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Jörn Christiaens, Vollgepackt Ltd:

"We aim to present microgreens more as a delicacy than as a decorative item."

Microgreens from regional production have been enjoying increasing popularity in Germany for several years now. The young Vollgepackt company, based in Meerbusch, is dedicated to cultivating this fine-leafed vegetable in the most compact spaces. And successfully so: Thanks to thoughtful product line expansions and partnerships, as well as ongoing optimization of the cultivation process, the microgreens, now available in around 30 varieties, can be made accessible not only to regional restaurateurs but also to enthusiasts in the broader area.

After the initial successful trials, Jörn Christiaens moved to a modern production site in Meerbusch in 2021. In the following years, the product portfolio expanded from initially three to about 30 varieties. "In principle, we can plant all varieties all year round, but some varieties are in seasonal demand. Pea microgreens continue to be the most popular," says Christiaens, adding: "Especially during the holidays like Christmas and Easter, we observe a significant increase in demand. Otherwise, the demand is generally a bit higher in autumn and winter, although certain varieties, such as sunflower and radish microgreens, are in demand especially in summer due to their fresh taste. Due to business holidays at some of the gastronomy establishments we supply, we temporarily reduced our production by 20 percent in the summer of 2023."

Jörn Christiaens is CEO and co-founder of the start-up Vollgepackt.

Delicacy instead of decor
Until a few years ago, Dutch company Koppert Cress dominated the European cress market. However, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in regional initiatives and cultivation projects. Cresses from regional production are clearly trending and have the advantage of shorter transport routes, Christiaens knows. "Koppert has definitely paved the way for us and introduced cress into gastronomy. However, our concern is to take microgreens further. Under the motto: Microgreens, from decor to delicacy, we create additional products such as pestos and oils and work on recipes with microgreens as a main component."

The microgreens are cultivated in a type of vertical farm on five levels and up to two meters in height. Given that the plants grow in the basement, it's not so much electricity but rather logistics that are a significant cost driver, which is why Christiaens was forced to raise his prices last year.

Packaged microgreens.

Successful partnerships and marketing structures
The main customers for the microgreens include gastronomy establishments in the wider area. However, through the partnership with the neighboring delicatessen retailer Bos Food, cress lovers throughout the entire federal republic can be served. "Furthermore, with Vollgepackt Berlin, we have a first license partner located at the local wholesale market. Initially, it was a case study for us. We wanted to test if we could show other people how to build and successfully operate a farm. In the future, we do not rule out establishing similar structures in other regions. Nevertheless, we are also open to traditional fruit and vegetable retailers who want to market our microgreens or those of our license partners."

Images: Vollgepackt GmbH.

For more information:
Jörn Christiaens
Vollgepackt GmbH
Böhlerstraße 1
40667 Meerbusch
Tel.: 0211 - 8680 8640
Email: [email protected]
[email protected]

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