For nine years, Marcus Meurs worked in El Salvador and Guatemala. He gained experienced in the production and selling of tropical fruit and exotic vegetables, and later in frozen beans and broccoli. When the German Frosta AG, which supplied British supermarket chain Iceland Foods, started asking for an organic assortment — “that man was far ahead of his times” — his career in the organic sector started. He has now worked in there since 1996. Nowadays, he’s the president of the quoted Organto Foods Inc, which supplies organic products year-round. Earlier this year, the company entered into a strategic partnership with Vroegop-Windig.
“We started growing and producing 120 hectares of organic broccoli in 1996. Unfortunately, consumers at the time weren’t willing yet to pay the more expensive price compared to conventional product. Because the market wasn’t ready for it yet we sold our production to Japan in the early years. In the end, we had 600 people in our factory and 2,000 people in our fields. By starting the brand Pure Nature with the company Pure Nature Organics in the US, we achieved a turnover of 35 million dollar purely in the field of frozen organic fruit and vegetables,” says Marcus, who sold the company to the Canadian SunOpta in 2008, which is better known in the Netherlands as Tradin Organic.
Time for a new challenge, but there were no two ways about the fact that this challenge would also be in the organic sector. Marcus, who has lived and worked in Miami for 17 years now, says: “That’s how we started Organto Foods. We focus on the production of small exotic vegetables, such as organic legumes, snap peas, asparagus and green beans. With the use of three automated packing lines placed at Vroegop-Windig, our products are packed, and they’re distributed over Northern Europe by means of existing infrastructure.”
“I’m convinced organic will become mainstream. That’s the future. You just have to make sure you have year-round production and that’s no sinecure. Only then can our partners, the supermarkets, make the decision to take conventional products from the shelves. That’s what we wish to achieve with our products. The US is our second large potential sales market. We started in Europe with smaller volumes to gain experience in packing, distributing and positioning Organto's ‘I am Organic’ brand.”
It can’t be said the Dutch entrepreneur isn’t ambitious. “Regarding brand recognition, we want to be the Chiquita of small organic vegetables and tropical fruit, working to a fair and transparent model. That’s a long road, but if we manage to pull it off, I believe this will seamlessly meet the current needs of consumers to eat healthier and more consciously. To that end, we work closely with supermarket chains regarding price levels consumers can afford. We’re currently only realising half the production usual in conventional, but we just have to keep going. Fortunately, 800 shareholders have our backs, because they believe in our sustainable vision.”
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