With the question of how to reduce food waste at the top of the agenda for retailers and consumers alike, Rijk Zwaan believes it has uncovered at least a small part of the solution in the shape of Knox, the natural trait that delays pinking in fresh-cut lettuce.
Jan Doldersum, marketing and business development manager at Rijk Zwaan, says that the "game-changing" innovation is attracting attention from retailers, growers and processing companies worldwide.
"A fresh cut bag of lettuce that stays fresh for just one extra day results in 25 per cent less spoilage," he explained. "That’s what retailers have told us, and that’s why they are so enthusiastic about Knox. So as well as eliminating waste, Knox saves considerable costs for retailers in countries where fresh, bagged salads account for a large share of the market. The primary countries in that segment are the UK, the USA, the Netherlands and Australia.
"We introduced Knox in late 2015 and then retailers, processing companies and growers in those countries conducted extensive tests in 2016," Doldersum continued. "The results confirmed our promise in terms of the longer shelf life. Waitrose was the first one to start selling it. That UK retailer now carries Caesar salad which includes cos lettuce with the Knox trait, processed by fresh specialist Bakkavor.
“Chain partners in Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and Poland are showing an equally high level of interest – not just because Knox reduces food waste, but also because the trait can generate extra revenue for them," Although still small, the market for pre-cut and bagged fresh produce is growing rapidly in those countries. Lettuce with Knox is more visually appealing, and hence is an extra incentive for consumers to buy the product.”
Doldersum explained that fresh cut lettuce is a new concept for Asian markets.
"Apart from in the major cities like Singapore and Hong Kong, the cold chain must be significantly improved first. Nevertheless, retailers and chain partners reacted very positively to Knox during Asia Fruit Logistica, especially because it has become trendy to eat fresh salads in Asia, too, nowadays. This innovation makes it possible to offer Asian consumers a fresh-looking and more visually attractive product, despite the cold chain challenges. Hence, Knox could also be a game changer in that region.”