties are going to make a crucial difference in the supply. These are strawberries, raspberries, and red currants. They are selected from Plant Sciences Inc. and Sant Orsola's breeding programs. More than 90% of our farmers are now also Planet Proof certified. Our soft fruit team's experts are ready to fill any client demand," says product manager, Rob van der Weele.
"Reflecting on these past months, we see that the COVID-19 measures affected sales. But the import season was certainly not disappointing. We had Spanish strawberries under the Sweet and Sunny label. We, therefore, had ample supply for retail programs, wholesalers, and the day trade," he continues.
"The greenhouse strawberry season was satisfactory, and production is running back. We are looking forward to things, certainly, with the Dutch season starting up again now. We have an expert for each product. They are very knowledgable about the products and market."
"There is a lot of daily contact between our employees and the growers. They discuss weekly crop expectations and quality. In this way, we can fulfill all our clients' demands correctly," says Rob.
Uniform strawberries for a long time
The Greenery has been a Dutch strawberry market leader for several years now. The Dutch season started again a few weeks ago. Sales are good. Senior salesman, Marin Robbertsen, says, "Especially our new variety, Inspire, is exceeding expectations."
"We used to have a single variety, which the Sonata being added later. Now we work with varieties from our breeding programs. For example, the Inspire comes into early production. It evenly produces nice fruit. They store well and have a nice, sweet flavor. The Arabella will begin in a few weeks."
"It will also be available under the Sweet and Sunny label again. The Arabella is a nice, robust strawberry that tastes very good too. The Greenery has this strawberry variety from mid-May to October," he continues.
"The Sonsation has now gained a foothold in the day trading sector. There, demand is very high. With these varieties, The Greenery can offer strawberries early in the Dutch season already. These are uniform for a long time and taste good too. That is exactly what our clients and their customers want."
Good expectations for the cherry season
"When it comes to cherries, we work with a great group of farmers. They are spread across the Netherlands," says seller, Cas van Loon, proudly. "That means we have good-quality, tasty cherries at the beginning as well as the end of the season."
"Every year, we evaluate which cherries give added value, now and in the long term. We continually select varieties. The Dutch cherry flowering looks good this year. Hopefully, that means a good, high-volume crop."
"We import cherries from selected cultivation companies. They are in France, Spain, and Greece. With these, we start earlier than the Dutch season. We received the first Spanish cherries this week. They taste wonderful."
Year-round supply of blueberries
The demand for blueberries has exploded in recent years. The Greenery and its growers devised an approach. They wanted to be able to supply blueberries year-round. Cas, who also sells blueberries, says, "We are well-represented throughout the Netherlands when it comes to blueberries."
"We work on a large scale with a farmer in the south of the country. He is often one of the first in the Netherlands to have blueberries available. In the middle of the country, we work closely with a cooperative. This year, they benefitted from an irrigation system they purchased. So, the recent weeks of night frost caused them no harm."
"And in the north, we have arable land with a high sustainability goal. We expect there will be more blueberries this year, compared to last year. That is thanks to limiting frost damage. Throughout the year, we also import and sell blueberries from permanent suppliers," he adds.
"These suppliers are from all over the world. Here too, we select fruit based on appearance, flavor, and shelf life. We have responded well to the growing blueberry demand. We are investing in further development, along with our suppliers and clients."
People recognize Lazoet plums
Cas is also responsible for plum sales. "Lazoet plums let us offer a product that retains its appearance and flavor throughout the season. This ensures consumers recognize it, and it stimulates consumption. Last week's hail hit some plum plots. The exact damage is still to be determined."
Best raspberry, blackberry, and red currant varieties per season
Marcel van Lith has been selling raspberries, blackberries, and red currants for almost 22 years. He has seen much change over the years. "Today, blackberry greenhouse farming is concentrated among a few large, professional growers. That means we can supply large retailers throughout Europe as well as, for instance, the foodservice industry."
"That is also the case with outdoor cultivation. There, the focus lies domestically. There is, generally, sufficient supply in the rest of Europe. Exports are, therefore, more difficult now. We talk to our growers, agronomist, and sales team every day. This is so we can spread the supply as well as possible throughout the year."
The Greenery continually chooses the best varieties for the season. Currently, the Lochness is the main variety, with the Chester providing additional spread. Agronomist, Klaas de Jager, says, "We investigate various varieties. We are always looking for something that will mean an improvement over the current variety."
"Not only for the farmer, for the client too. During selection, we focus on varieties with which our clients will continue to have the best variety available. There must also be minimal peaks and troughs in the supply."
"When it comes to raspberries, the focus lies with the new Lagorai and Nobility varieties," says Marcel. "These are selected for flavor, firmness, productivity, and picking ease. These aspects make these fruits attractive to both growers and clients. That this method works can be seen in the Lagorai being chosen as 2018's best product."
"Here too, we ensure a good spread throughout the season as well as good prognosis. This is done in consultation with our growers, agronomist, and salespeople. Our programs are then tailored as closely to this as possible. We sell our raspberries to the retail sector as well as market vendors and at auction."
"With red currants, we start with the new Haronia variety early in the season. This variety tastes good, so we tempt people into repeat purchases. Especially in the summer, we focus on sales in the Netherlands. In the winter, the focus, with storage berries, is mostly on export destinations," says Marcel.
"We implement good sales plans, along with our farmers. We sort and store many of red currants centrally. So, we are assured of the best storage facilities. That, in turn, means the product has a uniform flavor and quality. And with a flexible packing plant, we can always respond quickly to all market demands."
Modern soft fruit distribution center
Peter van der Pluijm, is the company's DC location manager. He ensures all the product deliveries run smoothly. "We work in the heart of soft fruit production country. We have a modern distribution center. It is fully specialized in the storage, processing, and packaging of soft fruit and asparagus. Annually, we see, for instance, getting top Tesco recognition - now, for three years running - as our work's crowning glory. Every day we work with experienced soft fruit staff. The aim is to gain and retain clients and satisfy consumers. We want to meet all our clients' demands. We, therefore, sort and package our soft fruit in a specially equipped packing plant. There too, we have our own sorting and packing lines."
Ready for the future
Van der Weele is confident about the future. "As we look ahead, businesses will keep changing. That is good because stagnation means decline. Growers will expand, and smaller farmers will disappear, or fill a niche market. Retailers will keep growing."
"There is much room for importers, wholesalers, and exporters too. We serve each client group via the best sales channel. That could be at auction, through day or week trading, or over longer periods. In principle, everything is negotiable, as long as it is feasible," he concludes.
For more information:
Tel: +31 (0) 180 656 980
Mob: +31 (0) 612 746 736
Raspberries, blackberries, and red currants:
Marcel van Lith
Tel: +31 (0) 180 656 974
Cherries, plums, and blueberries:
Cas van Loon
Tel: +31 (0) 180 656 774
Mob: +31 (0) 651 822 746