The Nuts and Dried Fruits Company (NDFC) has been able to continue its steady growth in the years following the pandemic. The company, located in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, therefore expanded its premises last year to accommodate the targeted growth. "The granola segment in particular has permanently increased in popularity, which contributed to the need to expand," says Jan Jelders of NDFC.
With the expansion, the granola producer and wholesaler of nuts, dried fruits and seeds has been able to double its space. "All in all, in terms of production space, storage and offices, we are sitting on an area of about 3,000 m². So we generally have more storage space, which is necessary when you are growing, and we have been able to build a completely separate production area for gluten-free granola. Indeed, we are seeing a remarkable increase in demand for gluten-free. We offer the full range, from conventional to vegan and organic, but we are still in the middle of the gluten-free story, it seems."
Future in gluten-free
Conventional will of course also continue to run at NDFC, but Jan always foresaw an increasing role for the organic and gluten-free segment. "However, the demand for organic is stagnating a bit. The growth of recent years seems to have subsided and we are even experiencing a slight decline. Perhaps it is temporary, but people seem to be keeping a hand on the purse strings a bit more because of inflation. However, for gluten-free granola, which is also pricier, people continue to pay, from mostly medical reasons. Organic is a choice, but if one eats gluten-free for health reasons, it cannot be cut out of the budget."
For the specialist, however, it did mean that some things had to be adapted to what the market wanted. "Gluten-free means that everything, the stock, production and packaging department, has to be completely separated. Previously we had a small space for this, but with the remodelling we wanted to cater more for growth. Now we have more space for materials and machinery, which allows us to meet the increasing demand. In fact, we have a bit of extra space, but that in turn gives us the opportunity to continue growing."
Retail and portion-packs
Apart from granola, sales of traditional nuts also continue at a nice level at the company. "This demand does come a bit more from our older customers," Jan continues. "Wholesalers for catering and market vendors are still absorbing this well. During the pandemic, this demand did drop slightly, due to the necessary closure of many customers, but it has since been able to recover."
While the Covid-19 period was a time of retrenchment and uncertainty for many, business at NDFC continued well. "Of course, we too were affected by Covid. For instance, we experienced a reduction in turnover of around 15 per cent by 2020. Hospitality and market vendors fell away. However, we started focusing more on retail about five years ago. That shift didn't hurt us in the Covid years. People were eating out less and spending more in the supermarket, so it turned out to be a good move for us and we were able to partially recover sales."
"We also saw a big increase in the share of our portion-packs," Jan explains. "We had those in our range for a while, but during a period of extra care with hygiene, portion packs offer a certain safety that people felt was so important at this time. It did cost us some investments in machinery and personnel during difficult Covid times, but we are now reaping the benefits. Demand for convenience continues to grow even after the pandemic. Meal delivery companies where portion packs are in high demand have seen a sharp increase in sales since Covid, so I foresee a continued large share in that segment for us in the future as well."
In this way, the company, which supplies retail in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Switzerland, has continued its steady growth in the years since corona. "In 2021, we again saw an increase of around 42 per cent and the following year 22 per cent, so we did catch the growth curve again. Historically, we have doubled sales every three years and we would like to maintain this line. Nevertheless, cost increases also require our attention. The 'bottom-line' remains important. Raw materials, labour costs, energy and rent have all risen sharply, so we have to keep an eye on everything to preserve margins towards the future, but we look ahead with a positive feeling and always keep an eye on new markets."
For more information:
Nuts & Dried Fruits Company
2860 Sint Katelijne Waver, Belgium
+32 (0)15 652449