RodaFruits is the Normandy branch of the RibéGroupe, regional leader and a recognized player in the distribution of fresh products (fruit, vegetables, seafood and butter, eggs, cheese) in the Greater Northern Quarter of France. RibéGroupe has 5 distribution sites for fruit and vegetables, including RodaFruits in the region of Rouen. Since its creation, RodaFruits is also a member of the Vivalya network, first distributor of fresh fruit and vegetables in France, with 23 independent members and over 83 warehouses throughout France.
New season for RodaFruits
Change of product family for RodaFruits, with the spring offer at the moment. The apples, pears and citrus fruit are being replaced by the asparagus, spring crops and bundles (radish, onions). “We are starting a whole new collection and campaign of products, with families that will be available until after school starts. We started with local salads nearly a month ago, and local strawberries from the field, first with the Gariguette, followed by the Mara des Bois at the beginning of May,” explains Jean-Pierre Martin, director of RodaFruits. The summer offer will start with tomatoes from the field from late May-early June.
Jean-Pierre Martin, director, and Sandrine Chasseigne, customer/ Photo credit: RodaFruits
“We turn to supermarkets to compensate for the loss from restaurants”
Since the announcements from the French government and with them, the closure of school canteens and collective catering, RodaFruits has had to find a way to redirect its flow of merchandise to other circuits. The restaurant sector (collective and commercial) now represents 60% for RodaFruits, and supermarkets represent 40%.
“Our objective is really to make sure that, in the event of difficulties with one distribution channel, we can compensate with the other channel.” A third of the activity of RodaFruits dropped due to the closure of restaurants, but the company was able to compensate for the loss thanks to its supermarket clients. “In the region of Rouen, we supply many company canteens but the people who no longer eat in restaurants now eat at home, so we try to redirect to supermarkets all the merchandise that cannot be sold to restaurants.”
There is a small difference, however, regarding the products. “We do not use the same product lines for restaurants or supermarkets. The 4th and 5th lines for example are more difficult to sell to supermarkets. Even with the classic lines, for products such as apples for example, the calibers used in restaurants, especially in school canteens, are not necessarily those sold in supermarkets. Neither is the packaging, so the situation can sometimes be complicated. We also had a large quantity of organic products which we were able to redirect to other distribution circuits.”
Stronger consumption trend in favor of the French origin
For several years, consumers have been increasingly more inclined to consume products Made in France; a trend which has been reinforced since the pandemic hit. “Globally, consumption is quite dynamic. We have observed for some time a real preference for products of French origin. We are currently working on the upcoming melon campaign. French melons, like peaches and nectarines, are really popular.”
Focus on local products
RodaFruits gets 40% of its supply locally for first line products. “We have been working everything we can locally for years.” Historically, Normandy is a fruit and vegetable producing region, so the spring is a very stimulating season for the company. “All our salads, radishes and bundles come from the Vittefleur basin (between Rouen and Dieppe). Between May and October, 100% of our salads are bought locally, guaranteeing local products to our clients and consumers. We distribute our fruit and vegetables within a 150 to 200km radius maximum around our warehouses.”
RodaFruits is an important player in the economic life of the region but the company also has a strong connection with its producers. “We have been collaborating with our producers for years, and for 2 years now, we have witnessed a change of generation. Accompanying our producers over several generations allows us to perpetuate our activities on the territory, maintain our activity, as well as participate in regional development. And these producers also help support our own development.”
Michel and Jonathan Rossignol, salad producers in Vittefleur (76)/ Photo credit: RodaFruits
Working locally is in the company’s DNA. “In the region of Rouen for example, the employees are from Rouen. The suppliers and transporters also are from the region. We are well immersed at the local level and familiar with the production area.”
By focusing on the local production, the company is also able to propose ultra-fresh products. “We practice pick-up, which means that we deliver to our clients in the morning and in order to prevent our trucks from leaving empty, we stop by local producers to pick up the merchandise that will be stored at the warehouse before being delivered to our clients. This way, our clients are guaranteed an ultra-fresh product harvested the day before and the environmental impact is reduced.” RodaFruits therefore offers some hundred local references and works with a dozen local producers for its spring collection.
Within the framework of the EGALIM law, RodaFruits supports its producers in their transition to the HEV (High Environmental Value) certification. “100% of our apples and pears produced locally now have the HEV certification. We are also expanding this certification to our vegetable crops, so as to guarantee volumes and proper remuneration to our producers. Our entire HEV production is marketed under our brand Les Jardins de Louis, which only includes producers who have a virtuous agricultural approach and are working on their HEV certification.”
New packaging very soon
In order to comply with the new legislation banning the use of disposable plastic, RodaFruits has invested in the creation of new packaging. “We sell fruit and vegetable trays in supermarkets,” explains Jean-Pierre Martin. “So far, our packaging was made of plastic but we have now purchased a new assembly line to work with recyclable cardboard packaging exclusively.”