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Rhizopus stolonifer is a fungus that can cause stem and fruit rot in several crops. It is also a well-known bread mould. Rhizopus is usually visible as fluff on the surface of damaged plant parts. Often the black spore heads on the fungal hairs are visible with the naked eye. The fungus occurs naturally in the soil.

Contamination can occur through soil contact or contact with infested fruits. The fungus can grow rapidly under warm and humid conditions and the spores travel from plant to plant via the greenhouse air. The initial infection often occurs as a result of plant damage. In horticultural crops Rhizopus is most prevalent on fruits such as strawberry, tomato and eggplant but it can also cause rotten spots on the leaves and stems of pot plants.

Primary cause

Although Erwinia is often the primary cause of stem rot in sweet peppers, Rhizopus is also found in these rotten areas. Infected fruits can completely rot away within a few days, especially when products are packaged in foil. Infected fruits often leak sap, a typical characteristic of Rhizopus fruit rot.

Text and images: Groen Agro Control

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Sweet peppers arrive in waves. New fruits lure so many assimilates towards them that the flowers above them abort. This article provides various suggestions about how to flatten out the peaks and troughs. In the long term, breeding can also play an important role.

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Key points for attention in the online sale of fruit and vegetables are quality and food safety. Another factor to take into consideration is packaging. Can standardised packaging guarantee the desired product quality, food safety and customer experience standards?

Although no specific rules apply to online sales - as opposed to traditional sales methods - online sales channels will need to observe the same quality and food safety regulations as other food suppliers. ‘Food safety is a priority issue,’ says Nicolette Quaedvlieg, policy officer for Quality & Food Safety at het GroentenFruit Huis.

'People are less disappointed when they pick up a product at the supermarket with a quality defect than if they had bought the same product with the same quality issues online.'

She also believes that the quality of online products should be better than what is offered by supermarkets. ‘You have to take it one step further. People are less disappointed when they pick up a product at the supermarket with a quality defect than if they had bought the same product with the same quality issues online. That’s simply not acceptable to them.’ Additionally, Quaedvlieg points out that consumers purchasing produce online need information about the product’s country of origin. Online sales platforms are also required - just as shops and restaurants - to provide information about allergens, both on their websites and upon delivery to the customer.

Best quality

Martijn van Andel of JEM-id is also convinced that consumers should get the best possible quality when they order something online. ‘And that’s possible, because you leave out several links in the distribution chain. Going grocery shopping three times a week is actually ridiculous, since 90% of the products you buy are identical. Neither is grocery shopping a particularly interesting experience. There are few people who genuinely enjoy shopping for groceries.’

'Consistency in quality and freshness is only possible through short lines and foolproof chain cooperation with preferably local suppliers.'

Harrij Schmeitz of the Fresh Informationmanagement Center emphasises that the quality of online groceries not only needs to be good; it must also be consistent. ‘The consumer must not be disappointed. If consumers fail to find the quality they seek online, you will lose them and they will purchase their products elsewhere.’ Consistency in quality and freshness is, according to Machiel Reinders, senior researcher at LEI Wageningen University Research Centre, only possible through short lines and foolproof chain cooperation with preferably local suppliers. ‘Good customer service is also of paramount importance.’

Packaging

The range of packaging currently available can only partially guarantee the desired standard of quality and consumer experience, says Reinders. He indicates that there is a demand for better packaging, particularly for more delicate products. ‘Special packaging is also needed for the cooled transport of products. PostNL has conducted several experiments with Vershuys.com, for example, in which they explored the possibility of using special coolers for the shipment of fresh food products.’

'The range of packaging currently available can only partially guarantee the desired standard of quality and consumer experience.'

The researcher also points out that packaging can also enhance consumer experience through the addition of supplementary information, or visual materials, for example. ‘On the other hand, one of the trends in modern society is to desire to curb the amount of packaging waste. To put it briefly, there are still plenty of opportunities for innovation in the field of packaging fir the online market. This is one of the issues on which the Fresh ONLINE Pack project will be focusing in the next few years to come.’

Text: Tuinbouwteksten.nl/Ank van Lier. Photo: HelloFresh.com

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The consumption of fruit and vegetables is declining. The purchase of fresh vegetables by consumers dropped by three per cent and the purchase of fresh fruit by half a per cent in 2015. This trend has been growing for some time. According to Nicolette Quaedvlieg of GroentenFruit Huis there is still a world to conquer in this respect. ‘The online market offers a lot of new opportunities. Businesses are looking for new markets and models for their distribution.’

However, Quaedvlieg is also aware that the online sale of fresh produce is lagging behind the sale of other consumer and other goods. ‘People buying fresh products want to be able to see, touch and smell them first. Additionally, one type fruit or vegetable can easily be replaced by another; the internet offers more added value in the sale of consumer goods.’

Experience

Nevertheless, Quaedvlieg believes there to be ample opportunities with regard to the online sale of fresh produce. ‘There are outstanding opportunities if you can offer a unique product that is not available anywhere else, for example. Or if you can add something interesting to your products, like a recipe. Customer loyalty is also very important; people will come back once they know how tasty your products are. Consumer experience is a key factor in this.’

'Customer loyalty is also very important; people will come back once they know how tasty your products are. Consumer experience is a key factor in this.’

Quaedvlieg is also convinced that selling your products online enables you to enter into closer contact with your customers, which is a considerable advantage. ‘It’s easier to get feedback, from which you can gain a great deal of information. However, if you don’t make use of this it won’t be any help to you. This service is very important to consumers.’

Text: Tuinbouwteksten.nl/Ank van Lier. Photo: GroentenFruit Huis.

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The online market for fresh produce and ornamental plants is growing. However, while the ornamental plant sector is making giant steps forward in this respect, the food market is lagging distinctly behind, particularly with regard to fresh produce. How can this be explained, and what are some of the opportunities and threats facing the online sale of horticulture products? Four parties engaged in this field present their vision on the developments, each based on their own expertise.

The number of consumers preferring to make their purchases online is constantly growing. Not only do they buy their clothes and shoes online; they also buy their food on the internet. The percentage of fresh produce sold online, however, lags far behind that of other product groups.

This can in part be explained partly by the high supermarket density in the Netherlands and partly by a lack of consumer confidence in the quality of fresh fruit and vegetables offered online: they prefer to see - and even touch - these products before buying them. Additionally, they are reluctant to pay additional shipping and delivery costs. On top of that, many suppliers of fresh produce lack a successful business model, particularly due to the logistic complexity associated with online sales. There are still many challenges ahead!

Online groceries

Nevertheless, various people engaged in the online sale of food products believe this to be a highly promising market. A study conducted by LEI Wageningen University Research Centre at the beginning of 2015 showed that approximately 12% of all Dutch consumers order their groceries on the internet from time to time. Another study, conducted by Deloitte in 2015, revealed that 8% of all consumers have, at one time or another, made use of an online ordering service. This service is used once or twice a month and the average amount per online order is approximately 69 euros.

Groceries ordered by respondents (or that they would like to order) online are mainly products with a longer shelf life, dairy products and frozen food. There is, however, also a notable rise in the number of fresh products ordered online. The emergence of meal boxes, of which more and more are being offered by supermarkets and other retailers, plays an important role in this development. This relatively new concept is benefiting from the popularity of regional products, healthy nutrition, organic ingredients and several intensive marketing campaigns launched by leading international players.

Meal box increasing in popularity

The meal box is becoming increasingly popular among Dutch households: A recent survey by Multiscope showed that, as it stands today, 11% have tried out a meal box and one third of them will continue to order them. Two out of ten people in the Netherlands are interested in the concept, but have never ordered a meal box. These are generally households composed on one or two persons. What appeals to them in particular is the convenience, the variety in meals and the inspiration to try new recipes.

HelloFresh is the best-known meal box. Eight out of ten people in the Netherlands has heard of this brand. Users are most satisfied about the originality and good quality of HelloFresh box. However, the price and freedom of choice in the various varieties received a lower score. HelloFresh does not deliver its meal boxes on Monday, which is the preferred delivery date. Allerhande Box, however, delivers on Monday and is second to HelloFresh when it comes to name recognition (49%).

Text: Tuinbouwteksten.nl/Ank van Lier. Photo: Fresh Informationmanagement Center.

Would you like to know the key conclusions and read about appealing examples in e-commerce? Download the complete dossier New Retail (8 pages, pdf).

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