When Rainer Carstens took over his parents' business in Friedrichsgabekoog at the end of the 70's, things there were still being done conventionally. In order to successfully convert the farm to organic cultivation, there was a need to create the necessary marketing structure, as this was still lacking. Therefore, in 1991 Carstens was actively involved in founding the marketing company VGS Bioland SH. With a good marketing structure and a gradual conversion to organic farming for many farms in the area, Carstens then looked for other ways to add value to regional organic products.
In 1998 Carstens founded the BIO-FROST company for the processing of organic vegetables from Schleswig-Holstein. Since its founding in 1998, BIO-FROST Westhof GmbH has been the only company in Germany that exclusively processes vegetables from certified organic farms. "We pride ourselves on using only organic produce; many other companies process organic products one day a week and conventional ones for the rest of the week."
The decision was made during the construction of the deep freeze facility with a system that can process 2 tons per hour - just as much as the local producers could. "Since we started with a comparatively small production volume, we had the opportunity to continue learning and optimizing our operations." Soon, the capacity is to be increased to 10 tons per hour as the need for organic convenience products increases, as does the production volumes of local producers."
Peas with pods
The frozen vegetables from BIO-FROST are a precursor of the processing industry and are used for baby food for about 65%. The remainder is bought by companies that use it for the production of ready meals. "In my opinion, deep-freezing is the best way to preserve fresh food, and the quality is simply better maintained than with, say, canned food," explains the CEO. "Due to the extremely short transport routes, the vegetables are frozen in very good condition and the quality is maintained."
Berit Carstens-Lask at BioFrost
"The demand for organic frozen food has grown very much in the last 20 years, so today we are striving for expansion. While the growth of conventional vegetables is currently stagnating, there is great demand for frozen products. Conventional retailers are showing interest in the products of BIO-FROST Westhof GmbH as well," Carstens explains.
Even in the processing industry, the trend towards regionalism can not be ignored. "When it comes to fresh vegetables, we've been focusing on regionalism for five years, but Schleswig-Holstein is not ideally located - with just two million inhabitants and two million more in Hamburg, there simply would not be enough buyers for our products. More so, since we are not the only organic players in the area." The circle is slightly larger for frozen vegetables. Carstens: "All the retailers I know want vegetables from the region. For deep-frozen food, the circle then widens to the whole of Germany, if necessary."
The Carstens family
Carstens wants to set a good example for other companies, as many processors believe that switching to pure organic processing is too complicated. "Of course it is not always easy and it is a lot of work. But if the producers can do it, then the processors can do it as well."