The history of M.J. Pronk dates back to 1962, when the company started as a fruit exporter based in Avenhorn. In 1983, current manager Peter Pronk took over the company from his father. In 1998, a merger with Peter Slot B.V. followed. Now, the third Pronk generation is also active in the company, with a staff of 27. Although the company does not seek publicity, they're making an exception just this once. "As far as we are concerned, the future looks bright. The number of players in the market keeps decreasing, but for the 'survivors', I foresee a good future," says Peter Pronk.
Procurement and sales team Zwaagdijk
The days that only fruit was exported, are long gone. For years now, the exporter carries a broad range of fruit and vegetables, with their own lines from the Netherlands and Belgium. "We're doing a lot with top fruit, strawberries and speciality tomatoes, and carry a broad range of local cabbages. That means we spread things out evenly across the year," Peter says. What worries him, are the low yields for growers. "When a grower doesn't make any money, that's bad for trade. When your suppliers can't make money, the trade disappears as well."
The Poeldijk location
For sales, M.J. Pronk focuses for about 80% on the German market in the area between Frankfurt and Hamburg. The clients are distributed evenly among retailers, wholesalers, food service and processing companies. "We carry a wide range, and have a strong logistical division. We can supply fruit and vegetables to anyone who needs it. Our strength is that we are independent. We are free to buy anywhere. You can still stand out by being alert when it comes to specialities and guidance of growers. For instance, through our subsidiary company Fruit Noordholland, we have growers with which we sell fruit under our own brand."
For years, Pronk had a location in Bleiswijk in addition to the headquarters in Zwaagdijk, but that has been replaced this year by a new location at the ABC terrain in Poeldijk. "The logistical advantage of Bleiswijk did not weigh up to the amount of business you get in the Westland. After all, not many trading companies remained in Bleiswijk. We did a good job with the building in Poeldijk, and we are very happy about moving."
Whether the Zwaagdijk office offers this many benefits as well, remains to be seen. But moving is not an option for the North Hollander. "We were born and raised here, so why leave? We have survived plenty of companies that operated in so-called more favourable locations, like in Grubbenvorst. For now, we are well able to make a living here. If we do equally well in the coming years as in the years behind us, I'll be extremely satisfied. And I am convinced that if we remain flexible enough, companies like ours really do have a right to exist."
Although the fresh produce trade has changed over the years, Peter says things haven't become worse. "It's different though. You used to be in the auction hall, and if you did well, you had an audience. Now you might score the most beautiful goal without anyone being in the stadium! Perhaps it's actually become more fun, a lot less stressful at least."