As a regionally active wholesale company, BS Obst und Gemüse, based in Straelen, supplies a mixed clientele within a 100-km radius, consisting of restaurateurs, weekly market traders, specialty stores, and farm markets, as well as community catering. From the point of view of both goods procurement and customer delivery, the company benefits from its optimal location, says Tony Augustin, sales and logistics manager at the family-owned company. "Thanks to the proximity to Fresh Park Venlo, our regular suppliers can provide us with fresh goods on a daily basis. We primarily source regional vegetables, such as free-range lettuces, from local farmers. We procure unusual items and specialties via the Düsseldorf wholesale market."
After the takeover of the existing vegetable retailer Tockook in 2015, the company operates under BS Obst und Gemüse. Former owner Heinz Tockook is still involved in the business, with Balwinder Singh and his two children, Sarah Kahlon and Tony Augustin, at the helm. In addition to the wholesale arm, they also operate a thriving specialty retail business in downtown Straelen. "We took over four weekly market stalls in the Lower Rhine area earlier this year. In our retail business, we've expanded our assortment once again by now offering convenience products as well as a wide variety of Asian foods such as spices and okra pods."
Tony Augustin runs the Straelen wholesale and retail business together with his sister and father.
Despite multiple crises in recent years, Augustin remains confident. "At the beginning of the pandemic, the farm and weekly markets, in particular, boomed, which was also positive for us. We no longer see that boom now. Meanwhile, energy costs have risen noticeably due to inflation. But the bulk of our produce goes in and out the same day, so we have very little inventory and accordingly only need a small cold storage facility."
Another challenge, he says, is the weather extremes, which in turn affect the procurement of goods. Augustin says, "There was hardly any spinach from Italy for a while, which was clearly due to the weather. Due to rainfall and persistent heat, everything is a little later this year, whether imported or local produce. However, regional fresh produce such as lettuces and apples are continuously in stock. In that respect, I don't see any exceptional circumstances compared to other years."
In addition to fruit trading, the company also deals with the import and export of alcoholic beverages.
Opening up new sales markets
Although most of the wholesale customers are located in Straelen and neighboring towns, BS now also delivers as far as Krefeld and Duisburg in the western Rhine-Ruhr region. And the company's clientele is growing steadily. "We have recently been able to add two new farm markets and now supply food retail markets in the neighborhood. We want to successively expand the latter sales segment in the future. However, due to the extreme market fluctuations and high risks, many food retail markets have decided against switching suppliers for the time being."