Are people born in a cabbage patch? Of course not, but in the case of Herwig Dejonghe, maybe a little. After a conversation with Herwig, today’s independant consultant of Greenyard Foods but also CEO of Pinguin for many years, you’ll run to the nearest supermarket to stock up on frozen vegetables anyway. The captivating story of a genuine ‘Pinguin’:
Eat more vegetables
“Even though people realize they should eat more vegetables, they consume too little. Or rather, their diet lacks variety,” Herwig starts, adding: “It is often limited to salads, tomatoes and carrots, because it takes more time to prepare hot vegetables. While broccoli, cauliflower, peas, Brussels sprouts, leeks, etc. contain lots of vitamins. Hence our plea for frozen vegetables: they are super healthy. On top of that, they can be served in no time, as a vegetable in itself or as part of hot dishes.”
However, there are strong prejudices against frozen foods in the world, regrets Herwig: “It’s hard to convince people that, in the supermarket, frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh vegetables. And yet it is so. Our production sites are located near the fields where our vegetables are grown to ensure that the vegetables are frozen in the shortest possible time, without any additives. In a way, they come straight from nature to make sure all the vitamins and nutrients are preserved. The same goes for taste: the argument that flavour would be lost is not true at all. It is important to prepare frozen vegetables the right way.” Pinguin blanches most vegetables in advance. Cooking them for too long is therefore detrimental to the quality. If you take this into account, you will definitely serve the most delicious vegetables.
In addition to the excellent quality and taste, Herwig also underlines the sustainability aspect: “Lately, there has been quite a lot of talk about food waste. With frozen food there is almost no waste at all. Fresh frozen vegetables grow only in the season, but can be eaten all year round. This means there are hardly any surpluses. Moreover, we also process vegetables that are not properly shaped. The scraps that we do get in the end are turned into animal feed mostly. And there is a third argument supporting the sustainability of frozen foods: the consumer can take out of the freezer the exact portion of vegetables he or she needs; nothing more and nothing less. In this case, too, there is minimal waste.” Yet is this sustainability also applied at the source, at the farmer’s level, we wonder? “The times when farmers were spraying excessively are really over. Our farmers know that they need to manage their environment sustainably and use the latest technology so that they can work in an eco-friendly way. The certification is really very strict.”
On-going innovation, ever-higher quality
“Ever since Pinguin’s early days, we have been looking for better and more sustainable technologies,” Herwig continues. “For our farmers and of course also for production. Pinguin was a pioneer: the first company in Belgium to freeze vegetables on an industrial scale. Since then, the technology has become ever more sophisticated to allow us to process more volumes in less time, for instance. Our innovation strongly supports quality: the faster we can harvest and freeze, the more we preserve the goodness contained in the vegetables.”
A penguin: clean and pure
Finally, a question for a former Pinguin penguin through and through: where did you get the name from? “The penguin lives in Antarctica, the freezer of the world. Antarctica to us means pristine purity and therefore ecology. From there, it’s easy to make the connection with our Pinguin. What’s more, the penguin is a likeable creature. Exactly the message we want to convey,” Herwig concludes with a laugh.