Fruitman combining work for Greenery Italia with B&B

Gerard van Loon ready to go to Puglia, Italy

From next week, Gerard van Loon will no longer be at The Greenery in the Netherlands. He is moving to Puglia, Italy, where he will work for Greenery Italia for three days a week. The rest of the time he will be running a B&B with his wife, Anja. In a Vakblad Primeur article, placed this month, Gerard focuses on his new job in Italy. "I am not leaving the company in the Netherlands because it does not agree with me, or I disagree with The Greenery's vision. It is because we are, now, at the age where we have to seize the opportunities to go on adventures."

"I have worked at The Greenery for almost 15 years, starting at its soft fruit branch in Breda, which was then comprised, mostly, of strawberries. There was a lot of uncertainty in the soft fruit sector at the time, and many growers switched to Zundert and Hoogstraten. The approach in that first period was to regain the trust of the growers. After that, we started expanding the soft fruit division. We were actively involved in developing varieties, besides strawberries, which were then added to the range. At first, it was mainly raspberries, but now we have a decent volume of blueberries, red currants, cherries, blackberries and plums in the assortment", says Gerard.

"Initially, asparagus was also often overlooked at The Greenery. We, however, saw it as a good addition to the strawberries package. Since then we have developed it into another good package, which has gained momentum, thanks to Sjraar Hulsman's inclusion in the team. We are now a major player in the asparagus market. Together with Sjraar and Steven Martina, the current CEO, we have focused on sourcing relations, growers relations, and commerce. We have grown considerably, and continue to grow, thanks to the good relations we have built up with growers. I am proud of the fact that we, together with our growers, could convince the then-Executive Board, of the necessity of building a separate Soft Fruit DC. Construction is now complete, and it is a fantastic soft fruit business. It is really something to be proud of."

"Soft fruit is, of course, a growth market. There is always competition, and the number of players is increasing. It has become clear to me that forming retail programmes is of the utmost importance for the organisation. At the same time, the auctions still have an important function in terms of quality and grading. We need this in the retail sector", says Gerard. For the last three years, after the reorganisation, he was also responsible for the sourcing of top fruit. "Fortunately, with our Supplier Stock Locations (LVL's), we had already had the necessary success in the area of logistics. I am, fortunately, leaving my work in good hands with my successor, Rob van der Weele, for the soft fruit, and the newly appointed Jaspher Veldkamp, for the top fruit."

In Italy, Gerard is going to keep himself busy with the B&B, as well as being the General Manager of LVE. He will focus on the further global roll-out of the Sweet Sensation pear club variety. In the Netherlands, this variety is marketed exclusively by The Greenery. In addition, he will be responsible for setting up Greenmed Srl. This is a logistics distribution centre that Greenery Italia started with a number of grower co-operatives from the port city of Taranto. "I am not leaving the sector completely. People in the fruit and vegetable industry are welcome at our B&B, Masseria Cesarina. Puglia is becoming more popular with tourists, so I think we are making this move at exactly the right time."

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