Maik de Groot has been active as the fourth generation in his family company De Groot Fresh Group since 2010. After having overseen all aspects and having worked in all departments, he is now responsible for the service centres of De Groot Fresh Group, which includes all the ripening activities as well. “Bananas are really my thing, although our ripening activities encompass much more nowadays, including the ripening of mangoes and avocados.”
“Mangoes and avocados have grown considerably in turnover for our customers in recent years. We’ve responded to that with our modern ripening plant. Ripening these exotics is a completely different branch of sport than ripening bananas, but we have the necessary knowledge for it. With our ripening cells, we’re ready for the future, to answer possible new questions from the market as well. Products such as pears, kiwi fruit and stone fruit could also be interesting in future. We’ve successfully conducted various tests for these.”
However, the majority of volume consists of bananas. The state-of-the-art facility in Hedel, the Netherlands, has a capacity to ripen as many as 150,000 boxes per week, and the new cells have been built two storeys high. “We think it’s important to go with the times. For the new construction, building energy-saving cells was our top priority. The new cells use considerably less energy than the previous generation of ripening cells. Sustainability is of great importance to both us and our customers. For example, we ripen using ammonia as a coolant, and this is currently the environmentally friendliest method. The benefits of a large amount of ripening cells at one location is that we can offer flexibility, we always have a back-up, and we can keep track of everything.”
Own ripening regime
The majority of the bananas ripened by De Groot are supplied by their own growers, but the company also partially ripens product from third parties. “Fortunately the cells are quite full year-round, but we always have room available in reserve,” Maik says. “Over the years, we have made our own ripening schedule to guarantee colour, flavour and quality of the bananas. We use a long schedule to ripen the bananas, and that’s for the benefit of the product. Because of this, our customers’ turnover increases considerably. To supply the best product, we monitor and inspect our bananas 24/7 per week.”
Maik de Groot.
Although the number of banana ripening plants has been reduced dramatically in the past few years, volume has just increased. Maik doesn’t think import is in immediate danger either, although news about the Panama disease sometimes seems to suggest otherwise. “We naturally take reports about the fungus seriously, but I personally think that the weather extremes of past years, such as floods and hurricanes, could have a bigger influence on the availability of bananas, as well as demand from the global market.”
“We focus on multiple sales channels. With De Groot van Dommele, we serve the Dutch market, and with De Groot International we serve retail and the export market. We also supply green bananas, primarily to Eastern and Western Europe, but increasingly also in other parts of the world.”
Bananas are still in the top three of fruit products most sold. Demand for bananas is also very significant at the start of the year. “It’s naturally a healthy product that is easy to bring along, and gives a quick energy boost. The sales of organic and Fairtrade bananas also increases stably, Rainforest Alliance has now even become a condition.”
“Each country has its own specific characteristics in the field of bananas. We stick to countries of origin Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador. Nowadays, other countries of origin are also seen, but we believe in reliable long-term relationships with our suppliers in the established areas. Consumers know these bananas, and they know what to expect. We can’t always guarantee that quality from other countries. All of our containers are scanned in ports. Unfortunately that costs too much time, but we don’t want to run any risks in this field.”
“In the end, our business is based on long-term relationships. We often say: We’d rather earn ten cents for ten years than one euro for one year. With this vision, we’ve gradually grown in recent years, and we’d like to keep this growth going,” Maik concludes.
De Groot Fresh Group
Maik de Groot