Mark Urban, Johann Köster LLC

"The Coronavirus has slowed the development of our convenience business"

Convenience is becoming an increasingly important component in the German retail sector. This applies not only to the food retailing industry but to wholesalers as well, as they are increasingly adding processed goods to their product range in order to offer their customers a wider range from a single source. The Johann Köster company from Lilienthal has salads and meals in its range, produced by a partner, offering them to its customers in the Bremen area.

"We have decided not to produce our convenience articles ourselves but to have our products processed by a partner," says Mark Urban. "This way, we want to make sure the products are of a consistent quality. We are IFS certified ourselves, and therefore we wanted to have this guarantee for our convenience articles as well." Köster's own brand includes classics such as raw vegetable salads and salad cups, as well as full meals or individual components for salad bars. "In addition to the close cooperation with the manufacturer, it is important to us that the products taste 'as if they were homemade'."

Meals and salads are still a niche in the product range, he says, but this segment is becoming more and more important: "You can see this in the retail trade as well: more and more large chains are making convenience products like this themselves. We offer a tasty alternative to shops that don't have the capacity for it."

In recent months, the company has benefited from the broad product range and the large customer base: "We supply both the catering trade and food retailers. Of course, after the closure of the hospitality industry, we were glad to have the retail trade behind us, which was able to absorb some of the losses". However, the development of the new convenience line has been slowed down somewhat, says Urban: "The original plan had been to have tastings in regional supermarkets, for example, but that seemed less sensible to us because of the pandemic."

In addition to the convenience line, the day-to-day business continues, naturally. Currently, summer products such as wild mushrooms and chanterelles are on the agenda: "Sales are still stagnant, however. A large proportion of the mushrooms normally goes to the catering trade, but no real volumes have been reached due to the Corona restrictions. The bad weather of the past weeks has intensified this, as terraces remained closed."

Nevertheless, Urban hopes that the summer and a reopened gastronomy will bring another upswing in mushroom sales: "Many Germans will travel within the country this year. So the tourism hotspots will remain active. You can tell that people want to get out, and hopefully that will revive the gastronomy industry."

For more information:
Mark Urban
Johann Köster GmbH & Co. KG
Querreihe 1
28865 Lilienthal
Tel: 04792 93400  

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