Since the beginning of the current Corona crisis, fresh food, including fruit and vegetables of all kinds, has been of particular value. While the wholesale consumption and gastronomy sectors have suffered considerable losses in turnover, the opposite is true for the food retail sector. The same applies to the rest of the ambulant trade: "The classic market trade is getting more attention from the consumer," say Hubert and Niklas Hengesbach, from Essen-based wholesale company Josef Hesse LLC.
Niklas (l) and Hubert Hengesbach show off their seasonal range.
The wholesale business is trending upwards again, they say, because there is more home cooking than ever. "More money is being spent on high-quality, fresh food overall. This means that in these times of Corona, items are being bought which otherwise are selling much less; items like exotic fruits and vegetables. We'd already observed this trend last year, during the first lockdown," the managers concur.
Brand products are part of the Josef Hesse standard range.
At this point in time, however, this trend seems to have flattened out again. "Based on the items purchased, we are noticing that consumers now prefer to keep money in their pockets. Many have lost their jobs or are working shorter hours. This naturally affects their purchasing."
The company premises.
Loyalty between customers and suppliers
So far, it has been possible to maintain the customer base: Due to the boom in direct marketing, they have even been able to gain one or two more farm shops. "In general, the existing customers are stable and satisfied, which is probably the most important thing for us. In addition, there is a great deal of loyalty between customers and suppliers." The variety of products on sale is the trademark of the traditional company even in times of pandemic, he says: "This wide range in any price category has always been our strength and we wanted to continue to maintain it, even in these hard times."
Josef Hesse LLC has been based at the Essen Frischezentrum since 1968. There is a working area of around 3,500 m2 (incl. 600 m2 of convenience goods)
Increased process costs
In the course of the numerous Corona runs, the management of the company, which was founded in 1935, has had to contend with increased production costs. "Not only have the costs of masks and disinfectants been incredibly high; this also goes for separating departments and working in shifts. Of course, we had to double-fill many positions, so we had to change the entire operating processes within a very short time to adapt to the circumstances," says junior manager Niklas Hengesbach.
However, he sees few problems with the procurement of imported goods. "At the moment, there are delays in the delivery of Portuguese goods. Nevertheless, the price development is quite normal; it is really not as tragic as has often been portrayed in the media."
Despite the current exceptional situation, the two-man management team is confident about the future. "We see ourselves as a service provider and want to offer the customer everything from a single source. By this we don't mean just fruit and vegetables but dairy and convenience goods as well." The latter category of goods has been partly produced in the company's own production facility since the takeover of Großmann, a company specialising in pre-cut goods, in 2018.
The fresh-cut sector has just been hit hard by the disappearance of catering and company canteens. "The catering industry will recover, but it will take a while. Company canteens, on the other hand, will not carry as much turnover as before, in my view, because many will continue to work from home after the crisis," they predict.