Seed Industry

New collaboration between European growers enables consumers to enjoy Snack Lettuce year round

Five major European growers’ cooperatives have joined forces to supply Rijk Zwaan’s innovative Crunchy Lettuce to retail chains throughout Europe all year round. The three Spanish founders – JimboFresh International, Fruca and El Dulze – are excited about the new chapter in this story. “Together with the leading growers’ cooperatives Landfrisch AG in Germany and Fellini Patrizio Srl in Italy, we can reach out to a new generation of consumers who will love the texture, flavour and crunch of this unique product, 365 days a year,” says Miguel Ángel Jiménez, CEO of JimboFresh. Four of the growers’ cooperatives and Rijk Zwaan will showcase this Snack Lettuce on their booths at this year’s Fruit Logistica in Berlin.

05 February 2024, Germany: The story started in 2016, when the Dutch vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan presented a new product: Crunchy Lettuce. As part of its mission to keep surprising consumers with new innovations, the breeding team succeeded in combining the best traits of both iceberg and cos in a single lettuce. The result was a crunchy, juicy, tasty and sweet lettuce.

Exciting addition to retail shelves

The Crunchy Lettuce varieties soon secured their own specific market. In close collaboration with the three Spanish cooperatives, a new concept was born: Snack Lettuce. This tasty snack-sized lettuce was an exciting addition to retail shelves and inspired consumers to explore new and different ways of using lettuce, such as for appetisers and low-carb wraps.

Accelera Award for innovation

“Working together as a group of companies made our project stronger and more flexible in the supply chain,” explains Miguel Ángel Jiménez explains. Moreover, the consumer feedback was positive, he continues: “They liked the new texture, flavour and especially the crunchy-sounding bite.” The success didn’t go unnoticed. The concept received the Accelera Award for innovation and entrepreneurship at the Fruit Attraction trade fair in 2018.

Year-round production

Collaboration with the growers’ cooperatives Landfrisch AG in Germany and Fellini Patrizio Srl in Italy marks the start of the next chapter in this story. The Spanish companies will continue to drive this programme during the winter period, and the production of Snack Lettuce in Germany and Italy in the summer will now extend it to a year-round programme. The JimboFresh CEO sees this as an important step towards further growth in the European market. “It will enlarge the impact throughout Europe. We can now reach out to a new generation of consumers, 365 days a year,” he states.

Reaching new consumers

Reaching new consumers is precisely what the German fruit and vegetable company Landfrisch AG, located in Bergheim, is aiming to do. This strong new partner in the collaborative programme is made up of 66 production operations, including 106 hectares of under-glass cultivation, 800 hectares fruit growing and 2,000 hectares of open-field vegetable cultivation.

“Due to the geographically different growing areas, we are now able to offer our customers this innovative lettuce all year round,” comments Johannes van Eerde, COO of Landfrisch AG. “And thanks to the close cooperation between the participants, we can exchange ideas on cultivation issues, develop a common vision regarding quality, organise comprehensive marketing campaigns and ensure the supply of Snack Lettuce throughout the year. From our point of view, this is the best form of vertical integration.”

Excited to join

The Italian family company Fellini Patrizio Srl, which works with growers all over Italy and is specialised in open-field crops, is similarly excited about joining the programme. “Our curiosity was sparked the very first time we met our new partners at a trade fair. We firmly believe in this Crunchy Lettuce project,” explains CEO Emile Fellini.

The Crunchy Lettuce – which in Italy is labelled as ‘Crunchy – La lattuga che scrocchia’ – will be grown in different regions: in the Province of Forlì-Cesena, and in the areas around Marche, Calabria and Puglia. “Our first production has just started and will be ready from April 2024 onwards. With the choice of the various production locations we plan to grow this lettuce until the end of the summer and hope to extend the production season depending on the challenging growing conditions. We hope to receive positive feedback, both from our retail partners and from consumers.”

Unleash the potential

Rijk Zwaan will continue to be involved in this new, five-cooperative partnership. Miguel Ángel Jiménez confirms that he is delighted with this commitment. “Rijk Zwaan plays a strategic and essential role. We are all well aligned and share a common goal: to unleash the true value and potential of this fantastic product. And this chapter isn’t the end of the story. We will keep on looking for new local partners in other countries as well.”

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