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Current Position:Home » News » Processed Foods » Topic

Traditional pickles continue to determine assortment

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2018-07-09  Views: 9
Core Tip: Anyone who’s ever dropped a Mason jar knows the small shards go everywhere.
Anyone who’s ever dropped a Mason jar knows the small shards go everywhere. Besides the work of cleaning up even the smallest shards, there’s a risk of glass splinters ending up in dishes. This is particularly risky in restaurants. That’s why Van der Kroon Foods decided to switch to plastic jars 18 years ago: safer and lighter. Reinald Heijselaar talks about the developments on the market for pickles and the challenges of Brexit.

“We supply to retail as well, but our focus is on food service,” he starts. By far the largest part of production is under private label. About five per cent of pickles produced by the company in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, falls under their own Kroon brand. Gherkins and cocktail onions are the best-known pickles, but their assortment is wider. The company also produces various salad mixes, carrot sticks and acar. “We receive the fresh vegetables, which we then clean and cut,” Reinald describes the process. After cutting the vegetables into squares, slices or sticks, they’re placed in the jars, which are then filled with covering liquid, a mix of organic vinegar and sometimes aromas. The final step is pasteurising, after which the products have a shelf life of three years.

Gherkins and cocktail onions

Due to the strong position of the traditional assortment of pickles, it’s difficult to introduce new products. “People often like the new products, but they tend to buy the ones they already know,” Reinald says. “We do try introducing new products, but it isn’t easy.” Traditional pickles have remained the same on the entire market. Changes happen on a small scale, products are made just a bit sweeter or more sour, or a spicy flavour is added.

Van der Kroon Foods primarily produces based on contracts, although they have a margin for growth as well. The production moves along with seasonal supply. In the summer months, the gherkins and cocktail onions are preserved. This season lasts from July to September. Carrots, red beets and celeriac are processed between October and December. “We have to think one year ahead in our production,” Reinald says. Between these periods, the non-seasonal products are produced, such as piccalilli and acar. Besides, the company imports barrelled gherkins from India, which are processed outside of the season.

Journey south
The origin of the company now located in Brabant is in the south of Amsterdam, where Gijs van der Kroon founded the company in 1932, to pack herring, liver sausage and lemonade. In the late 1950s, the company focused their production on pickles. That went well, and resulted in the first move to Nes aan de Amstel, a small village south of Amsterdam. This is the first of a number of moves towards the south. Via Hardinxveld-Giessendam and Dinteloord, Van der Kroon Foods ended up in Bergen op Zoom in 2014. Each move coincided with continued growth, a process that still hasn’t stopped. “Next to our current building we’ll build a new warehouse,” Reinald says. “The market we operate on isn’t easy, we have to fight for our spot, but we’re not doing badly.” Because of this long history, the company has also built long-term relationships with their customers. Some customers have been part of the clientele for 40 years. “This shows we offer constant quality and service,” he continues.

Plastic an alternative to glass
One of the steps the company offers an additional service with, is the plastic jar. “For food service, we only supply in plastic jars,” Reinald explains. The most important advantage of the plastic jars is the safety. A glass Mason jar that falls on the floor smashes. “There’s a chance shards end up in the dishes, and everything within a certain radius of the accident has to be thrown out.” That isn’t the case with a plastic jar. In the worst case, the plastic cracks when it falls on the ground.

Besides, plastic jars are lighter in weight, which has a double advantage. During transport, more jars can be loaded on the pallets, but the lighter jars also require less strength from kitchen staff. “Eighteen years ago, we started with the plastic jars, and it’s still growing every year.” In retail, the plastic jars haven’t really become popular yet, although Van der Kroon Foods also has a plastic alternative for retail. For meal boxes, plastic jars are a good alternative, because the jars are lighter and their chance of breaking is smaller.

Brexit is a major challenge for the company. With the UK as their most important customer, the departure of the British from the EU is like storm clouds gathering on the horizon. “We don’t know what’ll happen, even our customers don’t know,” Reinald says. That means it’s difficult to prepare for the new situation. “It sometimes seems likes it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing, but we’re naturally preparing for it as well.” The company is doing this in two ways. Firstly, they’re looking at what the consequences of Brexit might be, such as Customs formalities. Secondly, the company is looking for new markets in order to better spread risks. “It’s important, but the final date was set for March 2019, and this has already been moved to 2021, and all scenarios are still possible,” Reinald concludes. “It’s a fact that something is going to change, but the British aren’t self-supporting in everything. They’ll therefore have to import products as well.”


 
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