Already one of the biggest names in the fresh produce sector, Univeg’s recent merger with Greenyard Foods and Peatinvest has created one of the largest groups of its kind. Chairman Hein Deprez explains exclusively to Produce Business UK why the company is not stopping there with its expansion plans (including in the UK), and what benefits the deal will bring to produce consumers at large
The merger was significant enough given that it has created the largest company of its kind in the global fresh produce sector, with expected annual sales reaching close to €4 billion (£2.8bn). But what makes the agreement even more important is the fact that Univeg, with Greenyard Foods as its new parent company, now has a reach that crosses all produce sectors – from fresh to frozen and canned through to production materials.
Hein Deprez, executive chairman of Greenyard Foods and Univeg’s founder, believes the two additions to the group’s portfolio will not only complement its existing business, but could help boost fresh produce consumption, while all three companies will benefit from complementary synergies.
Speaking from the organisation’s head office in Sint-Katelijne-Waver in northern Belgium, Deprez says the changes will enable Univeg to deliver a clearer message to consumers about the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables – in all their forms.
“Fruits and vegetables are not only sold as fresh, but also as frozen and canned – it’s still the same production that is going to the market,” says Deprez. “They fulfil different needs for consumers. They aren’t always looking for fresh – sometimes they are looking for convenience or products you can keep longer or that are at a different price level.
“Consumers’ understanding of fruits and vegetables is that they equal health, but the messages they are receiving from suppliers are very confusing. If the message is confusing, you don’t have trust and if you don’t have trust, the consumer doesn’t buy the product.”
These same consumers, Deprez continues, may well then buy from a processed food brand that makes the same health claims as fruits and vegetables, but with considerably less evidence to substantiate them. As evidence, he cites ‘funghi’ pizzas, which typically use a single mushroom across a pizza that is sold as a meal for four people.