The Corona crisis paralysed the gastronomy industry between March and May. In the course of the reopening of the gastronomy sector, this retail segment -and therefore also the production of fresh convenience goods- is slowly but surely getting back on track. For Michael Marx -Operations Manager at FFD Frisch Fruchtig Delp and a specialist in fresh convenience goods- the crisis is now being followed by a period of redefinition. "The market first has to clear itself up," he says in an interview with FreshPlaza.
Plant manager Michael Marx during quality inspections.
The experienced fruit and vegetable wholesaler runs a growing business in Riedstadt, in southern Hesse. The company currently employs approx. 100 people and has a total operating area of around 5,000m² at its disposal. In 2005, Marx was given the opportunity to convert the original vegetable cultivation business into a pure service company, initially specialising in the packaging of asparagus, strawberries and courgettes for the food retail trade. A few years later, the company finally entered the catering delivery business/ At the same time, it took the step towards convenience production. "In the meantime we offer the entire high-convenience range, from dressings and salad bowls to raw vegetable and potato salads. A substantial part of our To Go range is produced in our own production facility."
A look into the FFD convenience production hall. In just a few years, the share of convenience goods' sales has risen to 50%.
From growth to crisis-related sales losses
When the then new convenience segment was launched, the To Go segment was still in its infancy in German retail. In the years that followed, the demand for freshly cut goods and other convenience goods expanded rapidly, and with it the activities of FFD Frisch Fruchtig Delp. "Last year, our company recorded overall sales growth of 15%. We see further growth potential and are therefore very active in acquisition. We are simply noticing a shortage of personnel in the catering industry, which is quite advantageous for us as an experienced supplier". In addition to the wide range of products, the company relies on a flexible ordering process: Caterers can order goods around the clock, seven days a week, to reduce the pressure on the traditional ordering days of Friday and Monday. This makes for stress-free work and creates a certain continuity in the daily volumes ordered.
Despite the encouraging growth rates, FFD Frisch Fruchtig Delp also felt the direct consequences of the corona crisis, precisely because of its dependence on the catering industry. "Between the end of March and the beginning of May, our sales in the restaurant and hotel business fell to 20%. Some of our colleagues in the catering delivery department even closed the shop completely for a while, and some of their customers then ordered goods from us. For Mr Marx, a short-term closure was out of the question. "In that case we would have lost too many customers to remain competitive. Our fear was not so much whether we would get through the crisis, but rather whether our customers would survive Corona. The latter seems to be the case so far - no insolvency applications have been filed with the management."
The goods are collected from the producer with their own vehicles, also from abroad. Marx: "Nevertheless, transport has become more expensive: Because due to the exceptional situation, trucks still return empty, without reloading. This still leads to additional costs of 10-15 percent."
An employee filling fruit cups
Revival of dining out
Normally, the upcoming holiday season is of particular marketing importance for the company. "A lot of To Go products are needed at airports at this time of year. This year will probably be different because about 50% more people will stay at home. The most important thing is that people will be dining out again." Whether the local gastronomy can profit from this is currently a big question mark. "Some have found a good concept early on and have already been able to increase their sales to 100%."
Checking the peeled potatoes
For more information:
FFD Frisch Fruchtig Delp GmbH
Tel.: 06158 188 60 35
Fax.: 06158 188 60 34