After a dynamic period, Vitaal Europe is back to full strength. Under the leadership of General Manager Richard van der Heide - who returned to the fold in November - this Dutch trading company, part of Nationwide Produce, plans to spread its wings this year. It will offer a broad package of exotics alongside its stable base of greenhouse and open-field vegetables and sweet and French potatoes. Time to introduce the new team members.
F.l.t.r: Jacobus Moll, Richard van der Heide, Alexander Birkle, and Deniz Korkmaz.
Deniz Korkmaz joined the team in August 2022. He had worked at Eminent, where he progressed from the warehouse to sales. At Vitaal, he is mainly involved in purchasing, primarily from Spain and Türkiye, but he makes sales, too. Deniz is excited about working at Vitaal. "There are plenty of opportunities here for me to tackle new things," he says
"For example, I've begun purchasing bell peppers and want to expand the fruit purchasing. Recently - just before the start of the Dutch season - we toured the UK wholesale markets. We have a great team and try to strengthen each other where possible."
Jacobus Moll is originally from South Africa but has lived in the Netherlands since 2017. He gained experience from a fellow exotics importer and has been responsible for importing exotics at Vitaal since December. "I love the import business. I enjoy the daily contact with suppliers from places like South America and Africa. At Vitaal, I can set up lime, avocado, and mango imports, among others. There are challenges aplenty, but we'll soon have customers for these exotics all year," he explains.
"The lime market emptied from one week to the next, and prices are much better. The mango market was dramatic in December and January but has recovered. West African supplies will start soon. The avocado market outlook is less favorable for the coming months. Supply is expected from South Africa, Peru, Kenya, Tanzania, and Colombia."
"So substantial volumes are coming this way. I expect a lot from Kenyan avocados in the coming years. This used to be a bit of the black sheep among avocado countries. Strict government controls mean the quality has improved considerably, and it has now passed South Africa, volume-wise," Jacobus reckons.
Alexander Birkle arrived just last month, making him the Vitaal Europe team's newest member. "My experience is mainly in imported fruit, so with the potatoes and vegetables we carry here, the fruit and vegetables come full circle," says the sales manager, focusing mostly on sales to Germany and eastern European countries.
"I'm starting with melon imports, which is an interesting market. After a month, it's still a bit early to elaborate on my experiences. But so far, so good. We're eager to see how the market will develop. Supply problems, inflation, the war in Ukraine, and the weather make for an unpredictable market."
"The vegetable shortages made the past few months memorable, which we thoroughly enjoyed," reflects Richard van der Heide, who had worked for Vitaal Europe for nine years before his return. "Most products' supply is back to reasonable levels, and we're confidently looking forward to the start of the Dutch season."
"Our new team members and the familiar faces of Karin, Stella, Rick and Coos, Jonny, and Kathleen mean we're at full strength again. We can, thus, supply our wholesale and food service customers. And with Solvit Handling, which is BRC certified, we have all packaging and storage facilities in-house," Richard concludes.