Something free every Tuesday
He continues: "On Tuesday we give away something different every week. One week it will be a cauliflower, the next a spring onion. It works well and attracts a lot of people. I planned this offer on the quietest day, and it's now my busiest. Things like this are spread quickly through social media. People are sensitive to these types of offers and it's going well. You can also see a long term effect: consumers get to know a certain product and then eat it again later." According to Rogier people have also become more price conscious. "You used to be able to sell a mango for 7 Euro, but now customers would ask you if you've gone crazy."
Influence of cooking programmes
Dutchmen Rogier Coppens and his cousin Ard Buijks have been active in Minderhout Belgium, on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands for almost 15 years. Rogier notes that a lot of people are influenced by cooking programmes on TV. "A well known Belgian cook is Jeroen Meus, with his programme Dagelijkse Kost. He works with a lot of seasonal products and you notice it in store. It's certainly fruitful. Product such as Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, parsley root: they're all trendy now."
It's autumn again and you can see it in Het Fruithuis' supplies. "What stands out is that Clementines are difficult to find. I have now bought Spanish ones through Van Dommele from Breda. They're very tasty but also pricey. It's also difficult with oranges. Spanish mountain fruit isn't here yet. I saw some oranges from Spain, but it's still very early. They're still too thin in the peel. The fact is that people expect certain products in the shop. Now that soft fruit is over, there is a bit of a gap. This leaves apples, pears and grapes and you're trying to carry that with the coming season of citrus."
The trader has seen two trends recently. "On one side people like taking home a meal made by us, but they also enjoy their own home cooking. Recipes are taken to the shop, mainly at the weekend, and tested at home. It isn't that catering is less busy, as we still see enough of those customers. There are just more variation I think."
Increasingly complete package
He is satisfied with the numbers they are able to move in store. "We meet with fresh specialists every quarter in a fresh group to exchange ideas. Many Belgians like good food and take time for it. They still go to the butcher's, the bakers and the grocers. As of recently we have been working with a butcher. There is a 4 metre long counter of meat. This makes our assortment more complete. It's possible that we will add baked goods in the future. People are very enthusiastic about those fresh combinations."