upscaling continues

Another big merger announced in Dutch tomato industry

Dutch tomato growers RedStar and Looye Kwekers want to continue their business together. That was announced yesterday by the Van der Kaaij and Looije families, owners of the companies, to the companies' staff, customers, business relations and others. The new company will continue its activities under the Looye Kwekers brand and will focus completely on the higher segment in both taste and market. The turnover amounts to 180 million euros.

RedStar is the company of the Van der Kaaij family. With an acreage of 90 hectares, operations in the Netherlands and a participation in UK company Thanet Earth, the company is one of the biggest players in the Dutch tomato field. Among their brands are the RedStar Romantic, Vanity, Passion, Tropical, Safari and Sublime.

Looye Kwekers are known for their Honingtomaten (Honey tomatoes), being one of the first and highest valued premium brands in the Dutch and German fresh industry. The company has grown to an acreage of 39 hectares in the Netherlands. Looye Kwekers specializes in cherry and vine tomatoes. With the brands 'Honey tomatoes' and 'Joyn' it has a special position in the market.

Both companies operate as independent family businesses, both with direct delivery to large retail chains and via trading companies. "With the merger we respond to the upscaling in the fresh produce market, both in the selling and the buying parties", the companies announced. "With our brand we want to strenghten our position and continue to act as a company with family values."

No redundancies
The families expect the merger will offer their employees opportunities, and they foresee no forced redundancies. The current managing director of Looye Kwekers, Heleen van Gulik, will lead the new company. The interim CEO of RedStar, Kees van Oostenrijk, will resign after the merger. The Looije family, de Liefdadigheidsstichting Theo and Sophia van der Kaaij (charity organization now called De Eik) and, with a smaller share, the children of Cor and Dirk van der Kaaij will become shareholders of Looye Kwekers.

In the upcoming months the new company will take shape. A special note was made in the announcement about the ongoing lawsuits against RedStar regarding the recovery of previously received European subsidies. Both families state they recognize this situation. "The new company focuses on the future with the aim to make people and nature grow meaningfully - to give flavor and to enjoy it."

Upscaling continues
Over the past few decades, Dutch horticulture has undergone massive upscaling. In the past twenty years, the average size of a tomato company has grown from 1.8 hectares in 2000 to more than 7 hectares in 2018, as revealed by the most recent CBS figures.RedStar and Looye have not been the first to decide to start working together. In 2016, tomato giants Agro Care and Kesgro also joined forces. They have since formed a company with more than 150 hectares.

This year, growers De Kabel and Schenkeveld also announced their merger. From 1 January 2019, they will form a business with 58 hectares. De Kabel and Schenkeveld are both members of Prominent. The growers' association announced earlier this year that it would be scaling up, because their members' current average company size of 10 hectares is not enough to remain competitive in the retail segment. They see three options for their members: growers expanding on their own, merging with fellow growers or choosing to bring their companies into the association. After the announcement, the growers association Mondial Group (29 hectares) decided to join Prominent. This brings the total acreage to 418 hectares.

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