JH Wagenaar:

“What counts for a staple product is that it’s much more for less”

JH Wagenaar has been an institution in the world of fresh produce for years, which is why they still operate under their own name within The Greenery. JH Wagenaar is a specialist of, among other things, outdoor vegetables and staple products. Their core activity in these products is supplying the fresh market and industry, both nationally and internationally.

“We supply wholesaler’s markets, cutting plants and retail. The most important export markets are Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, Belgium, the UK, Scandinavia and Italy. During this time of year, it mostly concerns staple products. Together with The Greenery, we take care of the logistical facilities and developments in the field of packaging,” says manager Gerard Breed about the relevant activities of JH Wagenaar in the field of winter vegetables.

JH Wagenaar’s assortment consists of, among other things, celeriac, white and red cabbage, beetroot, carrots, onions and turnips regarding staple products. These are typical staple or storage products. “These products are harvested by the growers at the end of the season, and they are then stored in cold stores. The vegetables are stored under optimal conditions so that we have them at our disposal for a long time,” says Fer Smit, who takes care of buying and selling with Barry Smit, among other people. A large part of the products is sold in Eastern Europe, and Tim Kenter is one of the people taking care of these sales.

Spring market most interesting
Regarding staple products, JH Wagenaar is mostly in the service of the growers. “We want to sell as well as possible for them, and we look for the best time to sell for that reason. At the end of the growing season, an enormous amount of product arrives on the market. It’s difficult to grow focused on the market when the demand prognosis is uncertain. We can make fairly accurate harvest prognoses. By attuning early and late productions to each other, it becomes possible to have a year-round supply. If necessary we can supply from cold stores until about June. We firstly sell the products of our own growers, but if necessary because of demand, we can also buy additional products.”

For the staple products, the spring market is the most interesting market to provide with product. “From December, everything starts coming out of cold stores. This year there was an enormous harvest, throughout Europe. We have a small group of permanent contracts, but the majority is for the free European market, so it’s important to know what happens there. Sales are fairly stable in Southern Europe, but it’s more problematic in Eastern Europe. Firstly, there’s the Russian boycott. Because the borders are closed, Russia’s been working on its own market. Russian growers now get a decent price for their products. Poland also has more capacity. Polish growers have professionalised and are now also producing for export. These are developments we’re dealing with, and which are in our way. In the past two years, there were no extreme issues that resulted in gaps on the market.”

Supplying what the customer wants
That’s what the company has to pay attention to. However, JH Wagenaar isn’t worried. “It depends on many factors, and it could just be that good prices are suddenly paid again. Moreover, we still have a head start. We built a good name for ourselves by supplying quality and being flexible. With us, an agreement is an agreement, we supply what the customer asks for, and because of that, we are still distinctive. For simple products, the bar is extra high. We do our best to meet the retailer’s exact demand.” That demand is different in every country. “So many countries, so many customs. The German want large cabbages, so we ship large sizes there. The Dutch want kilogram-sizes, and in the UK they also want smaller sizes. For the French market we pack, for example, sealed half cabbages, and to Southern Europe we ship six cabbages in a ten-kilogram box.”

Consumer wishes are changing. “In Germany, you can still see shelves that are two metres long filled with white cabbages in retail, but in the Netherlands, it’s more about convenience products. You hardly see whole cabbages anymore in retail, except for a few who still have the customers for it. Yet the Dutch eat more white cabbages than they’d think. It’s a cheap filler for many vegetable mixes. It can be found in mixes for cooked rice and chow mein, acar and spring rolls. Cutting plants and processors supply the added value.”

Adding value
According to JH Wagenaar, it’s difficult to create added value in the supply chain. “with a product such as white cabbage it’s very difficult to be distinctive. Staple products don’t require frills. With other products such as tomatoes and bell peppers, you can be distinctive in colour and flavour. For staple products, people mostly try to be distinctive in packaging. For example, for carrots we use plastic with bright orange lines, which results in a better appearance. Wagenaar is mostly distinctive because of its high quality, flexibility and functional packaging. We have a group of loyal and high-quality growers at our disposal, a growing group that believes in the concept of JH Wagenaar.”

More information:
JH Wagenaar
Gerard Breed

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