White asparagus

The group sees strong potential for white asparagus in the US

Although North America has been considered an important market for Belgian fresh produce for several decades, Sint-Truiden-based Nicolai Fruit’s involvement with the region has been comparatively recent.

“Our focus on the US market is relatively new but completely in line with our company’s strategy of steady and well constructed growth,” says the company’s Stijn Weckx.

Having established a broad-reaching import and export network within Europe, Weckx says Nicolai Fruit has now set its sights on exporting high quality Belgian products to the US.

“We never start a project half-hearted and if we do so, we’ll do it properly,” he says. “Moreover, in the future we might also have possibilities to import more US products to Europe.”

At this year’s PMA Fresh Summit, Weckx says Nicolai Fruit will be highlighting its long-standing partnership with a network of growers of an array of different products.

“We want to underscore that for any US importer we are a great contact point for high-quality fresh produce, guaranteeing freshness and safety,” he explains.

According to Weckx, Belgium’s central location in Europe combined with the company’s network of suppliers and clients across Europe may also create opportunities for further US imports and exports.

“As a dynamic company with solid growth figures over recent decades, we are always exploring new markets and after studying our options, we decided that the North American market could be interesting for us to invest in,” he says. “It is a knowledgeable market in terms of fruits and vegetables, and we know we can source and deliver the types of products our US customers and prospects are looking for.”

Weckx says Nicolai Fruit sees a strong potential market for Belgian endive and white asparagus in the US, which he believes could be boosted by growing consumer interest in what he describes as ‘forgotten’ vegetables.

“These are both absolute delicacies – we just need to bring them to US kitchens,” he says.

On the import side, Weckx believes there are opportunities for US easy peelers and sweet potatoes in Europe that are still to be exploited.

“The market in Europe for these products isn’t very big yet – especially sweet potatoes which are still pretty unknown – but we are convinced that they will increase in popularity here in Europe,” he says.

Weckx believes further sales of North American cherries can also be generated in Europe, adding that Nicolai Fruit hopes to do just that once the European season comes to a close.