At Duva Fruit wholesalers, business is booming again after the tough pandemic. "The whole range is running very well, with much demand for soft fruit and Cavaillon melons at the moment," says the Belgian company's business manager Dirk Dumarey. "It does seem that premium products are more difficult to sell. Due to the current economic crisis, those are the first products consumers naturally pass up."
This wholesaler serves West and much of East Flanders and buys its broad assortment of products directly at Belgian and overseas auctions. "The hospitality industry is our main focus, and like all hospitality suppliers, we went through a difficult time during the pandemic."
"We lost 60% of our sales at the time," says Dirk. That led to a shift in focus to customer groups that were allowed to stay open during the lockdowns. "That's how we started working more with, for example, bakers, butchers, and caterers. Those clients kept us out of too much trouble."
Trade has now returned to normal levels, but Duva Fruit is facing a new concern. "The acute labor shortage means we've gone from one problem to another. We have several vacancies for which we simply can't find anyone," Dirk explains, noting this is an industry-wide issue. "Pre-cut vegetables are becoming increasingly popular, something I think is partly due to the huge staff shortage everyone in the hospitality sector faces."
After several years of steady growth, things came to a head during the pandemic. "That means, currently, we're primarily focused on providing the correct service to our existing clientele. It's always been important to us that existing customers shouldn't be inconvenienced by, for instance, a takeover, which should remain so. However, we didn't decide on going into business for no good reason. We're always ready to consider an opportunity that could lead us to expand responsibly. Never say never," Dirk concludes.