In Belgium, Fresh Food supplies fruit and vegetables to the business market. That includes the hospitality industry, care facilities, and stores. They also have a store for the general public. Owner Tim Slaedts says that, before the pandemic, he sold 90% of his produce to wholesalers. The remaining ten percent revenue was generated from his store's sales.
“Then, eateries closed during the lockdown, and I lost my main buyer. The situation reversed entirely," he says. "Wholesale demand decreased, but store sales shot up. So, we actually suffered very little financially from the lockdown. The wholesale/retail combination has an advantage. Our sales are more widely distributed. That made it easy for us to shift our focus to the private market."
Every day, Fresh Food gets truckloads of goods. These Belgian fruits and vegetables come from auctions and wholesale markets.
More hospitality industry sales than before COVID-19
Now that the hospitality industry has reopened, the wholesaler has become busier. "We're very busy. The restaurants and taverns are doing tremendously well. I estimate that the hospitality industry is buying about 30% more than before the pandemic."
The demand for summer products also rises at this time of year. There is great demand for mint and limes. Strawberries too, but a bit less than usual. "Their quality is slightly lower this year. And prices are a bit on the high side," says Tim. "There's a huge increase in demand for Salad Pea too. I used to sell two boxes a week; now it's 20."
If that will continue, is anyone's guess. Because, after the vacation. sales always drop a little. "I hope it continues like this. But I'm concerned that sales will decline in September. That's an expensive month for many households. Sales usually always fall then."
Many sectors are experiencing labor shortages. Tim admits that he, too, is struggling to find staff. "It's not easy to find drivers to go to the auctions." Fresh Food gets fruit and vegetables from there every day. They also get supplies from growers and places like the wholesale market in Brussels. Owners, therefore, have to shoulder a lot of the work. "But fortunately, we're busy. COVID-19 has made people realize the importance of fresh, healthy food. That trend will only continue to grow," concludes Tim.
The labor shortage means business owners are having to do more, like drive trucks.