Since 1996, the Le Vili company has been packaging and selling vegetable plants to professionals and garden centers. "We started with shallots, which we supplied to producers located around our region, as well as to garden centers. Then, in 2002, in response to the request of certain distributors, we started to expand our range with other products, like onions and garlic. We then launched this range on the market under the 'Apprentis jardinier' brand, which is exclusive to garden centers. Now that the batches are significant in size, it is only natural that we started also supplying growers. To be precise, we have expanded our range for them with seed potatoes,” says Régis Le Saint.
"In 20 years, the bulb market has evolved"
While Le Vili now sells roughly the same number of UVCs (Consumer Sales Unit), the volumes of bulb vegetables intended for garden centers have declined significantly. “We've had to adapt to changes in the market. For 3 years, we have been selling organic plants. We have also adapted our packaging to the demand. We are therefore now marketing bags of between 250 g and 5 kg, when 20 years ago we offered packs weighting between 3 kg and 25 kg. The volumes sold have therefore fallen sharply, due to the fact that the cultivated areas in gardens are declining and that fewer consumers have their own vegetable gardens. This is especially true in the case of seed potatoes.”
"The lockdown saved the latest campaign"
When it comes to the bulb market, the success of a season is directly linked to the weather. “If the weather is nice on the weekends in January and February, people will want to garden and the demand will be dynamic. However, last year the weather was relatively bad between January and March, which led us to expect a very average season. The lockdown then really helped save the 2020 campaign.”
"The 2021 campaign promises to be very different from the previous one"
Although no two years are alike, Régis Le Saint already knows that the 2021 campaign will be very different from the previous one. “This year, we will have to work differently, because there isn't as much supply available. With the dry weather this summer, we have smaller volumes and a smaller acreage. With shallots, for example, we will have smaller sizes, but more bulbs per kilo. And in any case, given how the consumer market is buoyant at the moment, anything that isn't sold as a plant will be sold for consumption. Unless the weather is really bad at the start of the year, we likely won't have a lot of unsold items by the end of the season."