Rijk Zwaan snacking tomato varieties

Fresh vegetables are continuing to gain ground in the foodservice market, according to Bauke van Lenteren, convenience manager at seed company Rijk Zwaan.

Whether in a smoothie for on-the-go, snack tomatoes in a business meeting or an 80/20 meal at a top-class restaurant, fresh vegetables are becoming an increasingly important ingredient in what is a growing sector.

There is less data available about the foodservice market than the retail sector because it is much more fragmented, accoridng to van Lenteren, who said: “The foodservice and convenience market is made up of several different channels, such as food chains, restaurants, vegetable processing companies and institutional catering companies. Additionally, there are significant differences between individual countries. In France, for example, catering targeted at the education sector is big business. In the UK, we’re seeing a blurring of the lines between restaurants and supermarkets. And in the USA the out-of-home market is already bigger than the retail market because American consumers eat out much more often than they cook at home. The ratio is around 70:30.'

Although each country is evolving differently, the foodservice market is growing overall. The statistics also show that the share of fresh vegetables in the foodservice segment is on the rise.

In the Netherlands, Dutch foodservice companies purchased 10 per cent more fruit and vegetables in 2018 than in the previous year, according to figures from GroentenFruit Huis. Salads, vegetable blends and tomatoes are most popular.

“Michelin-starred chef Niven Kunz has been one of the pioneers of Dutch cuisine,' van Lenteren continued. 'He launched the 80/20 philosophy – the ratio of vegetables to meat on a plate – and inspired other chefs to do the same. A similar trend could be seen during the European Convenience Forum in Hamburg. Research has shown that the out-of-home market purchases the most fresh-cut fruit and vegetables in Germany.”

Van Lenteren expects this trend to continue, and Rijk Zwaan is capitalising on it with innovations.

“We have a specific variety that meets the needs of the restaurant, food chain or caterer for every application,' she said. 'Our cos lettuce with Knox is the ideal solution for Caesar salads, for example. And we have the perfect lettuce leaves for every type of sandwich – classic baguettes, hamburgers or flatbreads. In fact, our Wrap Lettuce can even replace the bread altogether. Our extra-large tomatoes can be used as hamburger toppings, and versatile babyleaf spinach is the ideal ingredient in a healthy smoothie or salad for lunch.”

Over the coming month, Rijk Zwaan will be putting these and other out-of-home applications in the spotlight.

“We hope to inspire foodservice companies to use even more vegetables,” van Lenteren added. |That’s how we share a healthy future.'