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Westhof Bio: Organic snack products
"Our mini pepper acreage doubles every year"
Just like cucumbers and tomatoes, the snack pepper is also gaining ground. It's not just conventional growers who specialize in the production of high-quality snack products: organic farmers are exploring this market segment as well. One of them is the German company Westhof, headquarterd in Friedrichsgabekoog. They have been growing mini peppers for two years now. Thanks to the good results and the high demand, the acreage is expanding rapidly.
It has been almost thirty years since the Carsten family decided to switch their nursery to organic farming. The Westhof, headquartered in Friedrichsgabekoog (Dithmarschen, Germany), has been a family company since its inception in 1972 and is currently in the hands of Rainer Carsten. "Since 2000 we market our products through our own organic trade and in 2013 we established a modern greenhouse", he shows. The company also operates their own freezing line, in which carrots, broccoli and cauliflower can be frozen and beetroot and sweetcorn can be vacuum processed.
The harvest in the Dithmarscher greenhouses starts in week 16 and until November the supply is covered. Currently, the specialized vegetable farm is in the absolute high season, which will run until about the end of September.
Johanna Diener with Westhof Bio explains how the company started growing mini peppers in 2016 on a small, experimental area. "One year later the acreage extended to 600 m2 and this year we've doubled it: we're managing 1200 m2 now." And even though this acreage might be small, the potential to scale up is there. "There's growing demand and we are currently considering the option to double the acreage for next year."
Red, yellow and orange
The consumer is most fond of the red peppers, and they are grown on 40% of the acreage, supplemented by an orange and yellow variety. Once the organic snack products have been harvested and processed, they are packed as a colourful mixture in small cardboard trays (150 grams), decorated with the brand identity of the respective supermarket chain or organic food trade. The market covers the region nearby, with the local origin clearly emphasized.
In the Westhof Bio greenhouse, other products are grown as well. Next to the peppers and the mini peppers, tomatoes are most important. "We're currently extending our tomato portfolio and focus more on the trends in the markets", Johanna reveals. "At the moment we grow four varieties, including a snack tomato. We also grow a large Roma plum tomato on quite a big acreage, since it is in high demand by the customer."
The company notices the growing relevance of the organic Demeter sign on their products: the leading supermarkets and specialist retailers want to expand their product portfolio and bring in more organic branded products. "We respond to this trend of course: we can offer beetroot, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower under this label and are currently examining which outdoor and greenhouse crops can be certified."
For more information:
Westhof Bio-Gemüse GmbH & Co. KG
Zum Westhof 6, D-25764 Friedrichsgabekoog
Tel.: +49 4839 9535-0
Fax: +49 4839 9105
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