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France: Pouliquen extends reach with Prince de Bretagne
Gérard Quillevere from Pouliquen
As a supplier of speciality shallots and onions from France, Pouliquen has staked their business on the quality of their product. While their products can command higher prices than shallots and onions from other parts of Europe, their market share among European consumers is relatively small. But a partnership with Prince de Bretagne, a French cooperative of produce growers, helps them take their products to markets they would otherwise not be able to reach.
The famous and protected Roscoff
“It would not be possible to go all over the world without the help of a brand like Prince de Bretagne,” states Pouliquen's Gérard Quillevere. “If you want to go to Italy, Germany, Russia – there is no other brand name that is likely to help you go to those markets and to advertise there.” Pouliquen's partnership has certainly helped them branch out in Europe, as Gérard Quillevere mentioned roughly 70 percent of their annual sales of 15 million Euro comes from exports. The majority of those exports go to Italy, Germany and Holland, though their reach also extends, albeit to a lesser extent, to the U.S., Singapore and Japan. The partnership gives Pouliquen, in addition to the network and brand recognition of Prince de Bretagne, products that complement Pouliquen's core business.
Warehouse of Pouliquen
“With about 60 percent of our business, our key product is shallots,” said Quillevere. “But we can also do tomatoes, cauliflower and artichokes, all from Prince de Bretagne, to join up with shallots, otherwise shallots would be difficult to do alone due to logistics.” Logistics are especially tough for Pouliquen because they sell shallots exclusively from Brittany. Though those shallots are renowned for their taste and quality, and though they can sell for premium prices, transportation from the region to the rest of Europe is costly and can be difficult to arrange.
Sorting and netting
“There are not a lot of supermarket warehouses in Brittany,” explained Quillevere. “So there's not a lot of product from Germany or Italy that comes here so that we could reload a truck. We're very far west, and that makes logistics difficult.” But the region does offer benefits. While growers all over Europe can grow shallots, they are typically seed shallots, which are different in taste, quality and reputation than the traditional shallots grown in Brittany. So while other shallot growers may have an advantage when it comes to ease of market access, Poliquen isn't really competing with them because, as Gérard Quillevere explained, their product is so different from anything else out there. The same is true for their speciality onions.
“Production of Roscoff onions is increasing because there's a big market for them all over Europe,” said Quillevere. “But they can only be grown in certain regions, and there are strict controls on how they are grown.” Most growers who produce the onions are small, family operations, and the time and labour that goes into their production. Another reason, according to Quillevere, is the sweet, distinctive taste and unique pink colour of the Roscoff onion. But speciality products like shallots and Roscoff onions require the right kind of marketing and sales channels to get them to consumers around the world.
Palletizing the boxes
“We are the biggest supplier of shallots in France, but you have to be everywhere and supply everything,” said Quillevere. He explained that reaching European supermarkets requires a wide selection of products to complement the premium items Poliquen is known for. Having footholds in several markets also gives one the ability to sell more products overall, as a wide net is safer than relying solely on one market, and the different tastes in different markets ensures that a greater variety of sizes can be sold.
Box of shallots
“Though shallots will always be a part of us, we are trying to find new products to increase our range,” said Quillevere. “For us that means working with other companies, because we have to do that in order to survive and be competitive.”
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