Family business Suntat from Mannheim-Neckarau was founded in 1986 by the five brothers Halil, Mustafa, Muharrem, Ali and Kadir of the Baklan family. With its 1800 employees worldwide, 100 of whom work in Mannheim alone, Suntat sells its products in over 50 countries. Mustafa Baklan, managing director of the company, can therefore look back on many years of experience in the wholesale industry. Mustafa Baklan, his sons Muharrem and Güven as well as marketing manager Ugur Altundal talked to us about the development of the wholesale trade in the last years as well as about the current production from Suntat.
Here you will find the photo report with pictures of the wholesale market operation as well as of the head office.
Mustafa Baklan (below) and Muharrem Baklan
Declining sales in the wholesale market
"In the last ten years, the discounters have entered very strongly into the sale of fruits and vegetables, which has caused problems for many small traders. This is because discounters and food retailers are now more likely to buy their produce directly from growers. Wholesale markets now thrive on small and medium-sized businesses, with many ethnic markets also more often found in wholesale markets. Nevertheless, wholesale market sales have probably fallen by about 60% over the past decade," Baklan notes.
While the situation for logistics is difficult domestically, there have been many complications, especially abroad, he adds. "There are still some problems with both sea and train transport." Each week, the wholesale market operation receives five truckloads of fruits and vegetables, three of which come from Turkey. Given the long waiting times at the borders, some of the goods are in danger of spoiling. In turn, to meet rising demand, the company will also be building its own fresh produce area in the central warehouse in the future.
In addition to its headquarters in Wattstrasse, Suntat also operates a wholesale operation at the Mannheim wholesale market
Since August, its branch at Mannheim Wholesale Market has been managed as "BAK Mannheim Großmarkt Ltd" within the group of companies. "On a sales area of 1,400 sqm with an adjacent warehouse of 600 sqm, we offer with our team of 16 employees mainly fruits and vegetables in addition to meat and dairy products. This is imported from Turkey and various other European countries to meet our customers' daily demand for fresh produce," says Güven Baklan, who is the managing director of the wholesale store, together with Kadir Baklan.
"We are very happy to be based in the Rhine-Neckar region, as we can also source a lot of fruit and vegetables from Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse. This gives us good access to German vegetables, which are offered fresh to our customers every day," says Güven Baklan. "From the wholesale market, we can supply the whole of Europe, which means that from Marseille to Vilnius, our customers are supplied with vegetables and Suntat products."
Managing Director of BAK Mannheim Großmarkt Ltd, Güven Baklan
Market share of up to 70%
However, Suntat continues to receive its largest revenue from its dry products, of which 40 to 50 truckloads arrive in Mannheim from Turkey each week. "With the Turkish products, we have a market share of 30-40% in the ethnic markets. With German retailers, in turn, we have a market share of up to 70% for the same products," Baklan knows. The fresh produce is delivered by the company's own trucks within a radius of 200km, although orders are also accepted nationwide and the goods can be delivered to customers within 24 hours.
Four seasons in one
Sales and marketing manager Ugur Altundal explained the role of Turkish agriculture in production: "There is nothing we cannot offer. Because in our main country of reference, Turkey, you can experience all four seasons at the same time. When it is 30 degrees in Antalya, for example, the temperature in the north, for example in the Black Sea region, is 12 to 13 degrees. In the east, for example in Erzurum region, it can be -3 degrees, in the west 15 to 20 degrees and it can also be as hot as 50 degrees in Adana."
Sales and Marketing Manager Ugur Altundal
"We cooperate with many wholesalers worldwide. The goods comply with the standards and guidelines that apply throughout Germany and Europe. From our headquarters in Mannheim, we can supply the whole of Europe, drawing on a large network of trading partners." At the same time, Altundal emphasizes that Suntat is struggling with rising prices, especially when it comes to logistics.
"Costs have increased by 300% at times, without gaining a single penny themselves. There are logistics companies that have increased their prices by three to four times," Altundal said. Many packaging and other products that used to be sourced from China are now no longer accepted by customers, they say, "but that has more of a political background than an economic one. Therefore, we had to reorient ourselves accordingly."
Muharrem Baklan points out that Suntat now supplies all German supermarket chains. "Interest in our products is also increasing because we are constantly expanding our range. We import the products from Turkey," says Baklan. Due to the special climatic circumstances in Turkey, the company can offer just about all products throughout the year, he adds. "We attach a lot of importance to our partnerships, because partnerships are like families for us. That's why we also develop the respective products together with our partners." Negotiations are also currently underway with Dubai, as well as efforts to partner with the Carrefour chain.