On 13 July, the starting signal for this year's Swiss sweet corn harvest sounded. "We were able to start this year about a week earlier than usual. The weather conditions so far have been optimal for the growth of the corn cobs, continuously above 20 degrees and sufficient rainfall in between. We therefore expect a very good Swiss harvest," says Markus Fries, Operations Manager at Unicorn SA, Switzerland's main supplier of sweet corn.
Markus Fries has been with the company for over 30 years.
Over the years, Swiss consumption of sweet corn has increased massively, Fries says. "Meanwhile, consumer demand is shifting from fresh sweet corn to pasteurised products. That's why seven years ago we decided to set up our own pasteurisation plant, so that we could supply Migros and Coop branches throughout Switzerland with Swiss pasteurised products all year round. Our production capacity has grown explosively since then."
Unicorn's sweet corn products are processed and packaged at the main site in Fischbach-Göslikon. They are then delivered to food retailers throughout Switzerland.
Difficult procurement situation
Outside the domestic season, Unicorn SA purchases sweet corn from foreign contract growers, for example from Morocco, Spain, Senegal and the USA. "This year, imported goods were quite difficult to obtain, but at the same time the market saw a high demand and great price pressures. The harvest in Spain and Morocco ended about 2-3 weeks earlier than usual. In addition, transport costs rose by 50% due to the Corona pandemic."
At the beginning of the domestic harvest, the market seems to have normalized to some extent, according to Fries. Nevertheless, the prices of domestic goods are still eight percent higher than last year, he reports.
The production hall at the main location.
Growth potential in the convenience production sector
All in all, the management of the company, which was founded in 1986, is looking confidently into the near future. "The market for sweetcorn in Switzerland still has room to grow. However, I see the great potential for growth in the area of ready-to-use and convenience products rather than the classic packaged product. In line with changing consumer behavior, we are also endeavoring to continually expand our product range," the company concludes.
Sweet corn cultivation in Switzerland