extracted from www.rijkzwaan.com
During a suppliers’ assessment of McDonald’s, vegetable processor Van Gorp Greenfood recently chieved the Benchmark Excellence Performance. This time, the company supplies 1,150 branches of the restaurant chain and serves as an example for other vegetable processors. Part of the secret is in setting up its own nursery, Dutchgrowers, in 2003.
With this step, Van Gorp Greenfood took the summer production of iceberg lettuce, the main lettuce type used by McDonald’s. almost totally into its own hands. “The aim is not to get the highest number of lettuces or kilos per hectare, but an excellent quality of raw product for Van Gorp Greenfood,” Ronald Peeters explain.
As General Manager of Duthgrowers he is responsible for a good 200 hs of iceberg lettuce. “Out whole growing strategy is based on quality nd reliability, for instance by carrying out a lot of preventive actions. We do numerous crop checks, hoe a lot, and the harvesting weight is always secondary to the quality.”
Rob Thijssen, director of Van Gorp, tkes over : “There are no more discussions about such things as irrigatio, fertilisers and harvesting times. When there are any growing problems we decide, by mutual consultation, whether we will cut the lettuce or not and, if necessary, plan in extra personnel on the lettuce processing lines. Because of the short lines we are always well-informed.
“At Van Gorp Greenfood, quality and food safety are paramount. If there is any insect pressure, each head of lettuce is halved or quaterred to prevent that not even one insect finishes up in the end product. “With McDonald’s we cannot afford to make the slightest mistake.”
Van Gorp Greenfood and Dutch-growers are regular visitors to the Rijk Zwaan demo days in Fijnaart. There, but also in their own trial fields in Limburg, they and Rijk Zwaan assess which iceberg lettuce varieties best meet the demands of the vegetable processor. Reliability is the very first requirement, followed by a good spherical shape, even in extreme conditions. Van Gorp also likes to see lettuces that have been allowed to grow steadily, with the leaves arranged like roof tiles and a nice, light green colour. Top variety where that is concerned is Silvinas RZ, the main variety for Dutchgrowers at the moment, but the trials this year have been scaled up again, with the addition of Diamantinas RZ, a variety with a better colour but whose ideal growing method has yet to be found. Rijk Zwaan is closely involved in this process. A valuable partner, thinks crop advisor Sjaar Kuypers : “As long as a good 20 years ago, Rijk Zwaan was the first company to have varieties with specific advantages for vegetable processors. Since then there has been successful collaboration and we are now 95% Rijk Zwaan varieties in the summer season.”