Face of Wageningen known within fresh
(WB#28, Weekly Publication of Wageningen UR, 6 oct.
2005: p. 11)
A well-known face and exuberance in the
market. An integrated package of research services for entrepreneurs in
the fresh product sector. The result: extensive and interesting commercial
projects for the Expertise Centre Packaging.
The centre is headed by Henri Luitjes, who also
heads the Department of Packaging, Transport and Logistics in Agrotechnology &
Food Innovations (A&F). Making excuses for the lengthy names, he explains
the organisational structure of the centre. "However, we are not so concerned
with the internal structure, but with what we can offer to the market outside."
The centre began four years ago as a joint venture among the packaging experts
of A&F, the departments Product Design and Quality of Wageningen University and
the Animal Sciences Group (ASG). "We thought that it would be good to pool the
knowledge of meat and fish at ASG with our knowledge of packaging and
distribution. This hunch has paid off," added Luitjes enthusiastically.
A&F was hitherto a hub of vegetative knowledge. "And if you want to offer
interesting concepts for the complete fresh product range, you naturally cannot
be without an understanding of meat and fish as well."
Luitjes named two representative projects carried out by the expertise centre.
The first is for retailer Albert Heijn, to analyse the complete chain of organic
pork, from production to sales on the display shelf. This has resulted in
improvements at the production (slaughter house) and in packaging. In addition,
there is also better coordination among the links in the chain, under the
auspices of the phrase 'supply chain management'. Finally, the whole
concept has been given an optimal form, to the full satisfaction of Albert Heijn.
Something similar was also done for Laurus, which switched last year from
pre-packed meat to sealed packaging of meat. "The amount and composition of the
air above the meat in the sealed dish was of great importance," says Luitjes.
After various experiments -- the centre has its own testing installations for
packaging -- the optimal approach was found for Laurus and its suppliers.
In both these examples, there was no fixed work
structure. "We work on project basis together with different parties within
Wageningen UR, in order to make the best offer to the market. Even researchers
from the LEI also participate in some projects."
To project his centre to the outside world,
Luijtes has his own website (www.vers.nl). "This
has lead us to new customers," says Luitjes. He retreats after his computer and
shows off the day's 'harvest': two requests for information, one from a
colleague and the other from an employee of a big retail enterprise in another
country. "Look, both these leave their contact details on the site, and I can
then contact them to see if we can help them in any way."
Luitjes expects the demand for the expertise of his centre to increase. "In the
fresh product chains, an enormous amount of products are being thrown away. In
The Netherlands, this is one billion euros a year. This means that only half of
all the food produced by farmer and market gardener is actually consumed. We are
therefore wasting two times as much energy as all windmills in our country can
According to Luitjes, this 'waste' problem in fresh chains is getting increasing
attention worldwide. "It's not only about big money, but also about socially
relevant problems. The inefficiency of fresh chains is partly the cause of
traffic jams and environmental pollution."
For companies, the determining factor is mostly economic profit. Luitjes expect
that this is mainly the case in the joint venture with IBM. "Together, we will
expand the horizons of the analysed data in the fresh market. The analysis of
point-of-sale data in the fresh market, eg. for vegetables, is currently hardly
exploited. We believe that interesting possibilities abound here."
These possibilities are naturally not limited to
the Dutch market. The expertise centre has already established contact with a
big German retail organisation. Luitjes does not rule out, especially when
working together with IBM, reaching further horizons internationally.
The recognition for the centre's work is already present in its own country. For
example, the first 'Radio Frequency Identification' (RFID) innovation price was
awarded to Schuitema in August this year for a
project in which the
product temperature of packed vegetables in the entire chain can be monitored.
One of the participants in this project: Expertise Centre Packaging &
Distribution of Wageningen UR.
For more information, you can contact