SanLucar has been around since 1993, and the brand is well-established in Germany and Austria. Yet, it was only five years ago that SanLucar citrus, exotics, and soft fruit were first introduced in the Netherlands. Daan van der Giessen and Joel Versteeg are responsible for SanLucar Benelux. Daan says that entering a new market was not easy.
Daan van der Giessen
"A fruit and vegetable brand isn’t common and usually remains limited to a single product or a variety’s commercial name. Think of Pink Lady, Jazz, Zespri, and Chiquita. The SanLucar brand, however, includes a wide fruit and vegetable range," says Daan. Getting retailers to give the brand a chance turned out to be the biggest challenge. "Experience has taught us that, given sufficient visibility at the point of sale, consumers quickly adopt the brand."
Retailers are very much focused on private labels, says Daan. This is a great way for them to manage their price image and for their shoppers to get value for money. "Private labels are general, with the right price-quality ratio. But, there’s also room for specialists with premium products. They can appeal to those willing to pay a little more for products with more to offer. That's what we want to do with the SanLucar brand." That starting point also posed a challenge when entering the Benelux market.
"At first, it was difficult because our brand concept is at odds with many retailers’ philosophy. Where the main focus is on private label and price, we try to find our added value elsewhere. By adding a premium product as a premium brand, we draw attention to the product, quality, taste, and emotion instead of price. So, we can pay growers a fair price and allow retailers to appeal to a wider public and retain customers, which positively affects the fair share. And we realize a higher margin for retailers. We’ve seen this work in practice, and prices reflect this. There’s still much to gain regarding price, flavor, and continuity,” says Daan.
Keeping consumers happy
A strong brand helps new and existing buyers recognize and acknowledge products. "For most people, quality and taste are the main reasons to choose SanLucar. The more shoppers remember your brand and associate it with positive experiences, the more likely they are to buy it again. It’s, therefore, vital to ‘acknowledge’ shoppers. This is further supported by store staff and our brand’s presence at the point of sale.”
To ensure consistent quality, SanLucar focuses on things like cultivated varieties. "Selecting and ‛having' the right varieties and sticking to them ensures that consumers know what they’re buying and are therefore not disappointed. Stability and consistency are key," Daan continues. SanLucar also limits the number of varieties. "We try to offer our varieties, in recognizable packaging, for as long as possible throughout the year."
SanLucar strives to make its chosen varieties' harvests last as long as possible by working with different growing regions, among other things. Selecting suitable varieties also contributes to the goal of continuing to offer premium quality to customers.
Daan says to do this, it is important to control the entire chain. "From selecting varieties and growing them to developing packaging and supporting store sales. We want to continually be ahead of the curve. So, we’re constantly testing new varieties and have our own test fields and laboratories in North America, Africa, and Europe. Naturally, we always remain true to our philosophy: flavour in harmony with people and nature. Most importantly, we must continue to be careful with the climate because certainly in our sector, nature is and will remain our most important partner."
There are challenges too, but those need not cause problems, says Daan. "Quality, freshness, and flavour are always the key to success." The current challenges are mainly due to rising production, energy, and logistics costs. "As a result, we’ve done fewer, less penetrating promotions. The smaller increase in campaign volumes reflects that. However, the rise in regular sales volumes makes up for that. And that's what it's all about; that’s where the retail margin lies. We mostly use promotions to introduce our fruit to more people and bind them to us in regular sales. And that works."
“We’re committed to ensuring stable quality and flavour year-round. That’s at our farms in Western and Southern Europe, South America, North and South Africa, and within all 35 countries where we actively sell our product. Also, it’s quite a job to manage the various retailers’ many different requirements, conditions, specifications, packaging, and labels," adds Daan.
He admits things like logistical delays and the COVID-19 regulations affected SanLucar, too, just like many other businesses. Although it takes more effort than before, the company still manages to supply the chain. "Gradually improving, with the right focus, ensures we’re ready for the future. It, of course, doesn’t always go to plan. We work with a natural product. But we do our utmost. And remember, Max Verstappen didn’t win every race to become world champion," says Daan, laughing. "Good products, the right varieties, our brand, and the right retail partners mean the fruit is being well marketed at present,” he concludes.
Daan Van der Giessen
SanLucar Fruit Import Netherlands
Tel. (+31)651 965 111