With inflation hitting Europe, Sandra Stefaniak-Syguła, co-owner of Polish berry trader Berrytrade, expected demand for blueberries to drop, but consumers never gave up on the berries and sales in company BerryTrade year-to-year even grew, she explains.
“Despite the highest inflation in Poland since 1996, which is officially about 16 per cent, berries seem to have a certain base of faithful customers and are more resistant to a decrease of consumption than we had expected. Berrytrade’s sales are on a constant rise, which can be attributed to our efforts to keep prices reasonable as well as introducing new labels of our own design, which give each packaging a special summer-time vibe.”
Where most blueberry traders will stop when the exporting season ends, during the off-season Berrytrade actually imports berries for the local market, Stefaniak-Syguła says: “We’re an active supplier of a bunch of Polish supermarket chains during the so-called overseas season, which is between October and June in the case of Poland. However, during the summer months between June and September, we switch to be act almost exclusively as exporters of blueberries to countries as Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. The biggest change for us in 2022 was probably starting the exports of full truckloads of blueberries with Serbian and then Romanian fruits. This way, Berrytrade extended its export season and became an important partner for huge players in Western Europe, as we’re able to provide full truck arrivals of consistently good quality blueberries up to four months in a year.”
Although the Polish supermarket don’t offer great prices, the volumes they have to buy for the Polish consumers is huge, and as such the local market remains an important business for Berrytrade, Stefaniak-Syguła states: “Despite the global price increases of transport costs, electricity, labor cost, fertilizers, packagings and everything else, the prices of berries seem to be actually under big pressure. This is because each supermarket chain is competing on a hard level. It’s not the best situation for berry growers and traders. Although the Polish market pays lower prices than markets in Western or Northern Europe, the purchasing power of nearly 40 million inhabitants can’t be ignored by big berry growers from various parts of the world. Meanwhile we’re working on entering other markets which are close to Poland, like the Baltic states, as our location is perfect for effective deliveries to these countries. Our facility is situated just on the route from Western Europe to Baltic States, but we are two days of journey closer.”
Thanks to EU funding, Berrytrade is able to upgrade their sorting line, but Stefaniak-Syguła feels it’s better to make these upgrades in small steps at a time, given the financial situation in the world. “Despite the mentioned uncertainties, we constantly make investments of various kinds. We try to be quite cautious, to be sure that we will be able to finance these investments, but on the other hand we need to be up-to-date with innovations to remain competitive. This year, we started buying some new vehicles for our fleet, which as always are decorated with Berrytrade’s graphic design to build the awareness of our brand among customers. Besides that, we applied for EU funds to purchase a new fill-by-weight machine for our blueberry packing line. Before the economical crisis appeared, we were considering applying for the whole line, but in the current situation it makes more sense to do such replacements step by step.”
“We also invest in our staff. Our employees, who are predominantly Ukrainian, receive regular Polish and English classes. We also train chosen colleagues to become truck drivers. Keeping the same group of motivated and talented people in our whole-year-round business is crucial for our success. With every month and every single kilogram of berries sorted and packed at our facility, our collective competence in the berry sector grows. This is our huge competitive advantage over companies that operate only a couple of months in a year,” Stefaniak-Syguła concludes.
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