New garlic solution from Cool Fresh International ticks boxes for culinary consumers

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Cool Fresh's Nic Jooste

Cool Fresh International (CFI), based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, has launched its first pre-packed fresh produce convenience solution in the form of single cloves of fresh garlic in a resealable bag. Branded BonAjo (Good Garlic), the solution is designed to create a new segment in the garlic market that retailers worldwide can use to capture upper-end consumers.

Taking high-quality Morado garlic produced and packed by professional growers in Spain, CFI collaborated with Dutch packaging manufacturer DaklaPack to create special packaging that specifically minimises garlic odours and maximises air flow, while providing optimal protection to preserve product quality.

After six months of development, in addition to market research, CFI has unveiled the BonAjo ‘Cook with Me’ concept, that comprises approximately two garlic bulbs-worth of single cloves in an easy-to-use and resealable 100-gram (g) bag that can be kept outside of the fridge in a cool, dry place. 

To understand the product’s true positioning and to hear about the firm’s next garlic innovations, PBUK caught up with Nic Jooste, Director of Corporate Communications, Marketing, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Training at Cool Fresh International. 

Answering market needs

Approaching its research in a broad-based manner, CFI employees first asked their own families and friends to reveal what frustrates them most about (using) garlic. The firm also spoke to a number of specialists involved in consumer packaging and the introduction of consumer concepts. Finally, a group of students was tasked with scanning the consumer landscape.

On the back of that research, Jooste says BonAjo was created to cater for the “four most important needs” of the culinary consumer: convenience, hygiene, food safety and consistency of taste. Plus, it comes with a “very competitive” price point that preliminary trials indicate shoppers are willing to pay. 

“We believe that for consumers, the main added value is that they no longer have to search for the garlic bulb in the kitchen, or in the fridge; wherever they keep it,” Jooste tells PBUK.

“Nor do they have to be irritated by loose garlic skin floating around. Plus, our old saying of ‘Less Waste, More Taste’ definitely applies here. We use only the best and most flavourful garlic from Spain, called Morado. “During our research (also with a local chef), we determined that Morado definitely ticks the taste box for the culinary-conscious consumer.”

For buyers, meanwhile, BonAjo creates a new segment in the garlic market.

“It is definitely a concept which retailers can use to capture upper-end consumers, and capitalise on this by linking BonAjo to other (possibly high-end) products,” Jooste claims.

While CFI developed the concept with the European retail market in mind, the firm is now seeing an upsurge in enquiries from the foodservice sector, too.

“Obviously, the bigger operators are asking for the product in a bulk pack,” he explains. “The consumer pack is also perfectly suited to restaurants which use a high volume of garlic per day.

“The 100g pack protects the taste and smell of the product perfectly well, so a restaurant can easily use it on a ‘pack a day’ basis.” 

With more than 600 customers in 54 countries around the world, CFI is confident BonAjo will go global. 

“Cool Fresh has clients in 54 countries; with this in mind, we developed the concept for the international market, hence using English on the pack,” says Jooste.

Standing out from the crowd

BONAJO2As for other convenience-targeted garlic solutions on the market, Jooste says BonAjo stands out for a number of reasons.

Compared with the traditional single garlic clove offering — where garlic is peeled and packed in plastic tubs or glass jars — Jooste points out that by leaving the garlic unpeeled, BonAjo remains a fresh solution.

“The product in glass jars is a processed item; it is not ‘fresh’,” Jooste states. “In our view, the modern-day consumer is all about fresh. And there is no doubt that the taste of fresh Morado garlic is far superior to a processed item. The difference in taste and smell says it all!

“We specifically wanted a product which has a decent shelf-life, is fresh, retains its great flavour and which can be used as inspiration for the consumer to buy other products which should be prepared in combination with garlic.”  

According to in-house testing, if kept in a cool, dry place, the bagged cloves “stay perfect” for at least four to six weeks.

“The packaging is designed with micro-breathing holes whichminimises odours, whilst maximising air flow,” notes Jooste. “In this way, the garlic does not accumulate any form of moisture. But it is not necessary to keep BonAjo in the fridge; in fact, the product benefits from being kept in a cool and dry place.”

On the food safety front, Jooste adds that careful consideration was paid to the product’s development in order to deliver a higher standard of hygiene.

“There are two levels to this,” he explains. “In the first instance, our garlic stays in hygienic conditions in our coldstores in Spain until the last possible moment. 

“There is no unnecessary handling by all and sundry in the supply chain. Exposure to human hands is kept to a minimum. 

“The other aspect refers to the consumer; there is no more loose garlic skin floating around, as everything stays sealed in the package. The consumer simply removes a clove as and when necessary.”

In turn, this prudent production process positively reflects on the product’s quality, too.

“Our garlic is prepared on order at source in Spain,” Jooste says. “We use a special roller machine which separates the cloves carefully without doing any damage to the internal structure [of the garlic bulb]. Keeping the cloves intact until the last possible moment is the ultimate way in safeguarding quality.”

Added to that, Jooste attests that BonAjo is the first such garlic concept with “luxury styling.”

“We have not seen anything like it in the markets in which we operate,” he claims. “Some open market operators separate the bulbs, and then pack them in generic plastic ‘sandwich bags’, but that is for a totally different target market.” 

Garnering the response

Since launching the concept undercover in March this year (2018), CFI has had a positive response to date.

BonAjo even reached the finals of the Fruit Attraction Innovation Award 2018 at the recent Madrid trade fair on 23-25 October, which drew strong competition from companies such as Anecoop, Kissabel, Rijk Zwaan Ibérica, Endinava and Florette. The prize was won by Rijk Zwaan Ibérica for its ‘Snack Lettuce’ concept.

“The response is positive, but as with all innovations of this kind (single product), it is a project which must be rolled out over an extended period of time,” accepts Jooste.

“At our booth [during Fruit Attraction], we had a lot of interest and positive feedback.”

Advancing the BonAjo innovation 

CFI has been a garlic specialist for many years, originally focusing on importing the product from China. In recent years, however, the company has begun building a presence in other countries where garlic is produced, according to high international agricultural standards, such as Spain. 

“We have almost always been involved in ‘moving bulk’,” explains Jooste. “Around a year ago, we decided to set up an innovation team and start focusing on concepts which could add value to our products at a consumer level.” 

Following a positive start with BonAjo, CFI has been working with students from the Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands to conduct further in-depth research into European garlic consumption. 

Based on this research, the firm expects to develop more garlic innovations in future. 

“We believe that this specific packaging lends itself to ‘add-on’ innovations,” reveals Jooste. “Such as maybe adding free spices from all over the world as ‘testers’. This we would do in partnership with a large spice company.”

As for the consumption research, Jooste is unwilling to give away any “secrets” at this stage. 

“Suffice to say that the students focused specifically on the UK market, traditionally one of the most critical markets in Europe,” he notes. “We gleaned a lot of interesting information from the English!”

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