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Holland’s Taste for Innovation

Dutch agrifood industry has all the right ingredients for success

Whether attracting investment from global agrifood giants, innovating in food R&D or developing sustainable agricultural practices, the Dutch sit at the head of the table when it comes to agrifood. Here’s a look at how the Netherlands takes a big bite out of this key sector.

Attracting Major Industry Players

The second largest agrifood exporter in the world, Holland boasts more than 4,150 companies—from farm to fork. Of the world’s largest agrifood companies, 12 maintain major production or R&D sites in Holland, including Cargill, ConAgra, Danone, Kraft Heinz, Mars, Nestlé and Unilever.

Just last month, Coca-Cola opened a newly renovated factory in Dongen, where the company has invested nearly $100 million over the past three years to streamline production while further increasing sustainability.

These companies and numerous others chose Holland for many reasons. However, with one in every six employees in the Netherlands being employed in the agrifood industry, one significant reason businesses choose to invest in Holland is due to the large, highly-skilled and multilingual agrifood workforce. In fact, 90% of the Dutch speak English – the language of business worldwide.

Holland Taste for Innovation_Coca Cola 1
Source: Coca-Cola

A Hub for Food Innovation

Ranked No. 2 in Europe for private R&D investment in agrifood, the Netherlands is home to a highly concentrated industry cluster that engages diversified agrifood companies with impact-oriented knowledge infrastructure. Thanks to many universities, research organizations, businesses and public-private initiatives working together to successfully provide consumers around the world with sustainably produced, delicious and healthy food, it’s clear that the Dutch know how to work together.

Holland’s Food Valley is one of the best examples of Dutch agrifood collaboration. One of the largest food communities in the world, Food Valley consists of more than 1,510 international food companies and 20 research institutes, including Wageningen University & Research (WUR), named the best global university for agricultural sciences according to U.S. News & World Report, 2016.

Some recent projects to come out of WUR’s research hotspot include a smartphone-linked mini scanner that reveals the nutritional qualities of grocery store foods and a sweet pepper harvesting robot.

Another Food Valley leader is NIZO Food Research, a global food incubator with expertise in proteins, bacteria and processing. Some of its recent multidisciplinary ventures include working with farmers to enhance the nutrient density of protein-rich foods and finding high-tech solutions for global corporations to increase the production of necessary food products, such as infant formula, worldwide.

Thanks to the Netherlands’ commitment to developing the world’s next food innovations, Holland’s agrifood industry frequently collaborates across other top Dutch sectors like life sciences and health, information technology, energy and the creative industries.

Holland Taste for Innovation_WUR 2
Source: Wageningen University & Research

The Future of Food

Outside of Food Valley, too, the Dutch continue to evolve the way the world produces and consumes food. Employing more than 3,000 highly qualified food scientists, Holland’s TNO Innovation for Life (TNO) is the largest independent contract research organization in the Netherlands. One of TNO’s most unique endeavors includes utilizing 3D-printing technology and food science to create specialized food products customized to specific nutritional needs and dietary restrictions.

Other emerging Dutch food leaders include Dairy Campus, a cooperative of players in the dairy value chain that are working together to support Holland’s nearly 18,000 dairy farmers, and Floating Farm, a high-tech living lab dedicated to improving food production processes, waste and water treatment in the dairy industry.

Even small businesses are getting in on designing the future of food – one mushroom at a time. Venlo-based Scelta Mushrooms is a Dutch mushroom supplier that catapulted from a family-owned small business to an international food supplier. In 2002, the company even built its own R&D center, the Scelta Institute, to bring together health experts, food scientists and local chefs to pursue creative advances in the mushroom industry.

Likewise, Dutch start-ups in the agrifood industry are flourishing and provide a strong influence to the emerging developments of this vibrant sector.

Holland Taste for Innovation_TNO 3
Source: TNO Innovation for Life

All the Right Ingredients

Apart from providing access to a first-class agrifood business community, collaborative R&D infrastructure and skilled workforce, the Netherlands also offers agrifood companies a strategic location with excellent logistics close to Europe’s 500 million consumers, an internationally-oriented competitive fiscal climate and a high quality of life.

Furthermore, Invest in Holland offers an unmatched level of support to companies seeking to expand or relocate within the Netherlands, along with a commitment to finding the optimal Dutch location for their business operations.

Want to learn more about the Dutch agrifood industry? The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) will attend IFT16 – an annual international conference that brings together the most respected food professionals from around the world – on July 16-19 in Chicago, Illinois at Booth 2015. For more information, please visit


8 July 2016

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