Gourmet from Grootebroek is a cultivation company which was created from the Broersen family company. The fourth generation of Broersens are now active in Gourmet and the company has over 80 employees. Besides their own cultivation, Gourmet is also specialised in the processing, packaging, supplying and distributing shallots, onions and garlic. "Our focus is on specialities and (optical) quality, whereas a lot of onion companies focus purely on volume," says Bas Poeltuyn.
"We are traditionally a shallot growing company. We still offer a wide assortment of shallots, but our assortment now has over 20 different allium varieties. The challenge is to make something special out of each crop," says Bas.
"The energy we put into controlling our chain raises costs, but we go slightly further with our diverse packaging and offer our assortment in four different packaging lines (budges, basis, premium, selection) and different customer specific private label solutions."
"We take all sizes from the party, of which most packaging has a maximal sorting of 5 millimetre difference from each other. This lowers the speed, but benefits the presentation."
Cultivation in 22 countries
"Nowadays we have (contract) cultivation in 22 countries on a European area of 470 hectares in order to have the products available all year round. Besides the Netherlands, the main production countries for us are France, Egypt, Mexico and Peru," says Bas
A CIP (continuous improvement plan) is made for each product so as to work on structurally improving the calender. This looks at both the individual growers and the entire region.
"We are active globally thanks to our three cultivation supervisors responsible for supervising the domestic and foreign cultivation. We work in close collaboration with seed companies, but also have our own breeding programme."
Gourmet's products - both directly and indirectly - find their way to supermarket chains and (whole)sale companies both domestically and abroad. "We work at a French level with Dutch sobriety and 100% control," says Bas about the company.
The fact that these activities are foreseeing a need, is shown from the construction work taking place in two phases at the moment, mainly for storing the organic product. "At the moment less than 10% of the volume is organic, but we see the share increasing and it fits in well with us as a specialities company."
Quality is important at Gourmet. Soil research, leave juice analysis, growing point research, plot selections (grown once in seven years), shelf life tests, temperature checks during transport, internal and external laboratory tests and residue analysis per batch are commonplace. The company has a hotbox, a kind of sauna in which you create the least favourable conditions for the onions, which quickly reveals the potential risks.
The traceability from the field to the shelf is also guaranteed, due to batch and lot codes. "We have a clear view of who we want to be as Gourmet: The shallots, onion and garlic grower who develops innovative products based on consumer and customer knowledge, offers a full assortment and supplies high quality products all year round due to full chain control," is the company's mission.
"We work in almost all European countries and so can do cross pollination. This means we can introduce an idea from the French retail in Sweden, and vice versa. We also have customers in Asia and the Middle East. The challenge is to serve every market customer specifically, but with the same intensity. What we can do locally, is done locally," says Bas.
"France has been leading for years, but other countries are following in its wake. I still see an abundance of cultivation possibilities in our package and approach, for instance in the French and English supermarket chains. We are also focussing fully on temporary and regional specialities, but they have to fit within our cultivation specification. GlobalGAP is a bottom limit in this."
"If needed we can use environmentally friendly compostable packaging for the Premium and Selection line, which doesn't usually cost more. In fact, we're still talking about a relatively cheap product. Of course, in a 'cheap' onion year like this it's more difficult for us than when the prices of the yellow onions are more towards those of the specialities. But that's our job, in the end it's about the constant quality - every year," concludes Bas.