Blog: Dean Bestjust-food goes Dutch...

Dean Best | 3 September 2007

just-food has gone Dutch this week. We’re visiting the Netherlands to find out what is dominating the thoughts of the food manufacturing and retail sectors in the country.

As with much of Europe at the moment, rising production costs is the hot topic in the Netherlands. Industry executives point to the usual factors – growing demand in Asia, increased biofuel production in the US, the vagaries of the weather – for increasing commodity costs.

One Dutch industry executive believes the recent escalation in commodity costs is “unprecedented” and that, ultimately, consumers will face higher shopping bills. “There has been a huge change in raw material costs; you have no choice but to try to increase prices for your customers – otherwise you die,” the executive told just-food, adding: “Consumers will face higher prices.”

Of course, rising commodity costs isn’t bad news for everyone. While the likes of Cadbury Schweppes, Hershey and Kraft Foods have recently bemoaned mounting dairy bills, dairy companies have been rubbing their hands.

Netherlands-based Friesland Foods is one such example. Over the last year, the global diary supply has tightened, pushing up prices and Friesland Foods, one of the world’s leading dairy companies, has been well placed to benefit. Friesland Foods, which supplies a number of food processors and retailers, can command higher prices from its customers, a situation that, according to the company, is long overdue.

“We believe that consumer prices have been too low in Western Europe. The power of supermarkets in recent years have left farmers in a weak position,” a Friesland Foods spokesman told just-food at the company HQ in Meppel, eastern Netherlands. Friesland Foods announces its annual results on Thursday (6 September), a set of numbers that should make interesting reading.

Postscript: We have heard – and expect to hear – a lot about the growing popularity of functional foods among consumers in the Netherlands and Western Europe this week. Consumers, we’re told, are majoring on “health and wellness” – it’s not just a trend dreamt up by marketing managers. Perhaps someone needs to tell one of the just-food operatives on this trip. His first meal of the day was a kebab – although he did try to make up for it later in the day with a probiotic drink. Some ripe fodder for the marketing men, it seems…


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