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Joachim Stracke, fruit RETAIL consulting, on the marketing of stone fruit:

"Retailers should make better use of stone fruit and be more conscious of creating impulses - especially in the premium segment"

"In the German market, price too often gains the upper hand over product appreciation," notes Joachim Stracke, management consultant at fruit RETAIL consulting. To change that, he says, it is necessary to "take consumers with us," so to speak, and accordingly to tell the stories behind the products. "I understand that we can't enforce the consumer prices that are actually required; but at the same time, of course, I also see the needs of retailers in the current intensifying competitive situation."

Joachim Stracke (center with microphone) at the European Convenience Forum 2022.

Prices, he said, have not yet been adjusted as they should have been in order to cover all costs and also to be able to remunerate producers accordingly. Among other things, Stracke criticizes the fact that some newspaper articles talking about rising prices show pictures of fruit and vegetables - creating a false impression. "The appreciation for fruits and vegetables is simply missing; after all, there's a lot of work behind it from the trade, producers, harvest workers, etc."

Many origins of stone fruit
For peaches, nectarines and apricots, he said, Spain and Italy remain the main countries of origin. In view of the sometimes adverse local weather conditions, however, the retail trade is keeping many other origins open in order to be able to secure supplies. Stracke: "Retailers are positioning themselves more and more broadly, because they have to constantly monitor where crop and logistics failures are to be expected."

At the same time, he said, the strategy of the trade is to enter into long contracts. "That's good for now, especially since it also provides a certain reliability for both traders and producers. However, due to all the circumstances, this system is weakening increasingly. In addition to all this, there is also the question of who will ultimately keep track of these long supply chains, which brings us to the supply chain problem. If I have to control one producer, I can keep an eye on things. But if I cooperate with four to six producers, it becomes more difficult."

Competence promotion needed in food retailing
In general, Stracke observes that in food retailing, there is not only a struggle with the prices for stone fruits, but also a fundamental lack of competence. "For me, the focus is on increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables. But to be able to ensure this, employee competency within retailing needs to be further developed." As a lecturer for the food retail industry, Stracke knows how to impart the relevant knowledge - but also why this shortage occurs.

Among other things, he sees the time aspect and direct customer contact as important factors here. Stracke: "Why don't we have an apprenticeship as a fruit and vegetable salesperson, as is common in butcher shops or bakeries, for example? An apprenticeship would clearly show the appreciation and recognition for the fruit and vegetable assortment and, above all, the employees in the trade."

Access to foreign goods on the rise
"Within food retailing, however, I hardly see the courage to offer really high-priced goods. A kilogram of nectarines is sometimes sold for 1.59 euros, while consumers are willing to pay the equivalent of up to 10.22 euros for 1 kg of potato chips," Stracke says. "Apart from cherries, of course, we don't have the climatic conditions in Germany to be able to secure supplies of other stone fruit. In the long term, however, I think there is a danger that the trade will increasingly resort to cheaper goods from abroad." This refers to products such as blueberries, which are imported from Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands.

"In the case of cherries, I see countries of origin such as Spain, Turkey, Greece, but also Germany, each with prices ranging from 3.49 to 3.99 euros per kilo. At the same time, I also learned about a market in Frankfurt that dared to offer a kilo of German cherries for 19.99 euros."

Ruben Zahlmann (Edeka Minden-Hannover) and Joachim Stracke (right) at the European Convenience Forum 2022.

"Retailers must be more conscious of creating impulses"
Stone fruit, especially nectarines, apricots, peaches and cherries are still typical summer fruits, even if small quantities are available from overseas in the winter months. "Therefore, I am very surprised that these strong summer items are not placed more impulsively in many markets. Retailers should make even better use of the potential of stone fruit and be more conscious of creating impulses," says Stracke.

Peach as an 'exotic' in the stone fruit segment
"The long-term trend away from the classic peach toward the smooth-skinned nectarine continues unabated. I already said three to four years ago that the classic peach is becoming the 'exotic' among the stone fruit range. Volumes of flat peaches, which are naturally also very price-driven, have virtually exploded, although in some cases production has already declined because in some cases there was a lack of sales for the large volumes," says Stracke. "At some discounters, I've seen that they have the courage to not only offer the cheap stuff when it comes to apricots, but that they also market higher-quality 350-gram trays. These not only looked good, but also carry a very good taste. At this point, the discounter is sometimes even bolder than the grocery."

Stone fruit at the point of sale
Cherries used to be sold loose almost exclusively, while the product is now also marketed in bags, he said. "But I also find it very charming that the cherries are sold on large presentation trays. With peaches, apricots and nectarines, I see a lot of 1-kilo or 500-gram packs. Of course, this trend is also price-driven. Small-caliber fruit is often offered in 500-gram packs, while less and less loose, large-caliber fruit is sold. As a result, I currently see a lot more product being offered in packaged form for stone fruit than in loose, unpackaged form," Stracke concludes.

For more information:
Joachim Stracke
fruit RETAIL consulting
Am Schieferstollen 17
57399 Kirchhundem
Tel: +49 151 12 62 78 92    

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