Coming from the U.K, I am used to visiting mega stores and supermarkets filled with every item imaginable, from game consoles to stationary, so I guess you could say anything but food! Therefore, coming to the Netherlands and spotting local independent shops on the highstreets and markets bustling with life intrigued me. I am so used to seeing franchised stores and outlets cramming every corner of the high-street and markets slowly fading away that I found this one of the most unique parts of visiting the Netherlands. So, do the Dutch choose to shop locally?
Markets take place throughout the Netherlands selling everything. From rainbows of candy and liquorice to beautiful tulips, they truly are a massive tourist attraction to the Netherlands. From famous markets like that Albert Cuyp in Amsterdam to local weekly markets, they attract tourists to locals a like. A lot of produce sold in market stalls contains homemade or locally sourced ingredients. It’s one of the perks from buying from independent retailers and a big aspect as to why people choose to shop at the market. This means there has to be a demand for local produce in the Netherlands.
Now, I understand that the Netherlands also contains big corporate brands and shops but it’s so charming to see the cobbled highstreets full of boutique stores and markets, even in a large city. It made me wonder how shops managed to stay open for so long when in the U.K most independent stores are a rarity, with even big brands shutting down their stores for good. Are the Dutch more conscious on where they buy their food, where their food comes from and who makes it?
According to a survey done in 2019, 50% of consumers stated to either often or sometimes pay attention to whether their products were coming from the Netherlands. This demonstrates that buying food from the Netherlands is important to a lot of consumers with 24.7% also saying that they do not currently do this and would want to. So, who knows, maybe that’s a habit they have picked up in 2020, meaning the stats may be even higher!
Furthermore, a study done by the U.S government on consumer patterns in the Netherlands, there are considered to be 2 groups who are more likely to pick organic and locally sourced products. These being made up of local buyers who buy local to the area and prefer handmade products which are eco-friendly. Then, there is a more diverse group, mainly made up of millennials who often chose organic food due to taste and concerns on animal welfare. This suggests that there is still a large group of Dutch people who chose to eat local and organic products. This results in the successful independent shops and markets still available today.
Farming and agriculture
In addition to this, an article in 2020 states the Netherlands Is the 2ndlargest food exporter in the world thanks to using environmentally friendly tactics and a conscious attitude to farming. I mean look at the floating farm in Rotterdam! This means that local, home produced food is literally on offer all over the Netherlands, whether it’s in the supermarkets or at local food store. Dutch regular food suppliers also sell over half of the organic produce, so supermarkets are often stocking local food. Therefore, the Dutch may often eat more local food than realising thanks to the regular food retailers selling over half of the organic produce. I know from experience that when picking fresh food in the U.K, the labels will often say from the Netherlands.
How does the Dutch compare with other countries?
The difference between the Netherlands and other countries when considering why the Dutch eat so local can be seen by stats shown on the U.K GOV website. It states that Brits produce 55% of produce whereas the Netherlands has been said to be able to be fully sufficient without trade due to their quality in farming. This means that the Dutch often have the privilege to eat locally and organically due to their fantastic farming.
Another example of the trend in eating and buying local and organic food can be seen by organic retailers. A prime example of this would be EkoPlaza an organic supermarket established in the 1980s which is due to upscale into selling more products. Therefore, the fact that organic supermarkets can afford to stay open for around 40 years can suggest the demand for organic food.
Furthermore, an article recently published the findings that 71% Dutch people shop online, making it the fifth highest country in the EU for e-commerce shopping. You may wonder how this links into the idea that Dutch people shop local as online isn’t what most people would consider when thinking about local produce. However, the difference here is that when picking products, the majority of Dutch people will buy from local retailers with only a third choosing to shop in other countries. This shows that even when shopping online, many Dutch people chose to shop Dutch.
The traditions of shopping locally
There is another angle to consider whilst considering why the Dutch may choose to consume locally and that is tradition. A lot of people I have spoken to choose to buy from local retailers and shops due to shopping there throughout their life (this closely links with the earlier paragraph about the group of local buyers). They may shop to support local businesses because let’s face it, it’s nice to support local business and help keep peoples livelihoods afloat.
Furthermore, local retailers may often use more homemade and handmade produce and with a world even more conscious on our food and where it comes from, this may support many consumers choices. There is also something so great about visiting people you know and receiving a warm welcome, so perhaps an element to why the Dutch shop locally is due to their want to support local suppliers and friends they have known for a while.
In addition to this, big Dutch brands which continue to be supported have often grown from small family companies. For example, “Daelmans”have been established since 1904 and are now a big distributor of stroopwaffels in other countries. They claim to use a family recipe, and this shows that Dutch people have continued to support family brands such as these for many years. Another example is “henriwillig” a company from 1974 which produce high quality cheeses managing the whole chain and now shipping to 35 countries. This shows the support of family and once local businesses in the Netherlands.
Has COVID-19 had an impact on this?
The impact of COVID-19 may have also prompted many people to even make their own produce or grow their own food due to not only food shortages but to find new hobbies during the pandemic. Therefore, it is possible that were the stats to be published, we may see a rise in people taking more of an interest in actually growing their own food and cooking more homemade meals. This was evident with nationwide trends taking place on apps like Instagram and Tik Tok. From making homemade banana bread to making homemade soya milk, we have all spent our lockdown hours either watching people make these or making them ourselves!
Furthermore, linking to my previous points, many people may have shopped in local shops during the lockdown. This could be to support businesses that were suffering and also due to the shortages found in supermarkets. It is possible that after the lockdown people may also continue to shop locally to help grow the economy and small businesses. As like I say, these are a big part of the highstreets in the Netherlands and many people would want to support that. People may also have been inspired to go on walks and explore more of the city or researched into the benefits of eating locally sourced food during lockdown which could see a spike in small business growing even more.
In terms of eating and drinking locally, myself and others have noticed the stark difference between places like the U.K and U.S to the Netherlands when eating out for a meal. Many U.K restaurants have had to close due to the takeover of big franchises and you can see these same restaurants in most places in the country. Unique and independent restaurants and bars are harder to come by, a full contrast to visiting the Netherlands. Many independent restaurants will often advertise local ingredients or produce which big cooperate chains cannot do, meaning that even when eating out the Dutch are not only supporting more independent businesses, but they are also possible eating locally.
It is safe to say that without even knowing the Dutch produce and most likely eat a lot of local home-produced food due to the pure agricultural advantage. It has also shown that people have supported and continue to support local business with even more millennials jumping on this trend due to many reasons from global warming to veganism.
Covid-19 has also produced a new group of people with a passion for baking and cooking their own food, possibly with the intention to eat more local and homemade food. Furthermore, the demand for shopping in local shops can be seen by the fact that they are still encompassing streets in the Netherlands. People chose to buy from a local bakers or butchers. If the demand for these shops wasn’t there and people didn’t want to buy from independent stores, then they would be similar to the U.K featuring majority franchises in most cities highstreets.
I am so glad to see that many people are looking to support local business and keep traditions alive as it is such a positive when visiting the Netherlands, and it’s also positive to the local businesspeople that benefit from people shopping locally. However, it’s also a point that even if you shop in the supermarket, you are probably already buying Dutch produce without even knowing!