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“New products introduced weekly”
Magnus Sundén of Hebes shows a box with Swedish melons.
Hebes has expanded rapidly over the last ten years. At the Swedish election, this business has scooped the award for the fastest growing company, for four years in a row. “We are expanding every year and some years up to ten and twenty percent per year”, says Magnus Sundén. “Three years ago we moved to this location, but it is also getting to be too small.” The importer and wholesaler focuses on sales in Southern Sweden - roughly about 150 km from the Norwegian border, northwest of Göteborg, to Malmö on the southernmost tip of this long country.
A Swedish wildberry, the lingon berry, is a popular item in autumn.
White from the outside, purple from the inside.
Online growth market
In the early years, about 30 years ago, a lot of products were brought in through Helsingborg. This has now changed. “We buy very little in Helsingborg,” says Magnus. “We import a lot from Europe ourselves.” In the summer, strawberry sales are high. “The range comprises of ten varieties, and we do instore promotions and tastings”, he explains. Hebes’s clients are mostly made up of supermarkets and wholesalers. The online market forms a growing point of sales. Sweden has two important online sales channels for fresh fruit and vegetables - mat.se and mathem.se. Orders from these webshops are received 24 hours per day. “This market is not yet as big as that of the supermarkets, but it is growing fast”, Magnus explains. For example, mathem.se’s turnover is estimated to be about 1 billion SEK (155 mil euro) and growing.
Small grapes, but grown in Sweden.
“In the supermarkets most fruits and vegetables are offered per kg, online clients can buy every products per piece,” Magnus names as one of the reasons for the fast growth of online sales. “The online companies must, however, offer good quality. The focus is on a range of products and very good quality, and of course service.”
Forgotten vegetables and convenience
Seven years ago, the ‘forgotten vegetables’ trend began in the ranges found in Copenhagen. From the Danish capital, this trend spread slowly through Sweden. Recently, the demand for local products has increased. “Local is selling better than organic. Consumers say they want organic products, but they do not actually buy them”, Magnus explains. “We are working with growers to set up branding around local products.” There is, for example, a photo of the farmer on their product’s packaging. Hebes also regularly takes its clients to visit farms. “We are trying to find local growers for each product that exist in Sweden.”
The convenience market offers a range of development opportunities. Hebes is investing in this segment with an own production segment. “We try to come up with a new product on a weekly basis”, says Magnus. “All our products are taste-tested before they are processed.” This is important, he explains, because Swedish consumers’ attention is shifting from price to quality. The new products are promoted on Hebes Instagram page. Sometimes the new products are a success, sometimes they are not.
Swedish wild mushrooms, a typical autumn product.
Piel de Sapo segments and taco plate
“The Piel de Sapo was a success,” mentions Magnus. “It was hard to sell in the beginning, but because we offered the product in segments, as ready-to-eat, it became popular.” In the summer months, the melons are imported directly from Spain. When the European season is over, the supply shifts to Latin America, often with a layover in the Netherlands. The pre-cut fruit salads are also selling well.
The tacoplate with all ingredients for a taco meal.
Two products that were recently introduced are the ‘fruit plate’ and ‘taco plate’. These are similar to tapas platters, but have fruit, or the ingredients for tacos. “Tacos are very popular in Sweden”, says Magnus, who is also following this trend. There are various kinds of vegetables which can be used to fill the tacos, on the platter. “Selling fruit and vegetables is our main objective. The rest is a sideshow, but you need it to distinguish yourself.”
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