Cool Fresh invests in the future of people and food

By: Sharon Janmaat 07 Aug, 2018

Cool Fresh wants to promote the food sector by adopting an overseas mentality. As part of this, the company is investing in creating a greater sense of community between the countries with which they do business. For example, social projects in Namibia and South Africa have been a huge success. Together with governmental authorities and other fruit and vegetable companies, Cool Fresh wants to innovate and promote the food sector. For instance with the project Markt Match (‘Market Match’). During this two-day event on 4 and 5 October, young people are challenged to come up with creative ideas for the food sector. It enables the new generation to experience the appeal of the food sector and find out about the internal career opportunities that the sector has to offer. Johan in ‘t Veld, CEO, and Nic Jooste, Director of Corporate Communications, Marketing & CSR, talk about how Cool Fresh contributes to a healthy society.

From price-driven trade to corporate social responsibility

‘We want to change the world by influencing people’s mindset, so that they will gradually think in terms of sustainability. We want to achieve this together with governmental authorities and other fruit and vegetable companies. When you show approach a box of oranges and all of the CSR certificates, it ultimately all comes down to the price. Trade in the fruit and vegetable sector is extremely price-driven. That’s very irritating, because a good system based on CSR always costs slightly more. That remains a major challenge,’ says in ‘t Veld. According to Nic Jooste, a good communication strategy is important in this respect. ‘We try to achieve a good communication, so that our initiatives take off. And this is not done by pointing the finger, but by coming up with creative concepts such as the ‘topless pineapple’. By removing the pineapple crown immediately after harvest, more pineapples can be transported in each box, which saves money and is better for the environment.’

Cool-Fresh-pallets

Investing in communities from which the products originate

Cool Fresh is socially committed in the countries from which their products originate. This is one of the pillars of the CSR strategy of Cool Fresh, which achieved the highest possible listing in the field of CSR in the Netherlands in 2016. Johan in ‘t Veld talks about one of the social projects in Namibia. ‘In 2008, we bought ourselves into a farm in Namibia, primarily investing in working capital and standardisation. We built a large warehouse there and trained 20 small-scale farmers without an economic raison-d’être, supervised them and made it export worthy. We also installed social facilities such as water and electricity, and even set up a pension for the employees. We therefore managed to raise the farm to a high standard, so that production has increased fivefold. Nic Jooste added: By doing this, we really have been able to positively influence the population. We don’t just look at the farm from which we import our products, but consider the whole community around it.’ Similar social projects have also been carried out in Costa Rica and Peru.

According to Nic Jooste, the most successful project was in South America, where Cool Fresh had the aim to train about 120 community coaches from 40 villages between 2007 and 2010. ‘Partly due to the World Cup at the time, the project became much more successful and by 2013, more than 800 coaches were trained in over 240 villages. Together with the KNVB (Royal Dutch Football Association) we trained the coaches, so that they could teach children life skills through football,’ says Jooste. Together with a South African NGO, Cool Fresh also created small libraries in deprived districts. Nic Jooste: ‘We began with five bookcases in public spaces. In the end more than 250 small libraries were set up.’

Johan in ‘t Veld explains that there is a strong sense of loyalty towards the farm employees. ‘The children of these employees now no longer end up on the streets after school, but are cared for by community coaches and receive lessons about the risks of drugs and violence and even learn how to clean a football field. These children grow up with absolutely nothing. Their first contact with books is when they get to nursery school. It’s important for us that we can contribute in this way.’

‘With Market Match we really want to work together with other companies for the collective interest. We hope that we can conclude that we actually need to work together more instead of competing with each other.'

Johan in 't Veld CEO Cool Fresh

A social working environment and international opportunities create a bond between employees

As well as social commitment in the countries where Cool Fresh does business, everything is done to create an inspiring working environment within the company. ‘We encourage employees to develop their own ideas. There are actually many small business owners within Cool Fresh. Employees stay with us for a long time, because we offer a good working environment and international opportunities,’ according to Jooste.

‘The average age of our employees is therefore over 40. We’re all old, bald and grey,’ in ‘t Veld jokes. ‘We’ve just had a successful period and reached a top position as the second largest exporter in the world. But do we actually know what the future is going to hold?’ in ‘t Veld wonders. ‘Development is happening at a rapid rate, thanks to new technology. That’s why we want to ask young people about their perspectives on the developments within the fruit and vegetable sector. At the same time, we want to show how fantastic the sector is and the international career opportunities it offers.

Nic Jooste has noticed a gap between his employees and the buyers. ‘Whereas our employees have become older, buyers in supermarkets are becoming younger and younger. Over the past few years, I have worked together with many students and supervised them with their theses. They have a fresh influence on our way of thinking.’

Cool-Fresh-kantoor

Market Match generates exposure and a creative drive within the food sector

According to Johan in ‘t Veld and Nic Jooste, the aim of Market Match is to generate more exposure for the food sector, help familiarise young people with the sector and show the career opportunities that are on offer. ‘Two years ago we still received many applications. Today, there are so many companies you can work for that we notice that very few applications are coming in. Together with schools we run many projects to bring in creative ideas and motivate students. All our students have worked for Cool Fresh for a number of years. What’s important now is to retain this new generation,’ says Jooste.

Nic Jooste about his expectations for Market Match: ‘It would be fine if it would result in at least one concept, which we can introduce on the market in a year’s time. I believe that this can be achieved, since we recently finished a project with students from Fontys and this concept represents 80% of the work.’
Johan continues: ‘I’m convinced that this will happen and that the fruit and vegetable sector will listen. Our business is so traditional that the ideas will actually come as a surprise. With Market Match we really want to work together with other companies for the collective interest. We hope that we can conclude that we actually need to work together more instead of competing with each other.’

Further information about Market Match is available here: www.marktmatchrotterdam.nl.

About Cool Fresh

Cool Fresh imports and exports fruit and vegetables primarily overseas. The areas of the world from which most fruit and vegetables are imported are Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa. In Europe, Cool Fresh imports and exports to and from 42 countries. In South Africa, Cool Fresh also has its own farms because it thinks it is important that it can function as a producer and therefore understand the market better.