29 June, 2017

Last week our colleagues travelled to Adana in Turkey, where Fikriye Kaya Narenciye Isletmesi, named after the grower’s mother, grows Caribbean King cantaloupe melons for Levarht. This is a special cantaloupe variety cultivated for consumers in the Middle East.
The Kaya family has a rich history of growing and has cultivated melons and citrus fruit since 1805! During the time of the Ottoman Empire, they grew produce in what is currently Iraq. Drought forced the family to continually move west, and after years on the move they finally settled in their current home in south west Turkey. The seventh generation now runs the family company.

What makes Fikriye Kaya Narenciye Isletmesi’s approach to growing so special?
Contrary to common practice of most growers in Turkey, the melons are placed in pallet bins as soon as they leave the field. As the melons are not loaded loose in a trailer or other vehicle, there are no damages. Due to the high temperatures in Turkey, as soon as they are full these pallet bins are immediately transferred to a cooled trailer. This trailer then transports the melons to a temperature-controlled packing station.  On arrival, the melons are washed in a cool bath, dried and packed in boxes.  The melons then stay at the temperature-controlled facility for at least 24 hours until the inside of the melons has reached the right temperature.

13 June, 2017

Last year, together with their Chinese partner Beijing HongFu Agriculture, Levarht achieved their first major successful project in China by opening a Dutch style tomato glasshouse in the outskirts of Beijing. In 2016 the first plants arrived, and now the facility supports up to 180.000 tomato plants of the company’s Dutch cherry, beef and intermediate tomato varieties. Since a couple of weeks the first tomatoes have been available in supermarkets across the country.

Being able to closely cooperate with local producers is one of the company’s major aims globally. “Local partnerships are the pillar of our company’s culture. We aim for horizontal and vertical integration, with the  final aspiration to bring the consumer closer to the farm,” according to Claas van Os, Commercial Director of Levarht. “This model is very relevant to roll out in China, where people look for quality, freshness, guaranteed food safety and increased transparency in the food chain.’
In China, Levarht and HongFu want to ‘set new standards in the market’. “Chinese production is catching up with international standards quickly, driven by a strong demand for safe, healthy and tasty fruit and vegetables.”

Levarht has invested in the establishment of partnerships with prominent retailers across China, which is part of the company’s long term strategy.  “We cooperate with our partners in the retail, online and processing industries to understand the local consumer and to meet their demand. Food safety and traceability are key elements that consumers look for in premium food brands. This is the image retailers want to convey to their customers, and this is also how we distinguish ourselves as a supplier.”

“The branding and marketing of our new China-produced cherry tomato line highlight these characteristics in our products. The packaging we have designed has a distinct international feel to it, but does show clearly that the product is made in China. It gives explanations about the characteristics and health benefits of our tomato varieties, as well as about the greenhouse facilities in which the tomatoes are grown. The Chinese name of our tomato brand, 乐鲜客, Le Xian Ke, reflects the key aspects that we promote: ‘Nature’s Joy, in every bite. The brand is a cooperative project between Levarht and Hong Fu."

“In addition, we advocate Dutch quality standards, traceability and direct delivery, access to the source of production. Customers can scan individual QR codes that are printed on all the carton punnets. By scanning this code, consumers can trace their tomatoes all the way back to the greenhouse where the crop has been grown. We want to be completely transparent about our production methods, in order to gain trust and appreciation of the audience.”

In the coming weeks, Levarht is organising a number of product launches and tastings together with retailers in China’s major cities.

Van Nature growers Rob Brabander and Paul Zantman of Brabander-Zantman V.O.F. cultivate bell peppers and tomatoes on two sites in the Netherlands. Their main focus is specialty varieties such as: