Shawn Harris, the founder of Dutch importer Nature's Pride, decided to take a step back from the company in 2017, handing over her daily responsibilities to new CEO Fred van Heyningen and commercial director Adriëlle Dankier, while continuing to influence the direction of the group as a member of the management board. It is perhaps unsurprising that, with Harris at the helm, the company would seek to champion female workers’ rights in sources like Guatemala and Colombia, but such efforts are undertaken to benefit the company as a whole and will of course continue, according to Dankier.
“We are proud of the good balance between men and women at Nature’s Pride,” she says. “Achieving together is one of our core values. The success of the company is not down to just a single individual, but is the result of a concerted team effort. You create a winning team by inputting different talents and qualities. The right balance of competencies makes a team strong.”
In 2018, Nature’s Pride presented its five-year sustainability plan, focused on labour conditions, food waste and the environment. “We have already made significant progress in these areas during the last two years and are making huge strides in increasing recyclability and reducing the use of plastic packaging,” says Dankier. “We are also approaching our five-year goal of using 100 per cent of our rejected produce in other parts of the food chain.”
The company’s policy on water lays out long-term goals, as well as concrete steps to achieve them. “What we have already done is identify the water risks in strategic sourcing countries,” reveals Dankier. “We have successfully run a pilot with GlobalGAP SPRING [Sustainable Programme for Irrigation and Groundwater Use] in Peru and Chile, and are training our buyers to take water into account in purchasing decisions. We actively participate in international water forums such as World Water Week in Sweden and the EU Water Innovation Conference in Spain where we shared our knowledge.”
Waste is a huge problem in the food industry, with around 30 per cent of the food produced going to waste. “The avocado is our main product so that's where the greatest gains can be made,” says Dankier. “We have just started an Apeel pilot in collaboration with two retailers: Salling Group in Denmark and Edeka in Germany. This pilot will run until mid-March. The initial results look very promising. The combination of our dedicated growers, our ripening expertise and the Apeel technology enables consumers to enjoy fresh, ripe avocados of high quality with a longer shelf-life. As the avocados have a longer shelf-life, there is significantly less waste. The response from both customers and consumers to this development has been enthusiastic. It's great to see the benefits of this kind of positive, cross-chain cooperation.”
Demand for avocados is on the rise across Europe, as more and more consumers discover the fruit and as existing fans increase their consumption. “Each market in Europe requires a specific approach due to diverse consumer needs,” says Dankier. “Together with our growers, we look at how we can best match production to align with growth.”
By following the changing seasons in different countries, Nature’s Pride can offer the best-tasting avocados all year round, says Dankier. “Most regions are seeing expansion,” she reveals. “It’s difficult to ignore the thousands of hectares being planted in Colombia. However, the country is facing many challenges so we will continue to develop with existing growers in other countries. Ultimately, the balance has to be right so that we can constantly deliver the best quality all year round.”
According to Dankier, different types of produce will follow, including berries and mangoes. “Both of these products are important to us, and here too we are seeking ways to avoid waste,” she says. “We do this by supervising and advising the growers. In the future, we will see how extensively we can apply Apeel to prevent further waste.”