“Innovation in produce no longer the prime focus”
Will the departure of Maes bring with it big changes in the Belgian company, known for its innovative strategies and new products? Maes doesn’t think so, although he does believe there will be a reduction in the range of specialties. “Down the years, we have introduced a wide range of soft fruit and exotic produce. I can see that being wheeled in a bit. The company will likely focus on regulars that have proven to be popular sellers. Also, introducing something new costs a lot more time and money than in the past. There is a whole organization behind it. In addition, it becomes increasingly difficult to convince the retailer.”
Karel Bolckmans and François Maes.
According to Maes, innovation can take place in many other ways: "Like introducing the product in a different way, or with new packaging. It’s not just about introducing new products. I believe it’s easier to make cherries or cranberries available all year round, then to introduce a new product to the market.”
Five focal points
Karel Bolckmans has over 20 years of international experience in the field of integrated pest management. In recent years he worked as a Global R&D and Production Director with Dutch company Koppert Biological Systems, where he led the development of numerous innovations. "There, too, everyone is busy with new innovations,” he says. “You have to run fast to keep up with the competition. I've done it for years with great satisfaction, and was planning to stay for a while longer. Then I met François. He was very open with me, and indicated that he saw me as his successor."
Bolckmans largely agrees with Maes’ prospective vision of the company. In the future, Special Fruit will focus on five pillars. "Intensifying the further relationship with suppliers, and bring production to a higher level. We also focus on new varieties and concepts. CSR is also an important issue, certificates not being enough nowadays. You must be demonstrably concerned with sustainability and social projects in the chain. Our fourth point is innovating the way we reach retailers, through whatever channels are open to us. As a final point we are going to focus more on marketing."
François Maes & Karel Bolckmans