With the multiple crises, regionally operating fruit wholesalers in particular are looking back on some eventful years. For the Oldenburg-based family business A+S Frucht, too, the past years have been anything but easy, according to Managing Director David Sommer, who runs the company, founded in 1979, together with his brother Ole in the third generation. Nevertheless, new opportunities are always arising, he says in an interview on site at Oldenburg's wholesale market.
David Sommer shows packaged cut vegetables from the CF Gastro own range.
Many factors are coming together at the moment, whether purchasing power, cost developments or weather events. Sommer says, "With the initial drought followed by massive rain, it's already been a special year so far. As a result, it happens here and there that things get tight for a week. But that has also happened in the past. I can neither confirm nor refute whether weather-related bottlenecks are more frequent nowadays. Particularly in the case of northern German outdoor lettuces and vegetables, the problem was that produce could not be harvested due to wet field conditions and spoiled in the field. At the same time, however, it was not possible to plant sensibly for the later sets, so that this condition also had a massive impact on the further course of the season. Due to the fact that we are increasingly cooperating with smaller, regional producers, we were able to coordinate procurement more quickly and master the situation. Price increases of 30 to 40 percent compared to the previous year's level were necessary, however."
Insight into the dairy department
Continued buying restraint also continues to depress business, Sommer continues, pointing to fine dining, one of his most significant sales segments. "In fine dining, meaning upscale restaurants, we don't see a slump. However, many restaurants in the regular price segment are moving to a four-day week due to staff shortages and cost increases. We even have gastro customers who are already using robots and trying to cut costs by means of digitalization."
"There has always been a lot of focus on budget in the foodservice industry," Sommer said. This division has proven to be a crisis-proof business in Corona's time, he said. "Because of the broad clientele we serve, we've come through the crisis well overall. We also had customers who saw a significant increase in sales during Corona, which is why we were able to recover some of the losses in other areas."
A look inside the vegetable warehouse
Convenience and CF Gastro membership
As a founding member of CF Gastro, the association of gastro wholesalers throughout Germany established in 1998, AS Frucht has access to the entire range of products and services. "Through joint purchasing, we have a major competitive advantage, especially in the area of sliced and convenience goods and dairy. Not only do we have access to the entire private label range, but we are also less dependent on fluctuations in regional goods procurement. CF Gastro also has product experts who keep an eye on the supply chain from cultivation onwards and are involved in the process," explains the young fruit wholesaler.
Over the years, the company has developed from a classic fruit wholesaler more in the direction of a full-range supplier that also offers MoPro items, delicatessen and much more. At the same time, the company's delivery area was also expanded once again through the acquisition of a stake in the Wilms company in Wilhelmshaven in 1999. Sommer: "We deliver as far as Bremen, Achim in the south and up to Cuxhaven and the East Frisian Islands. In Bremen alone, we have about five trucks in operation every day." In total, the company's fleet consists of a proud 18 delivery vehicles.
AS Frucht has a modern fleet of vehicles and delivers to a broad clientele in northwest Lower Saxony.
Future of the wholesale market and fruit wholesalers
As one of two shareholders in Großmarkt-Gesellschaft Oldenburg mbH, Sommer is also responsible for managing the privatized trading and handling center. Including AS Frucht, a total of four traders are based at the site, which primarily acts as a hub for deliveries. Despite the numerous challenges, Sommer is looking ahead with confidence. "The talks with the city of Oldenburg are still on target, and the wholesale market site clearly continues to have a raison d'être. At the product level, we notice that the organic market has increased extremely, especially in the MoPro area. We also see a growth trend in fruit and vegetables, although the share is still manageable in relation to conventional product," it concludes.