At Eosta, they firmly believe that packaging-free is the best option for organic produce. In 2016, it was the first Dutch trading house for organic fruit and vegetables to switch to natural branding. The company values its collaborative partnership with Rijk Zwaan, which – by developing organic vegetable seeds – is also helping the fresh chain to advance in that context. For example, strong cucumbers with a long shelf life do not need to be sealed in plastic.
When asked whether the coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for packaged products, Paul Hendriks, Packaging Manager at Eosta, is adamant in his reply: “No, that’s definitely not the case for organic vegetables. We sell our organic fruit and vegetables to specialist retailers and supermarkets throughout the whole of Europe. We’ve asked our customers the same question, but they haven’t noticed any increase; consumers still take a very critical view of packaging, and of plastic in particular. That’s a real pull factor.”
Preventing packaging for organic fruit and vegetables
Eosta has a clear vision on packaging, guided by Lansink’s Ladder which forms the basis of today’s waste hierarchy concept. The first step is prevention. Hendriks: “We sell organic fruit and vegetables, not packaging. We are driven by our belief that organic produce is better for the planet. Why would you want to add extra packaging to a natural product that has required so much effort from the value chain? When talking to customers, we recommend transport packaging only. Of course the product must be visibly recognisable as organic in stores, but a shelf label can do that too.”
Consumers embrace natural branding
Natural branding is an excellent alternative. “In that case, we laser the organic logo onto each individual product. At Eosta, we were the first to do that back in 2016, but thankfully others have followed suit since then. Around 15 types of fruit and vegetables, such as mangos, avocados, cucumbers, aubergines, watermelons and courgettes, already have a proven track record, and we’re currently testing the technique for tomatoes, peppers, apples and pears. The percentage is growing each year. Consumers have really embraced natural branding.” Other – albeit less ideal – alternatives for organic produce include a sticker on the product, packaging made from sugar-beet fibres, or bioplastics. According to Hendriks, the company’s clear vision is paying off: “Our turnover is rising while our use of packaging is decreasing.”
Developing seeds for high-quality cucumbers
Eosta’s valuable partnership with vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan also plays a part in this. “Rijk Zwaan is one of the big seed producers that we’ve been working together with for years to strengthen the market position of organic produce. For example, Rijk Zwaan has developed organic cucumber varieties with a long shelf life which means that the cucumbers can be shipped from Spain without any packaging. A product improvement like this at the start of the chain has an effect right through to the end. That’s why we need Rijk Zwaan so much. Together, we can take the organic vegetable sector to the next level,” concludes Hendriks.
Our time-lapse video clearly shows how well the long cucumber variety Cliff RZ retain their quality compared to standard varieties.”