Over the years, Normec Foodcare has considerably expanded its range of activities within the Dutch fruit and vegetable sector. Acquiring N&S Quality was followed by Innovative Fresh, Groen Agro Control, Maas Fruit Quality Inspection (MFQI), Goodacre, and QC One.
"Each Business Unit does what it does best, but we link much more of our knowledge. We're a food safety, product quality, and taste knowledge partner, so we have the entire fruit and vegetable chain at our fingertips. What our fellow inspectors see at the port or DC, we see in stores," begins Normec Innovative Fresh's Director of Quality & Business Development Karin Gorree.
"N&S offers training via Normec Training & Education. MFQI and Goodacre merged into Normec Maas Goodacre, one of the largest fruit and vegetable inspection players. Inspection results are digitally recorded and documented in QC One, giving customers and suppliers same-day reports."
"These days, Normec Groen Agro Control does laboratory analyses for the fruit and vegetable and horticulture sectors, while Normec Innovative Fresh takes a consumer perspective on products' quality at the end of the chain. Thanks to this bundling of knowledge, we can offer clients more depth of service. And this complete service package makes us unique in the market," says Karin.
Taking a consumer perspective
"All fruit and vegetable quality-related aspects come together, from training to inspections and quality control that involves flavor. That's also in line with our mission of wanting everyone to be able to easily enjoy good, tasty, safe food. The fruit and vegetable world, however, is complex, and product quality and availability fluctuate constantly."
"With Normec Foodcare, we offer a grip on fruit and vegetable quality. That's a response to consumer demand, too, because I ask people what's truly important about fruit and vegetables, and they always say quality. And we do exactly that: take a consumer perspective," Karin explains.
"We visit about 100 supermarkets every week where we buy products on behalf of our customers. We extensively test those for quality, appearance, taste, and shelf life. We, thus, relieve parties in the entire chain, from grower associations to supermarkets. For example, we answer questions like 'which ToBRFV-resistant tomato variety do shoppers prefer?' "
" 'And does the coating on avocadoes help or not?' So, we help retailers with questions about whether treating fruit and vegetable products to reduce packaging makes sense. We also help growers with their variety choice and show them how their tomatoes fare against the competition in stores," says Gorree.
Market situation affects quality
News of vegetable shortages presently dominates the trade sector. Still, according to Karin, this market situation does not overshadow quality research. "Forward-thinking people are continuously working on quality. But the market situation is definitely having an impact. Spain and Morocco are coming up, and their tomatoes, for instance, are much more acidic. Stores also carry far more traffic light bell pepper packs with green peppers than before."
"I'm curious to see that's long-term effect. Also, almost all Dutch supermarkets have now switched to Spanish strawberries, whereas in recent years, they tended to carry Dutch strawberries year-round. Energy prices have put an end to that, but that's also leading to major quality differences. Spain's strawberries are firmer and often have a high enough Brix level but aren't always the tastiest," continues Karin.
And were vegetables really that much tastier as the older generation likes to claim? Karin doubts it. "Seed breeders do their best to breed tasty, good products. But you depend on more chain aspects to get the right product sold at the right time. There are so many things to consider. Our team of experienced fruit and vegetable experts and inspectors knows better than anyone how to help growers, importers, or supermarket chains be distinctive," she concludes.
For more information:
Normec Innovative Fresh
Mob.: +31 (0) 639 013 444