Here on the Market, traders source fresh produce and flowers from the Netherlands every single day. It's quick and easy. The key port of Hook of Holland is less than 200 miles from London as the crow flies.
Last month, The Amsterdam Produce Summit drew fresh produce experts from across the world. We paid a visit to the city to unearth the latest food trends.
The Future of Farming
Believe it or not, the Netherlands is now the world’s second largest agricultural exporter. This is a country six times smaller than the UK.
Not all is homegrown, but the Dutch lead the world in terms of innovation in this field. Vast greenhouses, equipped with LED lights, allow for year-round production of crops with minimal inputs. Potato farmers use drones to measure the progress of each plant and target fertilisers – resulting in huge increases in yields. Near Rotterdam, a company is even building a floating dairy farm (picture above). Read more in this article in The National Geographic.
Beetroot Goes Bonkers
Dutch companies are experimenting with new ways to sell this root veg to health-conscious, busy consumers. In supermarkets such as Marqt, you’ll find pre-prepped beetroot carpaccio and kohl rabi – a crafty way to add value.
Beetz is a leading Dutch company in this sector. They have introduced a range of flavoured beetroots, with flavours such as honey and ginger. Beetroot juice and crisps are other processed products.
This concept it gaining traction in the UK – the idea of blitzing vegetables into rice-size chunks and using this as a base for dishes. The Dutch are pushing this forward. Note this supermarket range of broccoli, courgette and cauliflower rice.
This ingredient is latest innovation from Koppert Cress, the Dutch suppliers of microherbs. (Find out more in our Grower Profile). This trailblazing company is always pushing boundaries - experimenting and trialing new flavours.
Sweet peeper are the shoots of the sweet potato. They describe it as a “dry and bittersweet taste” with an attractive pink and yellow colour. Below is a dish of sweet peeper with cod, lobster, Salicornia cress and sweet potato crème.
Big Ideas For Tackling Food Waste
One third of all food that is produced is wasted. London has its fair share of organisations tackling this scandal. Here on the Market, for example, City Harvest make regular pick-ups of food waste from wholesalers. (See here for the full story).
In the Netherlands, Instock runs three restaurants using food waste from large distributors and supermarkets.
To take it to the next level, they have now set up a B2B distribution hub receiving waste and surplus products from major supermarkets such as Albert Heijn. They then sell this to around a dozen large companies such as hotel chains. Prices are around 15-20% below average. “We are focusing on these clients as they make the biggest impact,” says co-founder Bart Roetert.
Traders With Unique Products Will Win
The shopping habits of all of us – including chefs and caterers - have been transformed by the internet. Staples are easily available with one click of the mouse. “When everything is standardised all over the world it will be the specialties and niches that will win in the near future,” says Jorg Snoeck, bestselling author of The Future of Shopping.
In this new landscape, the companies that win are those that offer unique products, including locally grown. “We are looking for that unique product, for that unique taste – that’s the different way of thinking now,” adds Snoeck.
On the Market, this means always searching for that new ingredient or variety that makes you stand out from the crowd.
Foods from 3D Printers
In the quest to create unique products, several manufacturers are experimenting with using 3D printers, explains Snoek. “As a consumer, you would no longer buy finished products, but would purchase a kind of food-equivalent of a printer cartridge which would allow you to print off your food or ingredients in your own kitchen.” Callebaut is experimenting with 3D chocolate printing; Barilla is creating with new 3D pasta shapes. What's next? Watch this space.