The Greenery responds to big data and robotisation

By: Redactie 07 Nov, 2018

The Greenery’s mission is to make fruit and vegetables affordable and accessible for consumers. The company pursues this goal through its active interactions with its chain partners: its own growers, distribution centres, packaging designed in-house, a professional marketing department and with European retail customers. ‘No one else has brought all these aspects in-house the way we have, in terms of both the range of products on offer and the commitment of all the links in the chain.’ Pieter Hogeveen, The Greenery’s innovation manager, talks about innovations at The Greenery, ranging from products and packaging to big data and process optimisation. He also gives us an insight into the company’s participation in Market Match, the event at which 200 young people spent two days developing new concepts to rejuvenate the food sector.

Innovation throughout the chain

At The Greenery, innovation is a feature of every link in the chain. ‘We’ve created product innovations such as the Sweet Sensation, a new variety of pear. This pear is fresh and sweet, doesn’t need to be peeled and barely dribbles. We’re also innovating in our wide range of soft fruits,’ says Hogeveen. Together with growers, agronomists and international seed breeders, The Greenery is constantly seeking out the best varieties of soft fruit. The firm has two locations where they test new varieties, and their varieties and growing concepts are discussed and marketed in close consultation with an in-house agronomist and with growers. Only the best soft fruit varieties are selected for inclusion in the Sweet and Sunny brand: varieties with an exceptional visual appeal and flavour.

As Pieter Hogeveen explains, as well as product innovations there has also been significant innovation in packaging. ‘Something that really irritates consumers is the loose lid on a punnet of strawberries and soft fruit. The result: squashed fruit finds its way into all corners of your shopping bag. The Greenery identified this problem and developed a resealable closing mechanism. This packaging method is made from 30% less plastic, it’s more resilient, and it offers greater consumer comfort. The packaging is also a solution for the home delivery of soft fruit when customers order online.’

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Using big data to improve supermarket performance

In addition to innovations relating to product and packaging, The Greenery is also innovating in its relationship with retailers. ‘To help the retailers understand how to position themselves so they can perform in the market, The Greenery is constantly collecting market data. We also research consumers’ purchasing behaviour, work closely with trend-watchers and regularly check in with consumers to find out how we can help them eat more fruit and vegetables. The Greenery consults customers about their category management, and we advise them on things like a shelf planner and the best products for them to eat.’ Pieter Hogeveen expects to take this further in the future. ‘I think that big data, in combination with artificial intelligence, offers great opportunities to help us make even better decisions about what we can do to improve the performance of fruit and vegetables in supermarkets.’

'I no longer think we can make relevant innovations just within the four walls of our company. You really have to do that together with your chain partners, knowledge institutions and start-ups.'

Pieter Hogeveen Innovation Manager The Greenery

Using robots to optimise processes

One innovation that is less focused on the customer is the robotisation taking place in the distribution centres. ‘It enables us to work faster and root out errors, as well as guaranteeing better quality and taking the strain of heavy, repetitive tasks off our employees’ shoulders. That may be less of a value proposition to our customers, but it ensures the smooth running of our processes, which in turn increases customer satisfaction. We have fewer defects, fewer returns and less waste, and that’s good for everyone,’ Hogeveen explains. ‘I also see the potential in robotisation to offer our customers propositions such as same-day field-to-fork solutions.’

Building ecosystems for innovation

Hogeveen expands on his vision of cooperation and power-sharing in the food sector. ‘In my role as innovation manager, I believe in building ecosystems. I no longer think we can make relevant innovations just within the four walls of our company. You really have to do that together with your chain partners, knowledge institutions and start-ups. That way you can build knowledge and relationships, begin new partnerships and create an innovative space where great propositions can come to fruition. It’s a great help if you know each other and see each other regularly. From the perspective of our profile on the labour market, too, I believe that by joining forces we can raise the profile of the fruit and vegetable sector even further.’

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Market match award ceremony. From left to right: Steven Martina, CEO of The Greenery, Irenke Meekma, General Director at Bakker Barendrecht, the winning team from ‘Goed Brood’, Sharon Janmaat, Project Manager at Rotterdam Food Cluster, André Dijk, CQO at Hessing Supervers, Johan in ’t Veld, CEO of Coolfresh and Coen Struijs, Large Corporate Account Manager at Rabobank.

Market Match: a breeding ground for talent and new innovations

Labour market positioning was also one of the reasons why The Greenery took part in Market Match. In company with all the other partners, The Greenery put in a great deal of effort to make this event a success. CEO Steven Martina chaired the jury during Market Match, and several of The Greenery’s employees from various different disciplines were available to act as a sounding board for the participants’ ideas. In Hogeveen’s view, the event was an unqualified success. ‘The professionalism of the event and the way it was set up were definitely successful: there was a great vibe, a positive atmosphere and a lot of enthusiastic comments from students. We’ve shone a spotlight on the sector for the new generation.’

Hogeveen also sees the event as a breeding ground for new innovations and a great way for The Greenery to position itself as an innovative enterprise. But which of the innovations has stuck with him? ‘I really liked the “Opgewekt” concept, a new way to formulate the established practice of preserving fruit and vegetables. It’s a shame that it didn’t win a prize.’

If you would like to find out more about this event and/or the students’ innovative solutions, please contact Sharon Janmaat.

Click here for more information about The Greenery.