Crispy fresh potatoes, onions and other field vegetables on offer for twelve months of the year, that is the ambitious project of the Vorarlberg company Rheintaler Feldfrüchte. To ensure this, the cooperative, founded in 2017, has now built a brand new warehouse with a total capacity of 750,000 tons. In the near future, new sales markets are also to be developed, explains co-managing director Sebastian Allgäuer on request.
The regional cooperative was founded three years ago when the two farmers Sebastian Allgäuer and Kilian Schatzmann decided to combine their strengths and market their regional goods together. Allgäuer: "At that time, my potatoes were already completely sold out in December."
The new warehouse in Feldkirch-Gisingen / Picture: Weissengruber & Partner
In recent years, the company has gradually expanded its product portfolio. Regional onions and celery are now also available to customers in the areas of communal catering and food retail. "Celeriac is our newest mainstay product; we are one of the few suppliers in the region. This year we will probably bring 150 tons of it to the market." This production volume could be increased over the next few years, because the new storage location offers space for a total of approx. 250 tons of celeriac.
Sebastian Allgäuer and Kilian Schatzmann founded the Rheintaler Früchte cooperative in 2017 / Picture: Weissengruber & Partner
Despite Corona, Rheintaler Feldfrüchte has so far been spared major sales losses. Nevertheless, the consequences of the crisis have also been felt in Vorarlberg. "The canteens we would normally supply were closed for a short time. In general, the sales figures have remained more or less constant. There are certainly other industries that are affected to a greater extent," Allgäuer says, looking back on the past months.
At the product level, the pandemic had only a minor impact on the markets. "We only supply table potatoes and no industrial goods. Fortunately, sales and price levels for food products have remained fairly stable. Only oversized potatoes are sometimes difficult to market, although even these goods will ultimately go to old people's homes or hospitals."
Onion harvest in June
High appreciation for regional products
In addition to supplying regional community catering, the company also maintains a direct line to the local supplier Spar Austria. "During the first wave of the virus in the spring, we were able to increase our sales in this segment about fivefold, because the difficult transport conditions meant that only small amounts of imported goods were available."
At the moment, however, this trend seems to have levelled off. "Whether the crisis has actually led to a higher appreciation of regional products among consumers, however, we will only be able to determine in retrospect."
Potato sorting in the field / Picture: Weissengruber & Partner
New market niches
Despite the difficult market conditions, the company is looking confidently to the future and is already planning further expansions. "We are considering adding further products to our portfolio. For example, we currently only sell yellow onions, but there is a demand for regional red onions as well. This might be an interesting market niche for us."