Karl-Josef Hortmann, RPZ Rheinische Pilz-Zentrale GmbH:

"We are harvesting mushrooms 365 days a year"

The Deckers Group is active in the field of mushroom farming and sales. The group is a family business, with father Hans Deckers and his sons Marco and Patrick. All three have their own mushroom farms and the mushrooms grown there are marketed through two regional distribution companies. Marco, the eldest son, has been breeding portobellos since 2004 and currently produces 170 tons per week. Patrick Deckers has been breeding mushrooms for 5 years. For 2 years he has been focusing on brown organic mushrooms. The weekly production is 10 tons.

The founder, Hans Deckers, has been growing mushrooms for almost 45 years. At the time, he started very small, says Karl-Josef Hortmann, the commercial manager and representative of the two sales companies. "Today, Hans Decker has a weekly production of 26 tonnes of brown mushrooms and he is involved in a breeding operation with 32-35 tonnes per week." In 2014, Deckers set up a mushroom farm in Bürstadt, where they grow around 120 tonnes per week in brown and white mushrooms."

"We want to make it clear to the trade that our products are regional products, not goods from northern Germany or abroad." Packaging, order picking and delivery to the customers is all coordinated from from Geldern and Bürstadt. Weekly sales of the two companies amount to an average of 400 tonnes of fresh produce.

Fresh, regional goods year-round  
The peak mushroom season is the Christmas season, say the experts: "Around the holidays, we deliver a good 600 tons per week." At that time, people will buy mushrooms from regional growers, but also from abroad, from Poland and the Netherlands. The popularity of mushrooms in the winter months is related to the low availability of other regional, fresh vegetables. "Our fresh mushrooms are available year-round, grown 365 days a year, harvested 365 days a year and delivered 363 days a year." However, outside the Christmas period there aren't many extreme seasonal fluctuations.

Regional production, regional products
Regionality as well as production and sales from one single source are very attractive to food retailers. "Our customers are reluctant to have five different suppliers for the segment. They want one supplier for everything - that's why we also market exotic mushrooms like shiitake and oyster mushrooms." These complete the offer. "We value local, fresh mushrooms. What is harvested today will be packaged and delivered the next morning at the latest and will be on the shelves of our customers the day after tomorrow." With its products, the group supplies all well-known food retailers and discount chains in Germany.

This focus on regionalism is also reflected in the future of the company: "In the future, however, we will breed and distribute our own exotic mushrooms through another company in which Mr. Deckers is involved as well. These will mainly be oyster mushrooms and shiitake and, at a later, date oyster mushroom and king oyster mushrooms as well." The group also sells dried mushrooms.

Family business
"We attach great importance to the fact that the group is a family business and not a group in the classical sense," says Hortmann. "We supply and produce according to customer requirements, and the Deckers Group has been able to grow in recent decades, thanks to rapid adaptation to these requirements." The freshly harvested mushrooms are packed, picked and delivered on demand: "The type and equipment of the packaging is individually regulated according to customer demands." Packaging sizes show a trend towards smaller packages of 350 gr or less, instead of the traditional 500-600 gr trays.

Hans Deckers with his sons Marco and Patrick

In general, there is growth in mushrooms. Hortmann explains that per capita consumption is generally increasing. The increase in demand for conventional products is much more pronounced than that for organic products. "Regarding mushrooms, we are now 60% self-sufficient in Germany, but we hope to reach 80%. That means there is still plenty of room for growth, and a certain percentage will probably continue to be covered by retailers from abroad. That is because prices of foreign products are usually lower."

The relevance of convenience products is clear to the company. In addition to sliced ​​mushrooms, they are testing different processed fresh products, such as the Champidelle - a meat-free meatball made with mushrooms. "Now we have to wait and see how the product is accepted by customers and consumers." Ultimately, the most important goal for the company is customer satisfaction: "And that is our motto as well: 'We are only satisfied when our customers are'."

For more information:
Karl-Josef Hortmann
RPZ Rheinische Pilz - Zentrale GmbH
Milchweg 66
47608 Geldern
Tel: +49 2831974320
E-mail: KJ.Hortmann@rhpz.de

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