The 'R' is in the month again, so it's high time to ask Gerrie Groot of sauerkraut production company G. Kramer & Sons from Zuid-Scharwoude how the market is developing. "Mid August we had a dream scenario, since we were rolling right into autumn. September got a little warmer again, but that wasn't a big problem because stores will have included the product in their range already by then. Now the sauerkraut months are here, and we have to earn our share!"

Around fifty contract growers supply their white cabbage to the sauerkraut producer from North Holland. "We have a lot of product in stock. At the start of the year, we had a shortage, but now we have plenty of cabbage. We even found cabbages weighing over 14 kg", Gerrie says. At G. Kramer & Sons, the cabbage is stripped of its outer leaf, cleaned, cut up finely and sprinkled with salt (about 1.5%). Thereafter, the cut cabbage starts spontaneous fermentation: starch and other carbohydrates are turned into lactic acid by lactic acid bacteria. Depending on the temperature and the structure of the cabbage, this fermentation process lasts from three to eight weeks. Then the process is completed. The cabbage now gets its fresh, sour taste, and is easily digestible - much more easily than the original white cabbage.

"Usually we can purchase the entire harvest from our growers, but now, with the high yields, that's getting harder. It can change just like that, though. Sometimes it can be very quiet one week, and then we could be through our supplies in one day. Last year the cabbage was very scarce until August, and prices were high, but winter didn't come. For us, the weather has a huge influence on consumption. Last year, consumption was around 7/8% lower than a year before, but two years back we had very high revenues. During a severe winter, people just eat more winter food. Last year we had an even winter, and you see the results immediately. Also, early frost, for instance, has its influence on the other open field vegetables", Gerrie says.

For Kramer, the Netherlands is the biggest market, followed by Germany and Belgium. "Our tinned sauerkraut range is sold to destinations farther away, such as Asian countries and Australia. We used to have more German competition on these destinations. We're seeing our revenues grow steadily over the past years. I think we are winning the competitive struggle, because sauerkraut is an enormously cheap product. In our season - from early August until Christmas - we produce 200,000 kg sauerkraut per day. In Germany in particular, but also in the Netherlands, many smaller companies have disappeared. Revenues for sauerkraut as a product aren't high, which makes investing difficult. Our company has been around since 1890, and now the fifth generation is managing it. When money is made, it's invested in the factory as usual, which has allowed us to build ourselves a good position."

For more information:
G. Kramer & Zonen B.V.
Voorburggracht 141
1722 GC Zuid-Scharwoude
Tel.: +31(0)226 31 24 26
Fax: +31(0)226 32 00 93