It has been almost six months since VIP, the Association of Fruit and Vegetable Cooperatives of Val Venosta, embarked on a new strategy, by centralising the sales of the product. It is now time for an evaluation with the new Head of Sales Kurt Ratschiller and the Head of Production Peter Stricker: was it the right decision?
VIP Head of Sales Kurt Ratschiller and the Head of Production Peter Stricker.
“I am firmly convinced that the centralisation of sales in the VIP Group has been the right decision," says Kurt Ratschiller. Peter Stricker emphasises: "The increasing complexity of our business made it necessary to change the way we manage production and sales”.
The new strategy allows the cooperatives in Val Venosta to concentrate completely on production, while the VIP headquarters concentrates completely on marketing and sales.
"The most noticeable change for customers has been that salespeople can visit customers more often now and are more attentive to their needs”, explains Ratschiller.
This closer cooperation is already bearing fruit: this year, new export channels have been opened for traditional varieties such as Fuji or Braeburn, and customers who had previously shown low interest in these products were conquered with organic and Club apples.
To this success also contributed an increased integration of marketing and sales. "The new varieties, club apples and organic apples have grown steadily over the years, and they deserve to be presented appropriately to the customer. This requires time and sales know-how on the one hand and good marketing support on the other," commented Ratschiller.
"Balancing production and sales is challenging in any company, even more when there are several packing stations. We are now receiving orders at a centralised level in one sales office, where they are programmed to be processed in six decentralised packing stations. In the past, each individual cooperative did everything under one roof, from scheduling and processing until sales. Centralisation allows us to be more present and stronger in the market, but the basis for the effectiveness of decentralised processing with centralised marketing is an effective planning and coordination system", says Stricker, as he summarises the biggest challenge of the new strategy in action.
To succeed in this challenge, internal communication is crucial: it is essential that production and sales managers ensure a constant flow of information between headquarters and associated cooperatives.
What is a good example of effective practice towards this goal? On the one hand, Stricker is in constant communication with the sales team and, on the other hand, with the cooperative managers. The stock management, in terms of product 'age' and capacity, and the transmission of the related information is the decisive factor in order to guarantee the proper and regular disposal of the product in the different warehouses.
Kurt Ratschiller and his sales team prepare a monthly market report which they share with the co-operatives at all board meetings. The VIP app launched in 2022 and used to inform the 1,600 member producers also helps to maintain a high level of information and involvement not only between the VIP and the cooperatives but also towards the member producers. The collected feedback reveals that co-operatives perceive this exchange of information as very meaningful and they would like it to be further improved. Stricker and Ratschiller are optimistic about the future, they are totally convinced of the path they have taken.