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Vegetable Innovation Platform wants to help the Netherlands eat more healthily

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The Dutch eat far too few vegetables. A new market approach is needed to change this, says Herman Peppelenbos, lecturer in Green Health at HAS University of Applied Sciences. Together with The Food Foundry, an organisation that supports promising food start-ups with scale-up and route-to-market, HAS is the initiator of the Vegetable Innovation Platform. Recently, 2 new partners were welcomed on board; corporate and educational caterers Vitam and Appèl Catering.

The aim of the platform: To help Dutch citizens eat more healthily at more times during the day with tasty, attractive and useful vegetable concepts, conceived and developed by students.  “A lot of research has already been done, and it has shown how vital good nutrition is,” says Herman Peppelenbos of HAS University of Applied Sciences. “Sufficient fruit and vegetables are an essential part of a good diet. In this Covid-19 pandemic, it’s clear that people with health problems, which are related to an unhealthy lifestyle, have a higher risk of serious complications when infected, and need more time to recover. Now is therefore the ideal opportunity to look at healthy food.”

Making it to the market

Joris Leferink of The Food Foundry adds: “Students in the graduation year of Food Innovation develop lots of creative concepts in which vegetables often play the leading role. However, even though these are attractive concepts and regularly win prizes, most never make it to the market. Based on our knowledge, experience and our network, we want to change this together. At the moment, three HAS students have started this innovation process again.”

School/university caterers as partners

The platform was recently expanded with two new partners: corporate and school/university caterers Vitam and Appèl Catering. In partnership with these caterers, concepts are being tested at an early stage for feedback from the market and consumers.

“Seasonal vegetables are an important ingredient in Vitam’s range,” says Peter Nass of Vitam. “The benefits of seasonal vegetables go beyond sustainability, good value and high quality. They also ensure variety throughout the year, so you can continue to surprise your guests. This reflects our mission; to offer good food and drinks that encourage people to make healthy and responsible choices. We have various hot and cold vegetable concepts that do just this. It allows us to get our lunch guests to eat vegetables without even realising it, so that they consume at least part of the daily 250 grams of vegetables.”

Tempt guests

He continues: “It’s a challenge to introduce our lunch guests to different vegetables in a way that makes them accessible.  We’re enthusiastic about working with these parties to make new concepts successful. Let’s get everybody eating 250 grams of vegetables per day!”  Evy de Wilde from Appèl adds, “As part of the protein transition, we’ve been working for some time at Appèl on tempting our guests to eat more vegetables. For example, we’ve developed a new, inviting salad bar, and we’re stimulating vegetable consumption by, for example, selling vegetable dippers during the afternoon break. However, changing behaviour and getting people to eat more healthily is a slow process, and there are still plenty of opportunities during the day and product categories where we can still do a lot. That’s why we’re very open to new ideas and innovations from HAS students, and we’re looking forward to working together to achieve the goal of getting our guests to eat those 250 grams.”

The future

The Vegetable Innovation Platform currently consists of HAS University of Applied Sciences, The Food Foundry, Vitam, and Appél Catering. Eventually, we’d like to include more partners, so we can all work together on making sure Dutch citizens eat more vegetables.