Wednesday of the Maastricht Superfruit Symposium was a day in the field for all attendees, with a choice of the Blueberry Tour (for growers), the Innovation Tour (for processors) and the Leisure Tour (for those who wanted a bit of both).
I chose the Leisure Tour, which began with a visit to Sunberry International, also known as Zon Fruit & Vegetables. Sponsors of the day, this efficient and modern company packs for many retailers in the Netherlands and UK, including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
Director Harm Valckx was keen to show us a new part of the plant being built to produce 80% juice drinks – an excellent use of the grade 2 fruit. Much of the fruit is hand-sorted and sealed, packed with lids, or in flow packaging. I can't wait to see the new packaging for the beverages, which are due to be introduced to the market in just three weeks' time.
The next stop was over the border into Germany at Farmer Schrijnwerkers – a blueberry farm where we saw the process from cultivation of microseedlings to full-grown plants.
As owner Leon Schrijnwerkers explained, his ethos is to produce the healthiest and best-tasting fruits possible. If someone is keen to barter on price, he suggests they look elsewhere. He has no problem selling his blueberries.
One fascinating fact for me was that he always uses Polish pickers – around 150 of them – from July till October, and pays them the same as the going rate in Germany.
“They are prepared to work long days until the harvest is picked," he said, "not like many students. And they are very fast. For them, it is a family business and they aim to keep it that way. They can earn up to €100 a day."
Our afternoon was spent at the impressive Floriade – a celebration of flowers, food and architecture complete with its own cable car, which gives you an idea of the scale of the place.
Open only every 10 years, we began with the Villa Flora, which held astounding contemporary displays of flowers with individual country sections showcasing the best of every nation.
At the far end of the Floriade site is an Education and Innovation section with Huis van de Smaak, the Tasting House carrying a range of lemon and asian cress, vegetable and mushroom delicacies and an eco sustainability section.
Smood, the natural snack food, had its own Smart Food Factory, with latest variants of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables on display. Well worth a visit, and it's on until this October.
Claire Phoenix is managing editor of Beverage Innovation magazine.
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