The story of Silvester de Nooijer

Why vegetable breeder Rijk Zwaan is working to add more colour to fresh produce displays

A varied and colourful fresh produce display holds visual appeal for consumers and can encourage them to choose more products that are tastier and healthier. That is why the breeders at Rijk Zwaan focus on colour as one of their criteria. Silvester de Nooijer, Breeding Manager Paprika and Aubergine, explains why the vegetable breeding company has decided on this approach.

Variation on the plate

“The key driver is the market, which is continuously looking for ways to diversify. Growers and retailers want products with new colours. If they can combine different colours in a single pack it offers them added value, resulting not only in premium products on the shelves, but also in more variation on people’s plates. Colour creates more diversity, especially in salads. Rijk Zwaan is happy to contribute to this development as an innovative partner.”

Getting everything right

“So how do we do that? In peppers, we have a pretty good understanding of which genes influence the colour, but we still have some way to go. It’s about getting everything right. We want a new variety to be a combination of lots of positive traits, such as flavour, shape and technical characteristics. In the new orange and chocolate variant within the sweet pointed pepper segment, for example, we’re focusing strongly on favour because the unique taste of our main variety – Palermo RZ – sets a high standard. The fruit length must be reasonably uniform too so that differently coloured pointed peppers can be sold together in the same pack.”

Colour palette

“Colour is not only a consideration in sweet pointed peppers, but also in snack peppers, snack tomatoes, kohlrabi, aubergine and many other crops. Each one has its own palette of colours. So although we know what determines the basic colour, it’s a lot more complex to find the genes that influence its intensity. We still keep searching, though. A fresh light green colour can make snack vegetables look even more appealing.”

Ongoing trend

“Each country and each market has its own colour preferences; consumers might like dark red in one country, and light red in another. We take that into consideration. We see more colour variation in mature retail markets such as the USA, Canada and Western Europe – where stores also sell yellow and orange products in addition to green and red ones – than in more traditional markets. We expect the diversification trend in the fresh produce category to continue all over the world and we’re happy to play a part in that as Rijk Zwaan.” That’s how we share a healthy future.


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