Nic Jooste of Dutch importer Cool Fresh is urging the international fresh produce sector to start focusing on being a fundamental player within the modern-day food scene, instead of having what he describes as a ‘me, myself and I’ attitude. PBUK speaks with the marketing director about shaking up the thinking.
Jooste says it is common knowledge that the food landscape is changing at lightning speed as new consumer trends develop fast. During the past 10 years, he claims consumers worldwide have changed radically with many starting to ‘rebel’ against being told what they should buy and what they should eat.
“The digital era has enabled consumers to make their own choices in terms of how they put together their shopping and how they create their recipes,” Jooste notes. “Yet still there is a tendency to market individual fresh produce items in isolation.”
The companies behind the ‘mealbox’ concepts understand this change, according to Jooste, and are cleverly cannibalising the retailers’ market share.
“They are tantalising tastebuds and seducing consumers with cleverly put together recipes, which contain a lot of fresh produce,” he points out.
“Having tried it personally, my wife and I were (and continue to be) amazed at the exciting new styles of cooking, and especially the ideas for combining fresh produce with meat, fish, poultry and dairy.
Jooste laments that even in his own house the reaction to suggesting something like butternut squash for dinner is not met as enthusiastically as a lamb and butternut wrap with minted couscous.
With that in mind, Jooste says it begs the question why fresh fruits and vegetables are not cross-promoted more with other industries from the healthy food scene.
“Why should Cool Fresh continue marketing just ‘garlic’ if there is a whole world of exciting food concepts and combinations out there?,” he questions.
For some time now Jooste has been urging fresh produce companies to change before change overcomes them. The worry, he believes, is that medium- and smaller-sized companies – especially those who are focused on sustainability and with a strong branding focus – may get left behind.
“The challenge will be to win over consumers, so they choose the sustainable, branded products which they believe in, and those brands which they know the stories behind,” he explains. “This is a point which came out very strongly in our research on Generation Z.”
Generation Z – which will account for 40% of the world’s population by 2020 – has a completely different take on what constitutes a healthy meal, points out Jooste. They want delicious food and exciting flavours, anytime, anywhere.
“For Generation Z consumers, variety, uniqueness and sustainability all come together in food, and they expect brand-owners to advertise accordingly, and then deliver the goods,” he says.
Shaking up the thinking
To this end, Jooste believes the future of the fresh produce business can be cemented far more effectively by collaborating seriously with other ‘foodies’ from the fish, meat and dairy industries.
“Recently I attended a really inspiring meeting with the City of Rotterdam, which posed exactly this question,” he notes. “Wouldn’t it be better for the Dutch food industry to work closely together to inspire new trends and concepts, instead of each doing his own thing?
“This reminded me of recent conversations with an Amsterdam-based supplier of sustainable fish. We realised we have almost exactly the same commercial and sustainability focus, including aspirations for our companies and many great stories to tell.
“Yet I was pushing ‘the Dutch leek’, while he was marketing ‘the Dutch sole’, so we discussed collaborating to market ‘the unique Dutch leek and sole pie’.”
In the near future, Jooste foresees collaborative advertising and joint promotions with other ‘good food’ products becoming much more mainstream.
“During the retail tour of The New York Produce Show and Conference 2016 I saw how most [US] retailers are doing crossover displays on the sales floor,” he explains. “For instance, tomatoes are merchandised with mozzarella cheese, or the butchery department features a display of corn on the cob. This trend is developing fast among independent Dutch retailers too.”
Ultimately, Jooste believes UK retailers will follow the trend. But it all depends on how easy food suppliers make it for them, he says.
Cool Fresh, which has a track record of being bold and continuously striving for change, is already making steps in the right direction.
Jooste says he has been inspired to redefine Cool Fresh’s branding and advertising strategy and to start focusing on creating concepts which retailers could use in their communication for consumers.
Already, the company has approached contacts within the sustainable fish and meat industries who have agreed without hesitation to work together.
Also, Cool Fresh is participating in the Rotterdam Food Cluster, which works to link and strengthen around 6,000 food-related businesses operating within a 30km radius across the region.
“Rotterdam has a host of like-minded food companies and entrepreneurs who all believe in sustainability,” Jooste points out. “My first focus would be to follow a regional approach: in other words, to create a solid foundation amongst like-minded companies who could work together on creating inspiring stories.”
Jooste believes these discussions will provide a first platform from which Cool Fresh can create broader-based food concepts. He expects to be ready with the first new ideas by mid-October, ready to launch at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference 2017 (APS17).
During the event, Cool Fresh will also sponsor a chef’s demonstration in which Jord Althuizen from BBQ caterer Smokey Goodness will demonstrate how, for example, smoked pineapple can work wonders with a dish of grilled chicken.
How to get started
For other fresh produce companies looking to make the change, Jooste says, as always, the journey will start internally.
“Companies would have to look inward and ask themselves what role they wish to play in the sustainable food scene,” he notes. “If management does not believe that such a step is necessary, then do not start.”
However, he cannot foresee any major difficulties for companies that are willing; they only have to start talking.
On a broader front, he says an event such as the APS17 will provide an opportunity to pursue with like-minded companies and organisations some creative and strategic discussions about collaborative advertising.
“With the high concentration of retail buyers present at the APS17, Cool Fresh is looking forward to shaking up the thinking and coming up with joint concepts which really appeal to the modern consumer,” Jooste foresees.
Delegates attending the APS17 will also have the opportunity to see first-hand the cross-promotions taking place in Dutch stores during the retail tour on 17 November.
The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference 2017 takes place on 15-17 November at the Westergasfabriek.
Register online here now.