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“Our strength is a large organic fresh range”In the final link of the supply chain that runs from grower to consumer, an ever-increasing variety of companies are being found in the same consumer pond. When it comes to tempting consumers to shop with them, the supermarket, the greengrocer’s, the market vendor, the farmer’s shop, and increasingly the online store, each entrepreneur develops their own strategy to distinguish themselves from the others. The supermarket offers everything under one roof. Specialist fresh produce shops, on the other hand, offer exclusivity, quality and service. They are their own boss, and devote themselves to entrepreneurship with their own creativity. Being distinctive and customer relations cost much time and energy. It can also result in stress. How does the penultimate link, the fresh produce wholesaler, respond to this? In the second part of this series, Primeur zooms in on this part of the supply chain. Dennis Steinfort, account manager of Vroegop-Windig, is speaking this time.
Vroegop-Windig focuses on the product assortment, which is broad, varied, exotic and organic. “Our strength is in the number of products we offer as wholesaler. We truly have a complete package, both conventional and organic, due to cooperation with various sister companies,” Dennis says. The company’s knowledge of exotic markets can be traced back to 1996, when Vroegop took over the company Windig, which was mostly strong in exotic fruit. The company has been known as Vroegop-Windig ever since. Over the years, the exotic range was expanded even more, and import agreements were made with quality brands, such as Zespri kiwifruit and 3F from Thailand, which has exotic specialities like banana leaves, mini corn, sereh and laos in their range.
Not all exotics are adopted by the Dutch just like that. That’s why Vroegop-Windig works with the Marché International concept. Dennis: “For one month, we offer a number of exotic vegetables that can be found on international markets. In addition, we provide the possibilities and product information. When our customers notice that the product does well, we can offer it in our range as a standard product.” Marché International vegetables are, for example, asparagus bean (a long green pod that resembles a stretched green bean), bitter melon (a wrinkled, green, giant cucumber), or Okra (a vegetable resembling a small angular courgette).
Vroegop-Windig also anticipates the seasons and holidays with their assortment. Dennis: “Around Valentine’s Day, for example, we had heart-shaped cucumbers and the Radicchio La Rossa, and with Easter we went all out with the asparagus theme, for which we put together a nice special package offer in cooperation with our sister companies. For example, besides asparagus, we also had organic eggs and dairy products on offer.” Vroegop-Windig also wants to offer their customers inspiration. “We regularly organise inspiration days with the growers. For example, we visited our asparagus grower, to complement the asparagus theme, and customers were given a tour of the company, they could cut their own asparagus, and they were treated to a delicious asparagus lunch.”
Since 2011, Vroegop-Windig has had its own cutting plant, where they cut freshly processed products daily. This allows businesses to save a lot of time and staff costs. “When customers place an order, it’s then freshly cut, even on Sunday. Customers can specify exactly how they want it delivered, as a style, block, slice, coarse, fine, extra fine or strip, everything is possible,” Dennis explains. New variations in the field of cutting can also be ordered, as evidenced by the assortment of curled vegetables. Curled vegetables aren’t just doing well in salads, consumers can also use them as a substitute for pasta. It’s a new way of processing vegetables, and it fits the trend of fewer carbs and more vegetables on the menus. Through Vroegop-Windig, vegetable specialists can offer fresh courgette spaghetti, and also radish, beetroot, carrot, celeriac and sweet potato in curly shapes, both conventionally and organically (depending on the season). Vroegop-Windig can also offer a complete range of sliced fruit and juices.
Other services de-burdening vegetable specialists are the daily delivery of products throughout the Netherlands and 24-7 online ordering options. “The ease of delivering saves entrepreneurs much time. They assume we have knowledge and expertise, and they are confident we deliver the right quality products,” Dennis says. The wholesaler’s market function has definitely not been lost. Housed in the largest city in the Netherlands, Vroegop-Windig holds a market six mornings a week, where vegetable specialists can do their own purchasing. Dennis: “A multicultural city like Amsterdam naturally has entrepreneurs of various nationalities as well. Turkish entrepreneurs prefer buying Turkish products, for instance. We can supply these, because we buy directly from Turkish growers.”
Dennis works outside the office, and therefore visits many vegetable specialists. He leaves the entrepreneurship to the entrepreneurs, but when asked, Dennis will give personal advice or he’ll recommend membership of the professional association ADN, which offers, among other things, the ‘Groenteman met Ster' project (Greengrocer with star) and study clubs. “There are so many different kinds of companies. Management always very much depends on the region, and the range carried by the greengrocer’s. I try to give the best advice possible in that,” Dennis concludes.
Publication date: 6/19/2017
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