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Ervé Jooken, Dominique Severijns, Curd Vanmarcke, Mariette Hansen, and Frank van Colenberghe

25 years of Fruit Logistica - five Belgians look back

The Fresh Produce fair Fruit Logistica started 25 years ago in Berlin. We dived into the archives of Primeur and found pictures and stories from the past. Only the year 1993 was missing, but then the fair was really small in Berlin - from 1994 the first stand-holders from Belgium have been in the picture. According to stand-holders that have been at the fair since the beginning, the first editions of Fruit Logistica took place in the ‘catacombs’ of the Grüne Woche. 

Belgium was already represented well in 1994 (the second year)

Leen Guffens of VLAM says that she was placed at a small corner stand 25 years ago. VLAM was together with three export companies in hall 26, back then still in the margin of the Grüne Woche: These companies were Michiels, with Erve Jooken, Weiss (by now part of Calsa), and Anthonis (by now bankrupt). Leen Guffens: “Erve was a real pioneer. He could, as he said himself, effectively snare new clients during his first participation. With the motto ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’, it gave him very nice results from the moment he started.” Mariette Hansen of Gemex indicated that she was present from the very first possibility. 

We spoke to five people that are looking back on the past. There are unfortunately no more pictures of the 1993 fair. The photographs in the article are from 1994. 

Left: Michiels/FMB; right: Gemex. 

Erve Jooken (Michiels – FMB) looking back: mooing cows
Erve Jooken looks back laughing. “I will never forget from the first time the door between hall 25 and hall 26. When we opened the door, we discovered the passage to the fair of Grüne Woche. Suddenly, we were standing face to face with dozens of nicely shorn mooing cows.” Fruit Logistica was a new fair back then, especially established for exporters and importers of fruits and vegetables. “The first editions were very small. In 1993, we were in hall 26 at the Jaffestrasse. This was half of the total surface. One needed 30 minutes to walk from the front to the back of the hall and back again! During the first years, Fruit Logistica went together with the international Grüne Woche in January. Back then there was no German alternative, except for the world fair Anuga in Cologne, that showed the complete food concept.”
There are large differences between the Fruit Logistica of 25 years ago and now. “The first editions were strongly focused on the German market. It was the only place to meet new German clients. A few years later, one could meet with clients from all over the world. The proportions were huge, from a small fair of only one hall to a giant of 27 halls! The first fair of 1993 had about 2000 visitors in three days. In the past few years, we have had more than 50,000 professional visitors per edition. The opening days have changed over the past. For years, the fair was from Thursday morning to Saturday evening. From 2005 or 2006, this changed to Wednesday morning until Friday evening. The Saturday always missed the visitors of the early afternoon and then they put an end to the whole thing. The stand of VLAM in 1993 was an open community stand of only 3 to 4 metres. Now, you can hardly imagine it being that way.”

Mariette Hansen (Gemex) looking back: rapid success
Gemex was at Fruit Logistica from the beginning too, and is still present every year. Mariette Hansen says: “In the first years, we were with about 15 Belgians together in a small hall and the fair was at the same time as the Grüne Woche. The whole Fruit Logistica fair comprised about 40 – 45 participants. If we went out of our hall, we were standing in the midst of a herd of cows. Then, the fresh produce sector chose for Fruit Logistica instead of Anuga in Cologne, because it was no longer interesting for fresh fruits and vegetables. The part of fresh produce was too small at Anuga. This was just a general food fair and only a small part of the visitors was interested in fresh fruits and vegetables. That is why it was important that a specialized fair was established. This is the reason that Fruit Logistica became successful so rapidly. The first year it was not very large, we were a bit lost there. Nobody had heard of it back then. The fair became big over time, and I think it is almost at its maximum right now. There are companies that are no longer sending sales representatives every year because they find it too expensive. I would think that organizing the fair once every two years is enough.”

Left: De Boelpaep with Dominique Severijns; right: Anthonis

Dominique Severijns (DBS and Verco) looking back: Exploring
Dominique Severijns states that he missed the first fair of 1993. “That was probably also the only one. It was upon recommendation of my former boss Jan De Boelpaep that I went ‘exploring’ at this fair. This was mainly because we were 100% focused on the export market of Germany.” He remembers that it started out small with about two and a half halls. “It was very limited. But there was a lot of potential as well, which proved true in the years to come.” There are many differences compared to the first editions, according to him. “We used to have time to visit the rest of the fair ourselves and now this is no longer possible, unless it is very shortly.”

Curd Vanmarcke (left) and De Plecker Lauwers (right)

Curd Vanmarcke (Vanmarcke) looking back: large differences
Curd Vanmarcke was a visitor in 1993 at the Fruit Logistica fair, and from 1994, he has been present as stand-holder through the VLAM-stand as exporter named ‘Roger Vanmarcke and Sons’. “We chose for the fair in Berlin, to meet with all clients from Germany in a few days’ time.” There are large differences between now and then. “During the nineties, the fair in Berlin was mainly a German business and not as international as it is now. The surface was also limited, confined to 1 or 2 halls at the maximum, and the Fruit Logistica was part of the Grüne Woche. The smell of beer and cows was in the beginning strongly present, coming from the Grüne Woche.” Curd has been switching between the roles of visitor and stand-holder, first at Vanmarcke and later with Dominiek Noppe van Vergro, where he is still working today. The largest development of Fruit Logistica is the globalization of the fair, according to Curd. “The switch from a national German fair to an international fair; with more visitors from various continents.”

Weiss and Van Dessel - VDM

Frank van Colenberghe (Vanco) – Brand policy becomes more important
Frank states that he was present from the very first day. “Fruit Logistica started out as a very small fair, somewhere in the catacombs of Grüne Woche. Eight companies, including some packaging suppliers, represented Belgium. Afterwards everything happened very quickly, all export countries of the EU were present, then then national trade of Germany, and the whole wide world of fresh produce. Now, it is very big, so many clients have their own stands to receive their clients. Flandria remains as a quality label, but the brand policy is becoming more and more important. Brands such as ‘Hoogstraten’, ‘BelOrta’, and ‘Tomabel’ are getting more attention these days.”

Portael (left) and Vercammen (right)

For more information:
Ervé Jooken - FMB

Mariette Hansen - Gemex

Dominique Severijns - DBS/Verco

Curd Vanmarcke - Vergro

Frank van Colenberghe - Vanco

Publication date: 2/9/2017
Author: Fere van der Velde
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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