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René Wellner:

“Maribelle responds to Dutch demand for sweet apples”

Apple growers have had some difficult years. Many growers have switched to growing pears over the years, but not Roel Wellner Fruit. “You have to focus on what the others aren’t doing, and we’re doing that with the Maribelle apple,” says René Wellner . With his father and his brother Jeroen he runs the company in Est, the Netherlands, which is active in the production, cooling and sorting of apples, and the Maribelle apple is their showpiece. “We sell this apple to supermarkets including Boon’s Supermarkt, but also to both national and international wholesalers. The Maribelle is a fresh, slightly sweet and firm apple. In comparison to Southern Europeans, who prefer sweeter apples, the Dutch eat sour apples more often. Yet you can tell preference is headed more towards sweeter now, and the Maribelle can respond to this.”

René Wellner next to the sorting machine.

In the past five years, Roel and his sons have invested in new Dutch apple variety Maribelle. In the Netherlands and Belgium, about 100 hectares of Maribelle apples have been planted, mostly in Gelderland, Zeeland and Belgium. Roel Wellner Fruit currently has ten hectares available for the production of Maribelle. “The advantage of Maribelle is that the apple isn’t difficult to produce. We’re not going to plant a variety that costs too much in manure,” René says. “Pink Lady is the absolute best when looking at positioning of an apple. We’re not going to achieve this with Maribelle, because we also have to do our other work besides marketing. However, we do have a website and a business card for Maribelle, and all apples have been provided with a sticker. Step by step we want to increase product familiarity of the apple, and we want to be appreciated by wholesalers and retailers. For the new season, Maribelle will also be supplied Milieukeur-certified, to meet demand from retail.”

The Maribelle apples have been provided with stickers.

The Wellners have clearly divided their tasks. Father Roel, previously active as an exporter to Poland, is reducing his tasks by now, but he’s still present every day for support. Jeroen takes care of the production and mechanisation of the company, and René is responsible for packaging and trade. In addition to Maribelle, they also grow Elstar, Golden Delicious, Red Jona, Prince, Jonagored and Celica Welbo Boskoop. They also have one hectare to grow cherries. “Here in the Betuwe, the roadside sales of cherries still do incredibly well compared to other parts of the Netherlands. Selling by the side of the street is the best thing there is,” René says. He experiences running the family company as a major privilege. “Family companies are the strength of the Dutch economy. It might not always be easy, but in the end, you’re doing it as a family.”

The Maribelle apples with the sorter in the background.

René is convinced the apple season will be all right, if quality remains good. “In recent years, the apple consumption improved, and fruit consumption will also increase in the coming months. This will be partly due to an improvement in quality and flavour. People have been saying children should eat more fruit for twenty years now, but it’s still not happening. Yet we’re strong with Maribelle. We can supply this apple year-round, and for us it’s important to be able to guarantee quality to our customers. Our goal for the coming years is to attract new buyers with Maribelle, to create product familiarity, and to market the apple well.”

The warehouse in which the apples are handled.

For more information:
René Wellner 
Roel Wellner Fruit
Esterweg 12A
4185 NN Est, the Netherlands
+31(0) 655 175 169
+31 (0345) 569 432

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