The Dutch group is moving into the new year with excitement over the potential of products such as Limelon, according to managing director Hans van den Heuvel

What are your hopes for the year ahead, both for Hillfresh and the wider business?

Limelon field Hillfresh

Hans van den Heuvel: We want to keep on developing our core competences – grapes, citrus, pineapples, melons and persimmons – by adding value for our customers.

Our values are driving us. In particular, we hope for a further roll out of the fantastic Limelon to the whole European retail market. Our key values are sustainability, quality, service, transparency, cooperation and innovation.

Our hopes for the business are that all economic difficulties are not going to impact consumer spending and behaviour too much. That governments will take responsibility to support this. By putting VAT at 0 per cent for fruit and vegetables and by stimulating a healthy diet.

What can we expect to see from Hillfresh in 2023?

HVDH: We are in the final testing stages of another spectacular tasting melon variety, the Golden Lady. It is a compact yellow melon with a brix of around 15-16 degrees which we are testing in Honduras and Costa Rica after promising tests in Brazil and Spain.

Besides that, you can expect large-scale Limelon activities. During the past year we developed our marketing strategy and the new visual identity is a proof of this development.

We are looking to add a fairtrade line to our grape portfolio during the whole overseas grape season, from start to finish. We also have extended our exclusive marketing contract with our Namibian grape partner Solar Grapes for another five years, which will make sure that we will have 1m boxes of grapes from week 48 to week 1.

Times are difficult for many across the industry, with rising costs of energy and raw materials, the war in Ukraine and the ongoing impact of the pandemic. How have these affected you?

HVDH: All the developments mentioned cause a lot of pressure on the business. On the other hand, we see that the freight costs are already going down on some continents.

We hope and pray for a soon end of the war between Ukraine and Russia. In the first place for the people living there and secondly for the business to come back in calmer waters.

Where are the key markets for your products?

HVDH: We focus on the same markets as always, the European retail market. This market is so big and challenging that we do not see the need to expand to markets overseas. What we do want to achieve is local-for-local projects in other continents with our beautiful and refreshing Limelon.

We are developing marketing activities around our Limelon for this year and our goal is to create more knowledge on consumer level that it is the freshest melon on the market.