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Loes Van der Velden, Den Berk Délice:

"We're combating unhealthy snacks with seedless snack bell peppers"

The snack segment has been gaining popularity in Belgium, too, in recent years. Life is moving faster, and people are busier, so convenience reigns supreme. To compete with chocolate bars or potato chips, the fruit and vegetable sector is always looking for ways to keep consumers away from unhealthy snacks.

Den Berk Délice expects to have a competitive product with its seedless snack bell peppers. These recently won the award for Best Product of the Year in the Fruit and Vegetable category in Belgium and the Netherlands. The Belgian company won the same award two years ago with Yoom.

"You must have nice products in your arsenal. I think we've undoubtedly succeeded with these snack bell peppers," begins Loes Van der Velden. Den Berk Délice started with that several years ago. "We've always specialized in tomatoes, which is still the main focus. However, we're always looking for innovations that add value to the vegetable world. In 2020, a seedless bell pepper entered the market. It's ideally grown between tomatoes because the bell pepper seeds then can't cross-pollinate. We decided to give it a go."

"We ran various tests, and it quickly became clear that the test panels and our clients loved it. Regarding ease of use and flavor, it's a very interesting product for the snack segment, which we're betting on on a large scale. We, thus, increasingly expanded it in the following years. We've been cultivating it effectively for the retail market for about two years and doubled our acreage last year. So, it's becoming a bigger and bigger product within our range," says Loes.

Brix value
In Den Berk Délice's search for innovations, flavor remains paramount. "Good flavor is essential; otherwise, even if the product has a great story, it won't sell."

"These snack bell peppers have a brix value that we've never really seen. Not even in tomatoes," Loes admits.

"That's the main reason we're betting on this product. The sweet, juicy snack bell pepper fits perfectly into our size range. That, and that it has no seeds, makes it the ideal snack vegetable, which should entice people to eat healthy."

The company sees that the snack segment is the part of the market that has been growing tremendously in recent years, according to Loes. "One of our goals is to get everyone eating healthier. Whether that's during meals or snacking at other times of the day. Demand for our snack tomato and the Miss Perfect has recently risen exponentially. The cold and hot preparations range is a growing segment, and we believe we can expand that with other products, like the seedless snack bell peppers," she says.

"To compete with unhealthy snacks, you must have a wide variety of nice products. So we're constantly innovating, not necessarily regarding prices, but in the tomato and bell pepper assortments. We test at least 200 different types every year. That doesn't always lead to anything, but once in a while, you find a gem. That's how we want to respond to a constantly evolving market - finding products that can add value."

Virus pressure
Tomato cultivation faces many challenges, and these days, risk spreading is not a luxury. "We, like many, have had problems with virus pressure," says Van der Velden. "Fortunately, we now have a resistant Miss Perfect tomato. That's one of the products we bet on the most and have great faith in."

"With that variety, we can now keep farming normally and assure retailers that we can continue supplying them year-round. It's wonderful that peace and continuity have returned. Also, with the seedless snack bell pepper, we've added to our snack range. We're once again enormously confident about the future," Loes concludes.

For more information:
Loes Van der Velden
Den Berk Délice
Email: [email protected]

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