"The end of the 'grey' bell pepper is on the horizon"

Pamosa exists for about twenty years. Where is the association for bell pepper growers now and what are the plans for the future? Wouter Willems, responsible for the sale of bell peppers at ZON: "The challenge is to ensure that the customer will not only have potatoes and onions permanently in supply, but also paprika to make dishes."

Green bell pepper grower Geert Bouten from Horst proudly shows his recently planted greenhouse for the cultivation of the quality hallmark SoUniue. He carefully lifts a plant from the white block of substrate and turns it upside down. It is evident that the seedling has done its best the past days to grow roots at its new place. A budding and promising start of the new season. The expectations of the Pamosa grower are correspondingly high. "Just like any season I strive for an optimal product, but you can never tell ahead how it's going to turn out. Take yesterday's storm (January 18) for instance. Luckily the damage was small, but it could have turned out differently."

Geert Bouten is one of the 21 members of Pamosa, one out of ten bell pepper associations in the Netherlands. The Pamosa growers sell their product through ZON. Together they have an acreage of more than 135 ha (about ten percent of the total Dutch acreage) and a supply of about 40 million kilos per year.

Geert Bouten shows bell pepper plants to Wouter Willems and Rutger Lommerse

Reason for the foundation of Palmosa was the need for representation, cooperation, concentration of strength and outlining a joint selling strategy. Pamosa chairman Rutger Lommer: "There was hardly any connection before, and there was no joint course and recognizability."

"Obviously a lot of growers cultivate bell peppers. We recognize that we will probably not end up on top with bulk products. That is why we, three years ago, asked all growers how they saw the future. There was a need to not do the same, to not all grow the same grey, anonymous bell pepper so to speak, which is put in a box, then later maybe transferred to a bag and of which we do not know which grower took care of it. That is why we have given space to growers who want to distinguish themselves. One of those initiatives is SoUniue.

Beautiful on the inside and on the outside.
Bell peppers sold under the name SoUnique are of absolute top quality. They are big, tasty, have longevity and are beautiful on the outside and the inside. The bell peppers come in an extra high box, minimising the risk of damage.

Rutger: "With SoUnique we show that growers want to move forward, because a growing number of growers do not want to stay in the middle now."

Geert does not expect SoUniue to become the new standard. "Compare it to a soccer club; all members belong to the same club, but a number of players is in the first team, and others are in the fifth team. This was hard to accept for some Pamosa members at first. But not every Pamosa member can fall under the SoUniue brand, because then every one is back at the same level. You have to be able to distinguish yourself, just like you can buy an Up, Polo, Golf or Touran at the Volkswagen dealer. The choice should remain, because some want a Touran, and others an Up. In the same way you have those who prefer the standard green bell pepper and those who prefer the green SoUnique."

Goading and making steps
Rutger is secretively hoping that SoUnique will goad all the growers in the good sense of the word, and that they all step a bit forward, so that the cultivation of bell peppers as a whole keeps on making progress. In this vein the Pamosa group works, besides SoUnique, on more direct and distinguishing lines to the retailers under the banner of VanEigenBodem.nl. In this way we want to keep on stimulating both grower and retailer."

Wouter Wills sees that initiatives such as SoUnique regularly get national attention. "This is not only beneficial to the growers involved, but also to the image of ZON, and we hope this binds the new member to ZON'

Wouter, Geert and Rutger in the greenhouse for the cultivation of SoUnique.

The growing of SoUnique is not (yet) very profitable. Geert: "I do not only want to compete on price, but on quality, and I can only hope it pays off in the end. This is my third season with Unique. So far we break even in the best case with regard to the standard product. It is an illusion that I will get an extra ten cents per kilo, but a few cents should be possible."
Wouter: 'A difference of 3 cents per kilo means for Geert a difference of 40,000 euro per year, which is serious money."

Every bell pepper grower that is a member of ZON is automatically a member of Pamosa. Together with Pamosa ZON develops a selling strategy
suitable for the group of growers. Of the forty million kilo bell peppers ZON sold in the past year, about three quarters has been sold by auction. The rest is mainly sold through week or season contracts through a provider to retail organizations. Besides this ZON is looking for certainty directly with the retailers. ZON initially focuses on the Dutch retailers, because we think that here the fastest progress is possible. This happens in close consult with Pamosa.

Wouter: "SoUnique has been mostly sold by auction for the past two years. It is sold regularly by auction and with presale, so the customers buy a product today which SoUnique supplies two days later. In the initial phase selling by auction is the best way to promote a new distinctive product such as SoUnique. By now we have customers who only buy SoUnique by auction."

Geert: "Auctioning also comes at a risk. SoUnique can be toppled if traders who buy on price join in. But we want the exposure in the initial phase. And you see that a customer such as Hanos only buys SoUnique, because they are charmed with both quality and packaging. It fits the picture."
Balanced approach and appeal.
Rutger: "I can imagine that eventually less and less customers want to buy SoUnique through auctioning and that some customers want a line outside of auctioning. This does not negate the fact that auctioning remains our primary way of selling for now. Wouter and his team make sure that the volumes auctioned every day are right, and around it he organises trade with selected customers. We do this well, because independent price comparisons have shown that every year growers receive top 3 prices because of a balanced approach by our sales team. Good prices and possibilities for entrepreneurs, Pamosa has appeal to new members. We are going to make this even more clear in the coming years."

Source: ZON Magazine

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