GBC panel debate

Panel debate at the 2015 Global Berry Congress in Rotterdam: (L-R) Moderator Chris White, Wyard Stomp of Driscoll's, Susanne Hounsgaard of Dansk Supermarked, Laurence Olins of British Summer Fruits, and Robert Verloop of Naturipe

There is still “so much” to do when it comes to boosting berry consumption worldwide.

That’s the view of several leading figures in the soft fruit industry, speaking at the Global Berry Congress in Rotterdam today (24 March).

Wyard Stomp, of Driscoll’s, believes improving category management is one way increased berry consumption can be achieved.

The firm's commercial and supply chain director (EMEA), said: “We have a lack of focus. That sounds like pointing fingers, but I am talking about category management. There’s so much to develop, so much to learn.

“We blame weather, Mother Nature, ‘she’s not treating us right’ and so on; we are afraid of waste, we don’t show product in store, and so the opportunity is out there to focus on category management, and make it work.

“If 100 people walk into a store a day, and only 10 buy berries, that’s a missed opportunity, and improving category management can help with this.'

Robert Verloop, VP marketing at US berry giant Naturipe, agreed with the need to develop the category, but pinpointed another area he views as key to boosting growth.

He said: “People say the berry category is oversupplied – I say that it is under-demanded. We need consumers to eat more product, more often, and at a higher price.

“But as an industry, we ignore foodservice in terms of marketing, and don’t invest enough in it.”

Laurence Olins, chairman of British Summer Fruits, was more bullish. He told Berry Congress delegates: “Shelf space is the most important thing for a category. We make no bones about it – our competition is other fruits.

“If you get shelf space, your sales will improve, and we get growth, and our growth has been quite phenomenal. We are now the nation’s favourite category, and 19 per cent of the spend in fresh produce: £1 in every £5 is spent is on berries, and we are above bananas and apples.'

Olins, who told delegates that berry volumes and berry value had doubled and trebled respectively over the last 10 years in the UK, believes trade bodies such as British Summer Fruits are vital for furthering the industry in other countries: “We are the mood music that helps the industry go forward,” he said.

Stomp concurred, and noted: “We have to lay the foundations for consumer campaigns in other countries, and the UK campaign is really inspiring.”

The Driscoll's director added thatincreasing consumption by getting berries stocked in multiple points in-store is also vital. 'But it’s working with the in-store personnel, giving them the confidence, and that then creates the trust to place the berries elsewhere in store,” he said.

Susanne Hounsgaard, purchasing manager for fruit and vegetables at Dansk Supermarked, who also gave a presentation at the event and joined in a panel debate with Olins, Stomp and Verloop, admitted that more can be done by retailers to boost in-store presentation.