Inci Dannenberg: Bayer Vegetable Seeds

"Getting a product just right isn’t a matter of 'one size fits all'"

Bayer is on a mission: to get people to consume more fruit and vegetables – five servings per day. There are some challenges along the way though, as we heard from their team at Fruit Logistica: Inci Dannenberg (President of Global Vegetable Seeds), VK Kishore (Global Head of Veg Seeds Smallholders & Sustainability), and Nico van Vliet (Global Value Chain Development Lead).

Bayer Vegetable Seeds: Inci Dannenberg (President of Global Vegetable Seeds), VK Kishore (Global Head of Veg Seeds Smallholders & Sustainability) en Nico van Vliet (Global Value Chain Development Lead)

R&D department
“There are several factors involved when it comes to consumption,” Inci explains. “First of all, there’s access: can I afford it? There’s transport, getting things where they need to go logistically. And then, even when you do have it, do you want to eat it? That’s the other challenge. So you have to balance characteristics that compete with each other, making sure the grower has a sustainable business, and the consumer getting something they enjoy.”

That’s why the R&D department at Bayer is really trying to navigate that ‘dilemma’, through precision breeding and other techniques. “But we’re also reaching out to that consumer to understand what is appealing to them – people have to want to eat it. So we organize tastings in different parts of the world. Using our methodologies, we can also put a measure on things like sweetness and acidity.”

On the other hand, the breeding company is also helping the grower – “with recipes, if you will, to be able to optimize the outcomes that they’re looking for. That way, they not only get a return on investment, but they’ll also be able to give the consumer what they want by optimizing the trade-offs between yield and quality.”

Different countries, different tastes
Getting a product just right isn’t a matter of ‘one size fits all.’ As VK explains: “Every country has a different preference. So we have to segment the consumers: for some, price is most important. For another segment, taste is most important, while another segment really cares about sustainability. So you have to really tailor your product for a specific segment.”

That’s why Bayer takes a ‘tailored approach.’ “Our goal is to be number 1 in the eyes of the consumer and the customer, and we can’t be number 1 if we don’t know the consumer, so we do a lot of work on that,” VK adds. “For instance, where I’m from in India, people prefer sour tomatoes, while in the Netherlands, people want their tomatoes to be sweet.”

Nico adds that the consumer is number 1, while at the same time, the grower will be supported as much as possible. “This is why we don’t want to sacrifice taste or sustainability aspects when breeding in resistance. Of course, we are still introducing resistant traits in our varieties, but not at the cost of those factors that consumers prefer.”

In it for the long run
Changing consumer behaviors and getting people to eat fruit and vegetables five times per day that’s something that doesn’t happen overnight. But VK assures that Bayer is in it for the long run. “We’re about health for all and hunger for none, and Vegetable Seeds is uniquely positioned to address both the health and the hunger aspect of our purpose.”

For more information:
Bayer Vegetable Seeds

Nico van Vliet

Svetlana Tokunova

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