"The exhibitors are satisfied; there was always something going on at the stands. There were even more visitors on the first day of the fair than last year. The new Berry Technology Forum was also very well received and contributed to further internationalization. We can therefore be satisfied overall," says Simon Schumacher, Managing Director of the Verband Süddeutscher Spargel- und Erdbeerenanbauer e.V. (VSSE), summing up the double trade fair expoSE and expoDirekt 2023. We spoke to him about the past marketing year and current trends in and forecasts for the asparagus and strawberry market.

Simon Schumacher at the VSSE stand at expoSE.

Unique asparagus and strawberry fair
"People now come to us from India, Egypt, the USA and Scandinavia. However, most visitors still come from countries such as the Netherlands, France, Austria and Switzerland. The industry professionals know that this is Europe's center for asparagus and berries and are loyal to us. There is no other trade fair for asparagus and strawberries in the world like expoSE."

Nine million people reached with campaign
In 2022, a larger-scale image campaign for asparagus was announced at the trade fair in 2023. "We received very good feedback on the image campaign. After all, almost all retail chains ran the campaign on May 5, the day of German asparagus. We were able to persuade the media to report more on the product, reaching up to nine million people. The nationwide campaign was supported with a budget of 50,000 euros, which was primarily financed by the VSSE. Thanks to the cooperation with our partner from Berlin, Pretzlaw Communications, we achieved a lot with very little money. This is possible because we speak as a group of several associations and not as a company with a single interest," explains Schumacher. "In 2024, we would also like to introduce a German Strawberry Day and continue the German Asparagus Day, so to speak."

In retrospect, the decision to introduce German Asparagus Day was made too quickly, says Schumacher. "The decision was made in February. To make the campaign work well, the office really went full throttle and did a good job. We gave the sales managers enough resources to carry out the campaign. It should be emphasized that the work is completely non-profit oriented. However, we have achieved a lot in terms of impact. After 2022, it was our responsibility to set an example and not remain in a state of shock, but to move forward and encourage members to do the same."

Funding from members
Although the campaign was successful, the association still has work to do elsewhere: "We had planned to collect around 500,000 euros from the members of the associations organized in the network via a levy. However, only 40 percent of the companies contacted the associations due to a planned area levy. This has shown us that this type of organization does not work in this way. After all, we cannot finance 100 percent of the campaign with 40 percent of the members. A decision has already been made on this, which only needs to be approved at the General Assembly in the spring."

Schumacher explains that there will be a low farm contribution and no more area contribution. "The contribution will be around €80 per farm, for example. This would provide us with €80,000, which we can use to finance both the development of the campaign for German Strawberry Day and the continuation of German Asparagus Day. We are achieving a good campaign that is financed by the sector. We prefer to take small, stable steps instead of taking the big leap, which can sometimes go wrong." In 2022, there was a sharp drop in demand for asparagus and strawberries, which affected both domestic and imported produce. "That was the decisive factor for us to change our approach in 2023. Thanks to the trade fair, we had surpluses that we can use for advertising."

Decreased acreages for asparagus and strawberries
According to the Federal Statistical Office, some 23,400 hectares of asparagus were cultivated in Germany in 2018. In 2023, this acreage fell to 20,500 hectares. There was also a decline in the area under strawberries. "Our 'seismograph' is the figures reported to us by young plant and seed producers. Around 30-35 percent less seed was multiplied for asparagus. Asparagus young plants are currently in short supply. In future, you will have to order early to get any goods at all. There are more players on the market for strawberries, but there has also been a noticeable decline in this branch."

Young asparagus plant producers are under a certain amount of competitive pressure. In the past would have produced 20 to 30 percent more seed for special requests or to prevent failures. "In the past, these 20 to 30 percent were sold here at the trade fair. Many farms had hoped that they would still be able to order something here, but everything was already sold out."

For more information:
Simon Schumacher
Verband Süddeutscher Spargel- und Erdbeeranbauer e.V.
Werner-von-Siemens-Straße 2-6
76646 Bruchsal
Tel.: +49 7251 30320-80
info@vsse.de
https://www.vsse.de
www.expo-se.de