Journalists on tour: SVZ’s Belgium media tour 2022
An invitation to Belgium
To end a successful Q2, we invited three food and beverage journalists from FoodBev, International Dairy Magazine and Beverage Daily on a fruity tour of Belgium! From Antwerp to Rijkevorsel, it was a busy two days full of behind-the-scenes production and exclusive Q&As with a strawberry farmer.
Why? We understand the importance of transparency and believe this should relate to everyone, including the media! We have some exciting initiatives coming up that look at the broader industry challenges, products aside, and how we as an industry can do better to leave a more sustainable food and beverage industry to the generations to come. It’s important to listen to different perspectives and involve industry experts in collaborative initiatives that aim to make a difference. Let’s recap the trip – first stop, Antwerp!
Touring the harbour
Kicking off the itinerary with some history and context, we took a trip down to Antwerp harbour and even had a private guided tour. Did you know, approximately 2.2 million tons of fruit and vegetables entered Antwerp via the North Sea in 2020 alone? The tons of imported fruit and vegetables that the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp process every day are crucial to meeting the continued demand for natural food and drinks. Sadly, approximately 5% of this produce is wasted due to either ripeness or appearance.
Food waste is something we can’t just watch happen, so, we’re looking to take more surplus, quality fruit and vegetables from Rotterdam and Antwerp that don’t reach the appearance standards of the fresh market. In fact, SVZ’s Rijkevorsel processing plant, which will soon see a capacity expansion, is going to take in more produce from both ports. It was a great way to show the character and logistics behind the produce.
Picking the farmer’s brain
The following day, we travelled over to our strawberry supplier’s farm in Rijkevorsel to pick the farmer’s brain (no pun intended). The journalists were able to see the pickers in action and were pleasantly surprised that the strawberries are grown from a height rather than on the floor, making working conditions much easier. The irrigation systems in place demonstrated the prevention of water loss and we even managed to get caught in the middle of the farm’s timed roof sprinklers which cool the roof down. On a hot June day, we didn’t mind!
Although there are plenty of beautiful strawberries being grown on the farm, we wanted to show the journalists that it’s the imperfectly shaped ones which proudly head to SVZ! The strawberries we use go into purees and juices, so what’s not to love about a slightly wonky, delicious, often smaller strawberry and reduced waste? These strawberries are still quality checked and have to pass our standards, but our standards look beyond aesthetics and towards the future.
From plant tour to taste test
On the last leg of the media tour, we invited journalists in for a sneak peek at our Rijkevorsel factory where we were taken on an audio guided tour. This was led by our plant manager, Peter Heijnen, who kindly let the journalists see the different production facilities of strawberries and raspberries, tasting labs, puree freezers, and even the loading areas. Our freezers have to be kept as low as -20, so it’s safe to say we gave the journalists a chill when we let them in!
When we hung up the white coats and removed the hair nets, we headed back to a meeting room for some lunch and puree tasting. With blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, kiwi and even tomato puree up for grabs, the kiwi was an all-round favourite but all were thoroughly enjoyed and discussed. With a working lunch on the go, we ended the day with an interactive discussion on the industry and how we can all help. We were thrilled to hear the valued opinions of the journalists around the importance of locality, the cost challenge many are facing across the supply chain, what makes a supply chain resilient and more. As we had a representative in dairy, beverages and general food, we were able to gather opinions from different perspectives and hear the challenges unique to each sector.
What’s to come
On reflection, the two immersive days we spent with journalists in the food and beverage industry were filled with intuitive questions, educational tours, sweet and sour taste tests, strawberry picking and views from the top of Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp. Above all, we’re thankful that our media partners took the time out of their week to spend time with SVZ and to share their thoughts on where the industry will be in the next decade.
Although we shared a wholesome dinner and a pleasant harbour tour, the purpose of our media tour was to engage with the trade media to involve them in a bigger picture project. We can’t wait to share the results with you soon in the first part of our upcoming journey to a better world.
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