Maarten van der Leeden and Maarten van Geest, Rijk Zwaan:
“Fresh meal kits and organic seeds are just two ways we’re responding to the current trends”
Rijk Zwaan’s Global Open Field e-vent
From now until mid-October, Rijk Zwaan’s Global Open Field e-vent once again offers the opportunity to see the latest varieties and exchange thoughts and ideas about market developments. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the set-up is slightly different than in previous years, however. “We’ve installed cameras out in the field and we have a director and various webinars to address the specific needs of customers and partners, such as by providing information about our organic range and our concepts,” says Maarten van der Leeden, Account Manager at Rijk Zwaan. “Thankfully, it’s still possible to attend in person too because we’ve taken all the necessary safety measures.”
Rijk Zwaan is primarily focused on the most commercially interesting varieties. Besides regular varieties, the company now also offers a wide choice of organic seeds and non-chemically treated seeds, according to Maarten van Geest, Crop Specialist at Rijk Zwaan: “Breeding programmes are increasingly converging. The demand for organic vegetables continues to rise worldwide. Ever-fewer crop protection agents are available for use in regular crop production, which is why we’re fully committed to varieties and seeds with high resistances and exceptional quality.”
From seed to table
To respond to the latest trends and developments, Rijk Zwaan takes a chain-wide view. “You have to understand the whole process, from a tiny seed until the vegetable ends up on someone’s table. You need to know what consumers do with the vegetables and what they want. We use that as our starting point for developing all kinds of concepts,” says Van der Leeden.
Unpackaged organics for small households
One example of such a concept is Little & Fresh: organic vegetables aimed at smaller households. The vegetables are sold without packaging. According to consumer research, a third of consumers have a strong preference for organics and a third are neutral. This amounts to a majority of consumers being open to the idea of organic products. Thanks to their small size, the vegetables are also very suitable for meal kits.
The Little & Fresh concept: unpackaged organic vegetables for small households.
Fresh meal kits are a huge success for Dutch retailers. “This trend was under way before the coronavirus outbreak, but the crisis has accelerated it. Some retailers list as many as 50 different variations so that home cooks can prepare convenient yet healthy meals. Each kit contains precisely the right amounts of all the necessary ingredients,” adds Van der Leeden. As part of this concept, Rijk Zwaan has developed four of its own kits, two featuring Crunchy Lettuce – a small cos lettuce type that withstands heat well – and two with Cabbisi, a new mini pointed salad cabbage.
Meal kits featuring Cabbisi: chicken and avocado salad (l) and Balinese salad.
Crunchy Lettuce: chicken and cashew wrap (l) and Mexican beef wrap.
At the demo field
Lettuce is one of the most widely eaten vegetables in the world, so it is a very extensive category. Rijk Zwaan has a suitable lettuce type for every kind of salad, burger or lettuce blend, and they are all on view at the demo field. A number of them are highlighted below.
Butterhead lettuce, such as Excipio shown here, remains an important type for summer salads.
The lollo biondo is another important type in the summer.
Red lettuce types add a splash of colour to the range. Pictured is a cos lettuce type with deep red outer leaves, and an entirely red-leaved cos lettuce type called ‘Robin’. “Flavour and bite are two important elements in a salad. We developed Robin as an alternative to radicchio, which is often used to make lettuce blends more colourful. However, radicchio isn’t really a lettuce type and it has a slightly bitter taste,” continues Van der Leeden.
Rijk Zwaan is the Dutch market leader in spinach, which is growing in popularity as consumers are increasingly using fresh spinach in salads, stir-fries or smoothies. The leaf type is also very important in relation to packaging. The savoy type has a crinkly leaf texture which prevents the leaves from sticking together.
There are various successful cabbage varieties, from savoy to coloured cauliflower. White cabbage is an important crop. Rijk Zwaan’s Mucsuma is a strong variety that produces easy-to-clean cabbages that are suitable for both the fresh market and the processing industry. The variety is tolerant to thrips. At the demo field, they discovered that planting it a little later reduces the thrips pressure even further.
Rijk Zwaan is also making good progress in broccoli. Larsson is its most important variety.