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Benelux potato output growing unabated; vegetable oversupply causes some concern.

Benelux Potato Output Growing Unabated; Vegetable Oversupply Causes Some Concern

When it comes to frozen food production, 1988 can be considered another record year of output for the Benelux countries. The potato market in particular shows no sign of being uprooted. And while most of the population bemoaned a wet summer, vegetable growers enjoyed one of the most successful harvests in some years -- both in terms of quality and quantity.

All things considered, pride of place must still go to the potato business. Who in their wildest dreams could have foreseen the scope of the global market that has developed. The advance of the frozen potato seems to know no barriers. Indeed, one could ask the question: Where will it end? While awaiting the answer, millions of dollars are being invested every year by companies either installing additional processing lines or even building new factories. As a matter of fact, new companies continue to enter the marketplace.

Quick Frozen Foods International spoke to H.L. Woudstra, marketing manager of Aviko BV, on this subject: "Anyone can build a processing plant and install the latest machinery," he said, "but at the end of the day it is experience in production coupled with marketing and selling acumen that will make a company succeed, as these are difficult areas."

Being on the ball is all important. For example, last August the South Korean government sanctioned the acceptance of certain food products from Europe and within weeks Aviko BV and Keizer BV had delivered their first container loads of chips (French fries) to the Northeast Asian country.

Throughout this decade the chip has gradually been accepted as a global product. During 1987 some 1.6 million tons of potatoes were processed by Dutch producers for the frozen food market. This was predominantly for the chip sector, although other potato lines are showing healthy growth. A high percentage of production is exported throughout the world. However big a market as that is, the sizeable number of Benelux processors means manufacturers will have to guard against it becoming overproductive which could lead to a price war.

The real credit for worldwide acceptance of frozen potatoes must be given to fast food companies such as McDonald's, as they have pioneered the cause. They establish general acceptance of the product which then takes a natural course of development through the catering trade to the retail side. Thus the answer to the question "For how long will the chip market develop?" lies at the feet of the vanguard of the industry: the McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises of the world.

Quick Frozen Food International met with a number of potato processors during this reporter's visit to Benelux and the SIAL '88 Trade Show in Paris. Because such an important international market has been developed for potatoes, readers may be interested in the layout of a French fry production line. The diagram on the previous page (172), which illustrates how efficient such systems have become, is provided through the courtesy of Fri-d' Or BV.

Farm Frites

Farm Frites BV of Oudenhoorn is a revelation in its own right. Some nine years ago the company consisted of a small processing plant, a coldstore and an office which was no more than a wooden hut. Now after a lot of hard work and ploughing profits back into the business, it boasts a large modern plant, a major coldstore plus attractive offices.

Today the firm's products are marketed under the leadership of Bas Huurman. To keep pace among the front-runners, new lines are continually introduced, the latest being the Pomme Dauphine -- a form of breaded mashed potato coated with egg white. The growth of the European home microwave oven has ensured Farm Frites' advancement with microwave chip products. Some 90% of production is exported -- mainly to Western Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.

Van Den Broeke

Leuze-based Van Den Broeke, the largest producer of processed potato products in Belgium, is currently turning out 60,000 tons per annum. Expansion plans will soon see that figure greatly exceeded.

In mid-1988 Van Den Broeke bought out a frozen vegetable company. Its premises were gutted and replaced with a processing line for chips only. Production is due to start in early 1989, and Marketing Manager Etienne Sandra stated that the additional facilities will increase company production to 100,000 tons annually. The main marketing thrust is in France, followed by the U.K., although exports are currently going to 32 countries around the world including many in Europe, the Far East and Canada.

Sandra said his company is committed to quality control to ensure a top-shelf image for its products. However, there is a fear that with the great amount of chips being processed, there may be a lowering of quality standards among competitors, thus reducing market prices.

T. Storteboom

In the North of Holland is found T. Storteboom BV. Its busy marketing manager, Raymond van Oosten, is responsible for Storteboom itself as well as sister company Vriezo BV of Oosterberium. Vriezo was taken over some three years ago and the first duty performed was the modernization of its plant. A high capital investment brought in state-of-the-art equipment.

Mainly involved with chips, the revamped plant also produces an assortment of other frozen potato products. Since coming into operation two years ago, production has increased from 10,000 tons to 40,000 tons of finished product per year. The output is available throughout Europe and beyond.

Flevofood Diepvries

Flevofood Diepvries BV, established since 1980, now has offices in London as well as a plant site. Owner A. Laarman stated that chips are the most important part of his business, although also offered are an array of frozen potato products for both the catering and retail sectors. Business has tripled during recent years, which has meant the planning of yet another production plant in Holland. Due to be on line at the beginning of the 1989 potato season, the new factory will boost production capacity 1,000 tons per week.

Fri-d'Or

With processing facilities at Bergen-op-Zoom and Tilburg, Fri-d' Or BV enjoys a healthy share of the frozen potato market. The former site concentrates on chip production, working three 8-hour shifts per day. The later caters more for potato specialities and operates two 8-hour shifts per day.

Among the packer's new products is a type of large baked potato with an herb or cheese topping. Sales Manager Paul Teljeur reported that the baked potato market is showing signs of taking off as a welcome addition to the convenience food market.

Kuibo Frites

Another potato company of many year's standing -- 25 years, actually -- but only recently involved in the frozen chip market, is Kuibo Frites BV. A family-run concern of the four Kuis brothers, each partner has his own specific responsibility, be it sales, quality, production or purchasing. The outfit offers a full range of chips from 8mm to 13mm in size. Like most potato and vegetable processors, Kuibo participates in private label, with full in-house services for that side of the business. Exports are mainly to EEC countries.

Looking Ahead

In summation, this reporter thinks that potato farming could be a major problem for the future. Fertilizing techniques have become so sophisticated that harvests per hectare have nearly doubled in the last decade. QFFI was told that in the late 1970s and early '80s farmers were producing up to 45 tons of potatoes per hectare. With modern growing methods, this figure has now increased to 75-80 tons per hectare. In 1988 some allowances had been made for this, and there was a reduction of 3,000 hectares for sowing that year. However, the spring and summer weather was so ideal for crops that eventually the size of potatoes harvested was much larger than usual. This could be counterproductive to any planned crop reductions. Also, the large potato size is likely to cause a shortfall in the baby roastie type of raw material.

VEGETABLES As previously pointed out, while the population of northern Europe was moaning about the wet summer weather of 1988, these same climatic conditions were ideal for farming vegetables. Hence the general opinion of processors is that superb crops of most commodity items were harvested -- in terms of quality and quantity.

There has been a substantial tonnage carryover of certain items, and a major oversupply situation was on the horizon. However, this has been partially avoided by sales to drought-stricken North America. But while movement was buoyant in the summer, it fell off toward the end of the year.

In general, Benelux processors are closely associated with the farming of their produce. For instance, they either own, or contract with farmers for a given number of hectares of land. The processors supply the seed and fertilizer, visiting the fields on a regular basis to ensure that farmers are carrying out the contract. In fact if the final harvest does not come up to standard it can then be rejected, thus affecting the farmer's income.

Current EEC rules concerning dairy, sugar beet and beef quotas are now impacting on vegetable suppliers. Apparently farmers who have been affected by quota restrictions in other areas are utilizing their land by growing vegetable crops, particularly in Germany and Belgium. On one hand this gives the vegetable processor an assurance that there will be plenty of raw materials, but in turn processors will have to plan very carefully to avoid a glut. Such would lead to low prices unless proper marketing takes place. Producers were very lucky as the potential glut position was reduced due to shortfalls in the United States which led to increased volume sales there. These sales were predominantly for peas and beans, although other vegetable sectors also benefitted. This pattern started declining in the autumn, however.

While the previous part of this report dealt with potato processing specialists, it should be noted that a number of vegetable companies also trade in spuds.

Keizer

One such firm is Keizer BV. It is now producing vegetables in excess of 70,000 tons a year, of which 40,000 to 45,000 tons are potato products with a decided leaning towards chips. Indeed, potato production has been so beneficial to Keizer that a second production line was installed in 1987.

The company expresses pride in its new 56,000 cubic meter coldstore which Director Hennie Bakker describes as the highest automatic refrigerated warehouse in Europe with capacity for 5,290 pallet places. Based in the heart of the Dutch agricultural belt, Keizer is assured of plentiful raw materials besides potatoes. For example: spinach, beans, sprouts and carrots.

O.D.C. Oerlemans

Through the years O.D.C. Oerlemans has carefully planned for expansion, so it must be gratifying for Director Jan Hulsen to see the new factory which is now complete and into production. The plant came on line in mid-1988 as the company increased its processing facilities from 20,000 tons to a potential for 45,000 of finished product per year. Along with chip output, the firm packs beans, sprouts and carrots. It is expected that production will exceed 40,000 tons within the next five years. Being situated in an agricultural area close to the German border, O.D.C. should not have any supply problems.

Belgium-based frozen food companies are inclined to specialize in either vegetables or potatoes. An important trading area is with next door neighbor France, and indeed they supply up to 52% of all frozen vegetable imports into France.

Pinguin

Pinguin NV is a Belgian family business that specializes in baby carrots and root vegetables. Director Herwig de Jonghe, delighted with last year's crops, expects the company's two plants to process in the area of 40,000 tons of vegetables. Current coldstore capacity is 130,000 cubic meters, and a further extension will be on line in time for the 1989 season, boosting available space to 150,000 cubic meters. This increased storage will facilitate the production of up to 50,000 tons this year.

Very aware of the possible overproduction problems which could arise because of quotas, Pinguin will keep a close watch on that area. In the meantime, the company has updated its packaging and logo. Increased production will help an export drive focused mainly on France, followed by Germany, other EEC countries, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Far East. Private label also plays an important part of this packer's business.

Begro

Begro SA was founded in 1983, although the family business has over 65 years' experience in supplying vegetables to the fresh food/ canning markets, and latterly to the frozen food industry. Of the 30,000 to 35,000 tons of vegetables grown per annum -- mainly beans, peas, carrots and cauliflower, its four year old factory processes up to 14,000 tons. The present plant layout is designed to accommodate two additional production lines. There is also a large air conditioned packing hall, plus a 42,000 cubic meter coldstore. Equipment includes a steam peeler with brusher, metal detector, length grade, and dataweigher for packaging products from 450 grams to 28 kilos.

Ardovries

Ardovries NV, which has been producing deep frozen vegetables since 1977, now claims to be the second largest supplier of processed frozen vegetables in Europe. The Ardooie-headquartered outfit, situated in the center of Belgium's vegetable growing region, boasts a product range of over 45 items.

In the past three years coldstore facilities have increased from 130,000 cubic meters to 225,000 cubes, allowing for up to 30,000 tons of vegetables to be stored. However, the big news from Ardovries is the launch of four varieties of Ardo frozen soups. Made totally from fresh seasonal vegetables, the soup comes in portion control frozen cubes.

Dicogel

Dicogel NV is a new name to add to the long list of Belgium's frozen vegetable processors. With a 40,000 cubic meter production area, and a 60,000 cubic meter coldstore, the company is able to process up to 25,000 tons of a comprehensive range of vegetables -- including potato products -- per year. Exports are expanding at a satisfactory level, particularly to EEC countries.

NV Maertens

NV Maertens SA produces a full range of processed frozen vegetables. Originally a canning operation, it now stands at two-thirds canning and one-third frozen. Suppliers to retailers in the U.K., it also exports to Germany, France and other EEC countries. Special lines include baby carrots and sprouts.

PHOTO : The production of frozen French fries or chips is clearly defined in this illustration

PHOTO : supplied by Frid-d'Or BV. The 11 sequences are as follows: 1) arrival and checking of

PHOTO : potatoes; 2) peeling; 3) electronic detection of eye faults, selection; 4) cutting;

PHOTO : 5) sorting; 6) electronic detection of cutting failures, automatic removal of faulty

PHOTO : pieces; 7) scalding, cooling; 8) drying; 9) frying; 10) cooling, freezing; 11) packing.

PHOTO : The Daalimpex BV coldstore in Holland's northern Polder country.

PHOTO : T. Storteboom BV is reporting success with its poultry Meister Jan convenience food

PHOTO : range. The ready-seasoned products cook in their own juices.

PHOTO : Fri-d'Or BV's range of baked potatoes with tasty toppings -- mainly targeted at the

PHOTO : convenience food market -- are proving popular on barbecue occasions.

PHOTO : A rendering of the new, fully automatic coldstore designed and supervised by H + H

PHOTO : Automation for Keizer BV. It is said to be the tallest refrigerated warehouse in Europe

PHOTO : with a storage capacity of 5290 pallet places.

PHOTO : O.D.C. Oerlemans BV has invested over 5 million pounds to expand its processing plant.

PHOTO : An example of the Updated multi-lingual packaging being used by Pinguin NV.

PHOTO : Ardovries NV has launched into the frozen soup market with special frozen vegetable

PHOTO : portions including tomato, vegetable, chervil and onion flavors.
COPYRIGHT 1989 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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Previous Article:Focus on Benelux: Eurofrigo coldstore links up with Japanese giant Nichirei.
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