It is going well with the ever-expanding Belgian import/export company, Vergo. This business, which has branches in Sint-Truiden and Meulebeke, is looking forward to its 50th anniversary. In March, Vergo took over the Belgian export company, DVL bvba, which is based in Sint-Katelijne-Waver. The company, which has 42 employees also has its own brand, €ureka Fresh.
Dominiek Noppe with €ureka Fresh tomatoes.
"Next year will be our 50th anniversary", says owner, Dominiek Noppe. "We transport our fruit and vegetables primarily from our premises in Meulebeke; apples and pears from Sint-Truiden. In addition, as a result of our acquisition of DVL, we now have a new branch in Mechelen." This Belgian company also has plans to build a new 5 000 m2 warehouse in Sint-Katelijne-Waver; plans which Dominiek hopes will soon become reality. They also intend to expand their premises in Sint-Truiden next year, with 3,000 m2 of warehouses and offices.
The whole of Europe
Dominiek's father started the company 50 years ago in Meulebeke. Although Vergro has always been an export business, it was on a much smaller scale. "My father initially only supplied Northern France", says Vergo's current owner. "Back then, with all the customs restrictions, this was quite an achievement for a business from Belgium. He focused on France for 20 years. As the markets in Europe became more accessible, he found it difficult to continue doing this. At the moment we import and export to 26 countries throughout Europe. Eighty percent of this is our own product. The United Kingdom, France and Germany are our top clients."
Vergro's premises in Meulebeke.
Dominiek does not expect Brexit to affect things much. He is, however, of the opinion that something will change. He finds that produce that the British cultivate themselves, like leeks and strawberries, are becoming more difficult to sell. "They will continue to import produce, such as tomatoes, sweet peppers and pears, despite the fact that these will likely become 20% more expensive."
Tomatoes from Vergro.
Vergro has expanded rapidly in the last ten years. Dominiek now realises a turnover of EUR 120 million for the group in its entirety. "We have acquired more firms. This growth was essential in order to stay relevant in all the markets that buy our goods", he says. "I have been involved in the business for years, even while I was still at school. My father taught me everything I know. He is still active in the company, often still going to auction to buy produce."
A warehouse full of €ureka Fresh tomatoes.
Over the years, Dominiek has refined the skills required to buy produce. "It is because I am present at all the markets, and am directly in contact with the growers", says the businessman. "Eighty percent of our tomatoes comes from growers with whom we have a one-on-one relationship. We talk to the growers every day in order to get them to grow the amount of produce we need." Vergo also bring their own produce to market under their own brand, €ureka Fresh. They trade mostly their main products under this brand. "We do this with our tomatoes, leeks and pears", says the man behind the Belgian trading company. "We personally select the best growers. I can guarantee we have good quality produce. We always supply the correct, fresh produce to our clients."
The company also has ten of their own trucks. Vegro uses these to transport 30% of their total number of fruit and vegetables. Besides these trucks, Dominiek also hires external companies to help with import and export of their products. "No fruit or vegetables are packaged at Meulebeke or Sint-Truiden", he says. "The growers do this themselves. The products arrive here in the correct packaging. This is cheaper and better for quality integrity."
One of Vergro's eight semi-trailers.
This truck is ready to be loaded.
Trading is more difficult
When asked whether it has become more difficult to trade, Vergo's owner is clear. "It is," says Dominiek. "Five minutes after a product is sold, everyone in the whole of Europe knows its price. Everyone knows exactly what the costs are; the process is transparent. In the past you could say a product costs so much, and people had no choice but to believe you. Profit margins are smaller now. If you ask a few cents more that the market price, the competition takes your client. You have to stay sharp in this industry. Our buyers also sell their specific products. This helps them get a better feel for the market."
One of Vergro's cold rooms in Meulebeke.
What does the future hold? "We expect to keep growing", says Vergo's owner. "Companies that focus their import and exports on only one country are going to suffer, I think. We spread our business over various countries. We do not exclude the fact that we need to grow with the market. As with growers, we must keep investing in the future."
For more information:
5 Kleine Roeselarestraat
8760 Meulebeke (Belgium)
T +32 (051) 48 90 76