The day before yesterday, the tenth edition of the German Fruit & Vegetable Congress took place in Düsseldorf - although it was somewhat different from what was planned when the date of the event was announced in September 2019. The organizing team from GS1 Germany GmbH, AMI - Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft mbH and Fruchthandel-Magazin took great pains to convey a sense of security in the CCD Stadthalle.
The Congress was probably the first major event for the German fruit and vegetable industry since the Fruit Logistica in February and the outbreak of the Corona virus in Germany in March this year: "After 1,000 video conferences we are finally seeing real people today", Hans-Christoph Behr (AMI), Kaasten Reh (Fruchthandel) and David Hintzen (GS1) said in their opening speech. "We are pleased that the event - albeit with Corona accents - can still take place. We would like to express the hope that we can meet again next year in Düsseldorf, in the usual way."
The AMI team.
In addition to compulsory masks, social distancing and fixed seating, of course Corona was on the agenda: the influence that the pandemic had and still has on the German (and global) fruit and vegetable trade is significant. Thus, the topic was a common thread running through many of yesterday's lectures.
Stephan Weist: "Stress test passed"
Stephan Weist, the Head of Category Management at REWE Group, dealt with crisis management in the question and answer session with Kaasten Reh: "Fortunately, the food chain worked perfectly", he remarked. He had closely observed the daily routine in some stores and was generally satisfied with the supply: "We were able to ensure the continuous supply of almost all products."
Stephan Weist during his presentation
His greatest problems, he said, were of a political nature: "Politics and logistical aspects such as border closures were more complicated than the food load. But all in all I would say: Stress test passed."
He also believes the crisis has given a good boost to online sales: "Colleagues have definitely reached their limits, less so in picking than in delivery. At peak times, orders have more than doubled and are still stable at a higher level than before the crisis."
Can vegetables be innovative and sexy?
This year's event had two interesting contributions on the topic of innovation. Both Stephan Schilling, Head of PR & Communications of Divimove, and Prof. Dr. Bastian Halecker, founder and CEO of Hungey Ventures / Nestim LLC, had the goal to bring the long-established fruit and vegetable trade into the modern age with some fresh ideas.
Stephan Schilling (left) with Hans-Christoph Behr and musical duo "Reis Against the Spülmachine".
Schilling called on the participants to develop marketing concepts that can make fruit and vegetables more attractive. He stressed the importance of social media and influencers in this platform ecosystem. "Don't wait too long in marketing: try it out! There are too many doubts in the industry, although there are great opportunities to improve the reach and image of fresh food."
Halecker, on the other hand, is trying to bring "dinos" and "unicorns" together - in other words, to bring together the two worlds of start-ups and established companies. "Everyone knows that innovation is important, but large companies in particular only take small steps there. On the other hand, start-ups might have less of a reach, but they have the new ideas and drive that the "dinos" lack."
Prof. Dr. Halecker was unable to travel from Berlin and spoke via a live connection.
The expert appealed: "There are solutions for everything these days. So ask yourself: 'What is the right problem for my company?'"
These two presentations struck a chord with the visitors and will certainly inspire people to think more about this topic.
The team at the KÖLLA stand
The cooperation of the participants was also pleasing. Everyone adhered to advertised places, mask obligation and social distancing rules, and thus made the safe course of the meeting possible. Altogether, it was a successful start of the "new normal" and both organizers and visitors showed themselves very pleased with how the event unfolded.