Generation Z may be the first to be truly affiliated with mobile technology, offering the fresh produce industry an opportunity to use the platform as a way of promoting healthy eating, but only if the content is what teenagers want, according to Nic Jooste of The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference platinum sponsor Cool Fresh International
Parents will appreciate the analogy of attempting to cajole children into eating healthily and the phrase “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink”.
Entire books are dedicated to the subject, and forums offer reams of advice, while marketing departments pore over ideas to encourage young people to eat their 5-a-day.
Yet, according to the UK government National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS), only 10% of boys and 7% of girls aged 11 to 18, the so called Generation Z, actually consume the recommended daily amounts of fruit and vegetables. The trend is repeated in the Netherlands, where only 14% of 12 to 14 year-olds meet the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.
Nic Jooste, marketing and corporate communications director for Dutch produce importer-distributer Cool Fresh International, is a man on a mission to help alter this pattern of consumption by actively seeking the opinion of young people.
With an infectious enthusiasm he explains: “There’s an issue around age, teenagers and young people now they live through their phones, they want instant communication and satisfaction. It’s not enough to tell them that eating produce is healthy, they know that. It’s how you engage them; they want convenience and an experience in everything they do. So how do you give them that?
“It is not just the responsibility of the retailers to communicate with the consumer. The fresh produce industry should support our retailers by participating in consumer communication actively and collectively”.
Jooste, who has two teenage sons, has been working with intern Mathieu Hirdes, a commercial economics student at Avans University, on research into how to encourage healthy eating in this target group. Hirdes has interviewed hundreds of 14-21 year olds, and will present a summary of the findings at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference alongside Jooste at 2.20pm on the main seminar stage on November 3, who will explain how the research is shaping the company’s communications strategy.
Age is not just an issue for the marketing of produce, but also for the supply chain as a whole with the sector struggling to recruit young talent. Jooste says that by adopting a more flexible and attractive approach to how work is performed, such as mobile working, the industry can make itself more appealing to graduates.
“There are new markets, new ways of working, and this industry needs to be open to them because the competition for bringing on board bright young minds is extremely strong,” he adds.
“For this reason Cool Fresh works closely with students from various universities in the Netherlands.”
Cool Fresh International has an enviable history of breaking into new markets, and innovating with its product presentation. The business is particularly focused on establishing new retail clients, and is making strides into countries that in the past have shown fast growth in terms of GDP such as Kazakhstan, Georgia and Serbia.
“At the Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference we will be receiving a number of retail clients from countries on the ‘outskirts’ of Europe, and we hope that by introducing them to the four pillars of the Amsterdam Produce Show [Innovation, Sustainability, Education and Health] we will be able to identify even more ways in which we can add value to our clients’ operations,” Jooste says, adding that the development of retail relationships in these markets requires a different mindset.
“Gone are the days of sending the so-called class 2 products to eastern Europe. The same as in any other world market, the focus is now on providing top quality fresh produce, on time, every time.
“In addition, as a supplier to the retail we are focusing even more on creating value-added services such as the development of creative concepts, supplying tailor-made product identification options, and identifying cost-saving logistics solutions have become part and parcel of our offering”.
Jooste is particularly proud that the Amsterdam Produce Show will feature the best of Dutch innovation as well as produce. It is well known that Rotterdam Port is an important hub for trade, but beyond logistics and production, the Netherlands also contributes to solutions for many horticulture challenges.
“There is a lot of innovation and expertise in the country that the Dutch government has been stimulating, and we want to show that as well as our own contribution, and be proud of it,” he says.
As well as established academics and organisations attending the show, the doors have been opened to food innovation students eager to showcase their talents to potential employers as part of the event’s student programme. Now it is up to the industry will welcome them, and their ideas, to help connect with the many potential young customers for fresh produce.