Group ADW is to begin a major construction project in Belgium at the end of the year. That's at its current site. Its packaging, transportation, and wholesale facilities will be expanded. Group ADW wants to centralize activities and wants to become future-proof. The company is located in the heart of Europe's booming fruit and vegetable market. The land adjacent to Starpack, Group ADW's packaging division, has been readied. A new logistics center is to be built there. The group wants this center operational by 2022.
Alexander van Orshaegen (left) and Peter Tielemans
Controlling the chain
Group ADW imports and exports fruit and vegetables. It supplies retailers and wholesalers. These sell to Belgian and Dutch hospitality companies, smaller retailers, and industrial kitchens. This organization now includes more than 28 companies. They occupy all kinds of places in the supply chain. "We try to do as much as possible in-house. We not only do import, export, wholesale, and foodservice," begins the group's Alexander van Orshaegen.
"We also do packaging and organize transportation. That's through both a Belgian and Dutch company. We're supported by our own IT and marketing departments too. So, we control almost the entire chain. Overseas' deep-sea transport is the only exception. We can, therefore, offer transparency to customers. And we have full control over products' quality."
A lot of money is to be spent on increasing cooling and storage capacity.
The group is to relocate its main activities. So, Starpack is preparing for a sharp increase in the number of products it receives for processing. Most of the overseas containers will, in fact, arrive there. The products will be quality-checked and packaged. They'll then go on to be transported to clients. This process, even now, often takes only a few hours.
"Every day is a new challenge. Received products often leave the same day. Most of what arrives is already sold before it even gets here. In the fruit and vegetable sector, speed is imperative. That's so you can keep guaranteeing good quality. So, there's going to be a considerable investment. That's in ripening cells, and increasing storage and cooling capacity and quality," says Peter Tielemans of Starpack.
Cardboard - the packaging material of the future?
Starpack recently purchased various new machines. That's so they can meet the growing demand for cardboard packaging. They first bought a clamshell machine in 2019. It packages exotic fruits entirely in cardboard. Subsequently, two more banding machines were developed. Now, the company can package a wide range of fruit and vegetables in cardboard at high speed.
A cardboard band is stretched tightly around the product, fitting snugly each time.
Starpack now packages about two-thirds of its products in cardboard. "This isn't an unusual development. Customers are increasingly focussing on sustainability. And they prefer this somewhat pricier form of packaging to plastic. Cardboard also boosts a product's prestige. That's well-suited to the quality our Cibel and Cebon quality marks deliver."
"Though, I don't think they'll take plastic out of circulation completely. For certain products, plastic packaging will continue to be preferred. That's because of the goods' shelf life. However, goods are delivered more frequently and in smaller quantities. That's to compensate for the reduced shelf life. That means supermarkets and wholesalers have smaller stocks of fresher products," Peter explains.
Significant growth at retailers
Group ADW is a large hospitality sector supplier. The past period has, therefore, been tense for them. "Some companies within the group focus somewhat more on the hospitality industry. The pandemic's effects have certainly hit them hard. But, we were able to absorb this entire loss. That's because Group ADW has a much broader focus. That versatility is one of our organization's strengths," adds Alexander.
"Retail is currently experiencing unprecedented growth. And the hospitality industry is reopening now. The economy is also rapidly recovering. That allows us the chance to scale our production up significantly. The domestic market, among others, has never-before-seen possibilities. And we're committed to a direct consumer approach via home deliveries. We'll be focusing on perfecting the group's business operations. Then we can be ready for whatever challenges the future may bring," he concludes.