Colleagues meet for the 1st AGF Marketing Event

Tholen – A company is ready to invest 1 million euros in promoting the sale of fresh fruit and vegetables among young people (18-34 years) in the Netherlands. How would you use it? And how can you value sustainability? Colleagues inspired each other by discussing these issues at the 1st AGF marketing event organized by the NIMA Foodchain working group and the Agrimarketing community. The theme for this event is ‘Online and Offline Fruit and Vegetable Board 2025’. Relevant topics were discussed along with four presenters from the industry.

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Sales figures for fruit and vegetables – Wilco van de Berg
The first speaker was Wilco van de Berg from GroentenFruit Huis. He included the public in the sales figures for fruit and vegetables in 2021. Consumption is rising. “This shows a very nice development from 2018. On an annual basis, consumption grows by 3 to 5%,” Wilco showed. Consumption is still too low. The sale of fresh packages, which can be divided into soup packages and meal packages, does a great job. The supermarkets’ turnover has quadrupled in 5 years. The total cost of fresh packages in 2021 was as high as cucumbers (95 million euros), a top 10 product in fruit and vegetables.

Another important development, outside the supermarket, is the meal box. It has undergone an enormous development. Revenue increased in 2021 by 46% in volume and 49% in revenue and has a total value of around 250 million euros, which is the same as the total expenditure on tomatoes. The number of buyers has also increased in 2021, by 14%. “These are important developments and there are still many buyers to win because 6 out of 10 households have never bought a fresh package, the number of households using meal boxes is only 6%,” Wilco said.

Another important growth category is snack vegetables. The snack tomato has set the trend, but other snack vegetables (cucumber, carrot, pepper, snack mix and radish) are following the slipstream.

If you zoom in on different target groups, different buying trends can be detected. For example, peppers are popular with young people, but they do not want to buy cauliflower. The place where consumers buy fruit and vegetables is also changing markedly. Online is growing fast and speed cameras are also on the rise.

Added value for sustainability in the market? – Charlotte Nederpel
The other speaker was Charlotte Nederpel from Wageningen University & Research. She took those present on a tour of the cultivation process and the way in which breeders can respond to sustainability. Consumers demand transparency and want the cleanest possible product on the plate, she said. Breeding consciously or unintentionally works towards cleaner cultivation, cultivation where as few plant protection products as possible must be used. For example, the hairs of the eggplant plant were removed through breeding so that the predatory mite could better find its prey, which did damage to the plants. Varieties have also been developed in potatoes that are less sensitive to fungus, so that plant protection products should not be used 15 but only 4 times. Can this sustainability added value also be marketed? That was the question she asked the marketers during the discussion session.

Development of the meal box market, source EkoMenu

Health and Sustainability – Jack Stroeken
Jack Stroeken, founder and owner of Ekomenu, showed that fruits and vegetables are more than a stomach filler. The company that markets organic meal boxes wants to make this mainstream and also be a game changer in the food system. “Consumer confidence in large food and large retail trade has fallen dramatically. It creates a lot of uncertainty in the market and among supermarket customers who wonder if the products they buy are healthy but also sustainable. There are no wrong choices in Ekomenus meal boxes. We show that too. The CO2 footprint and water consumption have been calculated for each menu. “

Visualization of the impact of EkoMenus on the health of users and the planet, source: EkoMenu

Health and sustainability are closely linked. An unhealthy diet leads to a huge pressure on the healthcare system. “For every euro we spend at checkout, there are still 2 euros associated with healthcare costs,” Jack Stroeken said.

The company has developed thirteen meal concepts that in a certain way contribute to a healthy lifestyle, and this is also seen in the app that users can download. Among other things, users can see their vegetable consumption on the vegetable counter and the effects on his or her vitality (disease risk). “We want to change the food system ‘with the fork’ by not selling products, but solutions. With EkoMenu, we want to change consumer routines. ”

Participants divided into groups to discuss the speakers’ provocative questions

Love my salad – Jan van Doldersum
Finally, Jan van Doldersum from Rijk Zwaan spoke. The breeding company’s marketing department has a direct focus on the consumer. 10 years ago, they started the consumer platform Love my Salad, where they inspire consumers with recipes in more than 10 different languages. There are also targeted marketing campaigns at the product level. Two campaigns have been carried out in Germany and England to make the aubergine better known. In addition, various channels were used to address the target group, via the Love my Salad website, own social media channels (Facebook and Instagram) and selected influencers were invited to share recipes with aubergines, which had been sent to them in a box. This reached 1 million people in 2 months and there was also an increase in sales of eggplants. A similar campaign was launched to specifically promote snack cucumbers in the UK.

From February to April, a similar campaign ran for the pepper brand Sweet Palermo in collaboration with ReWe in Germany. In 6 weeks, 6 million people were reached via the ReWe website and newsletter and via influencers. Prior to this campaign, there was almost a year of preparation. The conversion was not yet known, but it was already clear that sales of Sweet Palermo were increasing in these weeks.

The organization of the 1st marketing event AGF was in the hands of the NIMA community Foodchain & Agrimarketing (FAM). The host was chairman Cock van Bommel (chairman NIMA FAM and business development manager at ErfGoed), who hoped that the participants would be excited about a continuation.

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