The time's finally come – the Dutch company, Van Gelder Groente en Fruit's Experience Center is open. This is where the industry can be inspired about what's possible with healthy food. "Visitors are welcome daily from Monday to Friday between 10:00 and 17:00. They can dive into the world of healthy food, flavor, and sustainability. When you walk out, you'll be fully inspired. You'll know what's possible with fruit and vegetables. And of course, there's plenty to taste," begins Gerrit van Gelder.
The shuttles in Van Gelder's automated warehouse are hard at work filling orders again. The reopening of the hospitality sector has benefitted sales. Van Gelder moved into new premises right after COVID-19 hit the Netherlands. He'd always wanted to show the warehouse at work in all its glory. Finally, that long-cherished wish has come true. "There was a temporary upturn last summer. We're assuming we can now continue to deliver in full.'
The advanced shuttle system is good for 52,000 storage sites. It's operated by 92 ADAPTOs. At the workstation, the order picker receives the products in crates. Completed orders are immediately returned to cold storage. When it's time. the orders are automatically prepared at the dock. Thanks to millions of euros of investment, the company, which had 250 operators, now has 15. Temporary workers were made redundant. But, there are now plenty of new personnel vacancies in the fully automated, 24/7 warehouse.
Added value for chefs
Van Gelder Groente en Fruit's new building is a showcase in more ways than one. Last weekend, for example, was the long-awaited opening of the Experience Center. "No matter how highly automated our warehouse is, we're not about products like cauliflower, cucumber, and iceberg lettuce. That's not where our added value lies. That's why we invite members of the hospitality industry to come and be inspired," continues Gerrit.
"We want to show them how they can attractively present healthy products. We provide the experience and try to convey that to the chefs. They always leave with information and recipes with which they can distinguish themselves. Chefs must offer their guests a great dining experience. Then they're sure to return."
Visitors can see the latest fruit and vegetable gadgets too. "For instance, lettuce on rolls. These are from the PlantLab's Plant Production Units. There are herb-growing towers. People can get ideas from Vreugdenhil's Pick-and-Joy vegetable plants. And the smoothie machine prepares fresh customized smoothies. We treated the visiting Fresh Plaza editor to a warm sandwich. It contained pulled jackfruit, Greek coleslaw, wasabi dressing, and roasted sesame seeds," explains Van Gelder.
"Members of the public as well as companies and clients are welcome. They can come and enjoy a healthy smoothie every day. Or a delicious lunch like tasty soup, fresh sandwiches or warm pasta. Also, in the morning, besides a cup of coffee, scrumptious fruit cake or apple pie is waiting for you. Or you can discover our unique tea concept. And see how a fresh smoothie is made before your eyes."
"The PlantLab understands indoor cultivation. We have customer and flavor know-how. We grew lettuces and herbs as sustainably as possible in just 18 days. That's how we create win-win situations, and we do that with all our partners," says Gerrit. Various suppliers have therefore use the new building and book meeting rooms. These include Zespri, Fruity Pack, Schaap Holland, Peka Kroef, Beekers Berries, Koppert Cress, and FruitMasters.
"Our daily work is from the perspective of a grower who wants to see his products thrive. It's with the passion of a greengrocer who only wants the best for his customers. And with the conviction of a chef who expects top ingredients for his guests. We want to supply the best fresh products every day. That's why I think it's so great that we've opened this center. One of education, experience, innovation, and inspiration in the field of fresh produce. And it's right on the spot where my father once grew his Brussels sprouts," concludes Gerrit.