Lamb's lettuce is one of the most popular winter crops, established within German cultivation. In southern Germany in particular, the cultivation and consumption of leafy vegetables is showing encouraging growth rates from year to year. Shortly before Christmas, demand usually skyrockets once again. Andreas Frey, Managing Director of the company of the same name, based at the Karlsruhe wholesale market, sees considerable supply bottlenecks endangering this year's Christmas business due to the loss of quality in southern German cultivation and the low yields in southern European areas.
The Gemüsebau Frey team at their wholesale market stall in Karlsruhe. Owner Andreas Frey (l) sees a constantly growing demand for fresh, regional lamb's lettuce.
The wholesaler endeavours to offer the southern German food retailer first-class fruit and vegetables from the Palatinate and within a few years has established itself as a permanent service provider for several well-known chains of shops.
This year's lamb's lettuce harvest in southern Germany started at the beginning of November. High temperatures and persistent precipitation led to a loss of quality in the fields of the leading southern German producers of lamb's lettuce. "Starting this week, the supply bottlenecks in the trade are already noticeable: Southern German food retailers have already purchased large quantities from northern Germany because France and Italy also have too few goods available," Frey outlines.
Delivery to the regional food retail trade
The Karlsruhe wholesaler has for several years cultivated a close partnership with the regional producer Zapf, which exclusively supplies lamb's lettuce and baby spinach. The products are now listed at many southern German Edeka and hypermarket branches. During the high season, about 500-600 kg of lamb's lettuce are available per day, and even more at weekends. According to Frey, the trading company is still in a position to fulfil the programmes with regional products. "The next 1-2 weeks will be decisive for us".
Fresh lamb's lettuce
Growing demand in the retail sector
In the long term, the demand for fresh regional lamb's lettuce has increased massively in recent years. "Demand is clearly there. I would even speak of an annual increase of 10-12 percent," it continues. According to Frey, however, there is still room for improvement for the German lamb's lettuce industry. There is still a need for clarification at the POS, because lamb's lettuce is not just lamb's lettuce. "The outdoor products - which are preferably grown and consumed here in the region - have a firmer, harder structure. The more popular greenhouse lamb's lettuce on Lake Constance, on the other hand, is somewhat softer and has a different taste."
As a specialised trade partner for lamb's lettuce, Gemüsebau Frey organised its first lamb's lettuce seminar at the Karlsruhe wholesale market on 3 December.
Baby spinach: season already over
While the lamb's lettuce campaign is currently in full swing, the regional baby spinach season has already come to an end. The volume handled is comparatively lower than for lamb's lettuce: "Moreover, baby spinach is not a typical winter article. We sell considerably more in summer than we do now in winter."