Hoostraten said the snack pack – which can be eaten either as a standalone morning snack or as a healthy addition to breakfast cereals – is perfectly poised to capitalise on the growing health trend.
“As we have different soft-fruit lines like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in our portfolio, a mixed pack with strawberries is a quick fix,” said Hoogstraten’s marketing manager Jan Engelen.
“We see huge potential with these mixes in the breakfast segment, as more and more people are choosing healthier options in the morning and berries is one of them.”
A berry fine opportunity
Hoogstraten is Belgium’s largest strawberry supplier, accounting for over 32,000 tonnes in 2021 (50T of Hoogstraten’s turnover and 65% of the country’s total output). The Elsanta variety accounts for the lion’s share of the company’s volumes, however it said the newer Junebearer varieties, such as Sonata, Sonsation and Falco, are increasing in consumer popularity. The further cultivation of Murano and Favori varieties in the everbearer segment is also being explored under a partnership with its trial station Proefcentrum.
June-bearing (Junebearer) strawberries flower in early spring, then produce an abundance of large, juicy berries in spring.
Elsanta: Big, shiny, mouthwatering berries that ripen in mid-summer.
Sonata: Fresh red, round and sweet. Perfect for enlightened crop in winter and very successful in spring.
Sonsation: Sweet with an intensive gloss. Looks like Sonata, but the red colour appears to be more intense.
Limalexia: Fruits with a pleasant texture and excellent taste. Looks like Elsanta, but the fruit size throughout the growing season is better maintained.
Murano: Everbearer with appearance of a June bearer.
This year, the cooperative sees ample opportunities to ramp up its presence in the UK market, already a major client. Every year, approximately one third of the strawberry volumes are sold in Belgium, while two thirds are exported to the UK, Scandinavia and France.
“Brexit and its effects on business have stabilised and our export companies are doing a great job working in the UK market,” said Engelen.
“UK retailers have also shown increased interest in our berries at certain times of the year and we are very happy to work with them.”
However, like many other food producers, the company has faced a challenging season characterised by increased costs of energy, raw materials, labour and services, all of which have had a major impact on margins. High gas prices and subsequent lower energy use, too, were a challenge, leading to later glasshouse production and putting returns to growers under severe pressure.
These challenges could have a long-lasting effect and Engelen has cautioned they could cause some growers to turn away from production if the market doesn’t pay a price that justifies their investment.
“If the retail and wholesale sectors are not able to pay the price needed to grow strawberries in autumn and winter with these high added costs, our growers might not plant for late production,” he stressed.
“The risk is too high and there is too much uncertainty.”
How to thrive in the modern challenging marketplace
This theme underscores the 4th International Strawberry Congress, hosted by Hoogstraten in Antwerp on 21-24 September. The event attracts more than 300 delegates from over 25 countries and focuses on topics as diverse as sales and branding strategies, innovation, sustainability, big data and market research.