What would you guess is the percentage of the Dutch population that never buys an aubergine? The answer: nearly 80 percent! Is this discouraging news? Absolutely not, says Loes Al, who is responsible for the marketing and communication of the Purple Pride Growers’ Association. “Research shows that aubergines are popular with a small group of ‘heavy users’ – vegetarians and vegans, and lovers of Mediterranean, Arabic and Asian cuisine. Aubergine is also used a lot in the restaurant and catering sectors. Many consumers still think, though, that aubergine is difficult to prepare, absorbs lots of oil when fried or that their family members won’t like it. They also know hardly any recipes with aubergine. While the vegetable’s beautiful and its exotic purple skin is a sight to behold, it also has a downside, as the dark colour tends to fade away into the background of the supermarket vegetable sections.”
Potential for growth
All of this is quite promising, assures Loes. “It means that the aubergine has enormous potential to grow.” Moreover, the aubergine is quite trendy at the moment. Loes: “There are a number of developments visible that can benefit aubergine sales. For example, awareness about how eating too much meat is unhealthy and how livestock farming damages the environment through the production of large quantities of greenhouse gases is on the rise. The number of vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians is steadily on the rise, with vegetarian and vegan restaurants popping up everywhere, especially in the Randstad region (which comprises the Netherlands’ four largest cities and surrounding areas). The aubergine’s fleshy texture makes it a perfect meat substitute and, thanks to its neutral taste, it readily absorbs the flavour of herbs, marinades and other ingredients.”
It is furthermore the case that the Dutch population does not eat enough vegetables, which is also something the aubergine can play a role in curbing. Loes: “If we familiarise consumers with the aubergine and interesting recipes, then they will have a legitimate new vegetable item that they can regularly include on their groceries lists.”
In addition, consumers are increasingly returning to natural, unprocessed foods. Loes: “Aubergine is not nearly as difficult to prepare as many people think. You don’t have to peel it and there’s no kernel or seeds to remove. You just slice or dice it and you’re ready to start cooking. You can also just put a whole aubergine on the barbeque, bake it in the oven or steam it. It doesn’t get purer than that!”
What does Purple Pride do?
In order to get more consumers to regularly buy and eat aubergines, Purple Pride employs a wide range of tools and avenues. Loes: “First of all, we do lots of research into consumer shopping behaviour and societal trends and use the gained insights to give retailers specific recommendations. For example, we recently did a joint promotion in a supermarket with Grand’Italia, a brand with a very high penetration amongst Dutch consumers. We had developed and promoted a lasagne recipe with aubergine, with tasting stands in the supermarkets. At another retail chain, we gave suggestions about variations on popular dishes incorporating aubergine, such as spaghetti Bolognese with an aubergine twist. We’re also focusing on educating supermarket employees. Greater knowledge of the product will lead to better quality, information for consumers and presentation in vegetable sections. We’ve even organised an aubergine sales competition with several retailers. We’re also very active in approaching restaurants and catering organisations with inspiring recipes. If people eat aubergine for dinner at a restaurant and like it, there’s a good chance that they’ll also regularly buy it in the store.”
Tips for retailers
In short: aubergines are getting the purple light to revolutionise supermarket vegetable sections and consumers’ cooking options. Retailers have an important responsibility, says Loes. “Focus on consumer penetration and education. Show how easy aubergine is to prepare and how healthy and tasty it is. Get in touch with us if you’re interested in creative ideas for activities.”
About Purple Pride
Over the course of our 22-year existence, Purple Pride has grown into the largest aubergine brand of North-Western Europe.
Five ultra-modern cultivation sites produce over 20 million kilograms of aubergines per year. With 42 hectares in cultivation regions representing over 40% of Dutch aubergine production, Purple Pride Growers’ Association is the current market leader in the Netherlands. We are very proud of this!
Did you know…?
- Dutch people rate their cooking skills a 7.1 on average.
- Nearly half of them are open to being inspired with new dishes and ingredients; 45% of Dutch people try something new in the kitchen at least once a month.
- 31% say they don’t know how to prepare any foreign dishes.
- 40% say it’s (very) easy to prepare a vegetarian or vegan meal, while 18% (especially the elderly) say they actually find it difficult.
- Nearly half of consumers decide what they’re going to eat before they go to the supermarket.
- 64% of Dutch consumers say they use the internet as the main source for inspiring recipes.
Source: GfK (Growth from Knowledge) March 24, 2016 | Voedingscentrum: kookvaardigheden (Netherlands Nutrition Centre)