"We are optimistic as regards the new winter campaign, as scheduling proceeded without particular changes. Consumption is lively. There is more uncertainty for H&R segment because of the closures in the various European countries due to Covid-19. We will have to wait and see how the various lockdowns will affect the situation. Those working with big retail chains and packaging industries do not have to worry as much," reports Fabio Altamura, vice-presidente of Op Altamura in Pontecagnano Faiano (SA), a packed-unwashed PO specializing in the cultivation of baby leaves.
Considering the pressure exerted by the pandemic, the summer season went well. "We are positive that the winter season will not be affected by the emergency which, unfortunately, is involving and overwhelming all sectors. The most popular products remain the same and there are no big changes. Rocket, mixed-leaf salad and baby spinach are the main products. The demand of some products usually destined to the H&R segment has dropped a little."
Packed-unwashed products: one step ahead
The demand for packaged products has remained high so far, as it feels safer.
"However, we have noticed that there has been an increase in the consumption of packed unwashed products in some countries, which is our core business. The main reason is that it has a longer shelf-life: 10-15 days longer than washed products."
"In this emergency, consumers are trying to go grocery shopping less. A product with a shelf-life of 10-15 days is therefore more suitable."
A new way to do business
"We have not been on an airplane since February, while we were used to catching as many as three flights a week before the pandemic, especially before the summer and winter seasons. What is more, we have not been able to welcome clients to our company."
All meetings are carried out on online platforms or via phone. "Digital meetings replaced business trips, but they cannot replace visual and human contact. When we go meet a client, it is not for leisure: we get to know the company, understand its needs and the characteristics of their business. Plus it is always good to socialize after work."
It is different with new clients. "Luckily we equipped ourselves with tools that enable us to screen new business relationships, helping us avoid inconveniences. As we cannot see clients or get to know them, an insurance is the only solution for commercial exchanges."
"While I was talking with a Dutch operator friend about the postponement of Fruit Logistica, it emerged how contacts with clients are missed more than the actual trade fairs, and I believe many share our view."
Plastic-free: discussed less, but still relevant
The PO has not stopped researching new sustainable packaging. "We are working on new solutions and we use recyclable Pet packs. In addition, we are working together with a foreign retailer on specific plastic-free packs but, at the same time, we realize the market has put the issue aside."