Fresh Mushroom Europe (FME) is located in Meer, Belgium, just across the Dutch border. This company supplies the total mushroom package. The business renews itself time and again in response to its clients’ wishes. This year, they did so by, for example, introducing their ‘Bosverhalen’ - Forest Tales - assortment.
According to Bert Jansen, “FME uses these innovations to introduce consumers to more than just regular mushrooms.” Bert and Arie Verburg laid out the latest developments in the mushroom world. “That can be done by adding value and using new ideas. We’re pioneers in that.”
FME has always added value to their mushrooms. “We look at the whole category to see what needs to be improved. How can we inspire consumers and chefs all year? How can we offer them a wide range of varieties? How do we win them over to great flavors?”
“That led to, among other things, the ‘Bosverhalen’ concept. Under that label, we sell products like mushroom mixes to retailers. We’re aiming for year-round availability and flavor. And, naturally, we add the necessary inspiration to start using these products in the kitchen,” the two men explain.
“We opted for mixed packaging for consumers so that they can try all the different mushrooms. More people are becoming familiar with wild mushrooms. But, they don’t nearly grasp this category’s breadth. We use these ‘Bosverhalen’ to try and expand consumers’ knowledge.”
When asked if the idea for this range arose from the decreased sales to the foodservice sector, Arie answers firmly, “We don’t believe renewal should be born from necessity. You, after all, need to connect with consumers. If you don’t have that, your product won’t get off the ground.”
Corona crisis ups and downs
Since the company is in Meer, it became evident how closed borders within Europe would affect the ordinary course of business. “We were pleased that in April, the Dutch/Belgium border controls were a little more inland. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to reach our premises so easily.” The two countries banded together somewhat during that time, too, say Arie and Bert, smiling.
So far, the company has come through the corona crisis well, certainly compared to other sectors. “Fresh Mushroom Europe is fortunate. We focus on two sales channels on an international market,” says Bert. “So, retail sales went well.”
“But day trading and trade to the foodservice sector was challenging. People’s increased interest in healthy eating characterized that period. That benefits mushrooms. There was also an increase in demand for local products. So, local nurseries are now supplying more mushrooms.”
Bert and Arie have, however, noticed differences in how sales went for the different product groups. “Regular mushrooms sold well, but the special mushrooms didn’t. The hospitality industry’s closure created challenges. We, however, supported our clients. During those months, we had the whole range on offer to these clients.”
“In that way, we didn’t have to say turn them away. But, it was a real challenge to get some products. These usually come by plane, and many of our exports go out in the same way. The coronavirus pandemic had a major effect on the availability of cargo space in air transport. That, therefore, wasn’t always easy.”
Arie and Bert see another way to add value to their products - protein transition. Meat replacers are replacing an increasing number of meat products. “Mushrooms lend themselves perfectly to this. It’s no longer a question of when we’ll have to deal with this protein transition either. We’re already in the midst of it.”