Tasty and healthy
Fruit and vegetables are naturally healthy. They offer a wide and diverse choice, leading to a varied diet and a rich taste palette. This is why they are considered one of the products that lead to a better quality of life.
An average Belgian family will spend about 13% of its yearly budget on food. Of that food budget, only a tenth (2.5% of the total expenditure) goes on fruit and vegetables. Our daily consumption of this type of produce should increase however.
In addition, fruit and vegetables, compared to many other food products, are rather inexpensive. This is of great benefit to the consumer: healthy and sustainable food does not need to be expensive.
Living more healthily can be achieved by moving more and through mindful consumption.
It is advisable to eat certain goods more and others less.
Food safety is a basic condition of the food chain.
Both the VBT cooperatives and their producers manage and control the processes in place at their companies to guarantee food safety. The products themselves are systematically monitored.
The horticultural sector strives to grow products of excellent quality. In introducing quality systems that are monitored by external, independent institutions, producers are constantly looking to improve their processes and products.
Quality labels are developed to highlight safe and tasty products that are of top quality, and naturally these can only be used if the products adhere to predefined quality levels.
The best way to avoid food wastage is to bring products to market that closely adhere to the wishes and needs of the consumer.
Fruit and vegetable production is planned based on market knowledge and product development processes that follow changes in consumption patterns, the evolution of eating culture, specific consumption events and new application opportunities.
Once harvested, fruit and vegetables are immediately brought to market, with the exception of those products that can be stored without loss of quality. In doing so, we can enjoy these goods throughout the year. Each fruit and vegetable type is carefully stored under ideal circumstances, specific to the product, often in cooling units at the VBT horticultural cooperatives or at producers’ sites.
In 2017, more than a million tons of fruit and vegetables were delivered to the VBT horticultural cooperatives. For the 1% of goods that were not sold immediately, the cooperatives adhere to the cascading principle of value-retention when searching for another destination.
Cooperatives positively differentiate themselves by combining a low tonnage of unsold products with a high degree of valorisation (cascade-index).
source:Flemish Food Supply Chain Platform for Food Loss (2017)
Products that do not meet the quality requirements for the fresh market can be processed into frozen products, canned goods, soup, juices or mousses.
As much unsold produce as possible is freely distributed through about 60 recognised social organisations like food banks and social services. These organisations can pick up produce, up to 150 kg per registered person in need per year, at the VBT cooperatives. In total, about 1.9 million kilograms of food were distributed for free over the past years.
The remaining unsold products are valorised as animal feed or for fermentation. Harvest refuse and other non-marketable products are sometimes used as animal feed, for composting or supplied to a biogas installation.
“Per European citizen, about 179 kg of usable goods are wasted.
This represents 50% of healthy food. 42% of this is lost at the consumer level, the remainder in the production chain, during transport or storage. In total, 200 million people could be fed with wasted food from Europe.”
Packaging ensures smooth logistics, but also plays a role in product traceability, hygiene and quality preservation.
To ensure a smooth logistical process, products are grouped in transport and handling packaging. For all this non-consumer packaging, VBT cooperatives use 95% re-usable materials. Only 5% of it is single-use.
Consumer packaging is mainly single-use. Its composition has evolved considerably over the past years. Today, 17% of packaging is made of paper or cardboard, 71% is made of plastic and 9% of other materials.
Reducing packaging, optimising and aspiring to use more sustainable materials is a key priority for our sector.