Organic is on the rise in many countries. In Sweden, these products have also conquered a fair part of the market for fruit and vegetables. A conventional banana is more difficult to find than an organic one in the Scandinavian country. Yet this trend appears to be stagnating in favour of local products, a trend Lars Persson of Swedish producer’s organisation SydGrönt welcomes.

"Most of the volume is sold through fixed customer base and only a small part on day trade,” Lars explains. “That results in more stability for growers and customers.” When it comes to price, the consumer values the origin. During the Swedish season, import prices for certain goods are kept careful track of. “We have a small advantage because we have domestic product. For example, for strawberries we’ve seen consumers preferring Swedish strawberries as opposed to import strawberries, despite the higher price.” Most strawberry growers, however, are independent and sell their harvest in the direct surroundings of the cultivation company.

The share of growers in cooperatives varies. “It’s our challenge to keep these large growers on board by striving for higher goals and delivering good work.” On points such as, for example, automation and data communication, it’s “impossible” for individual growers to invest.

Lars Persson of Swedish producer’s organisation SydGrönt.

Don’t compete with members
SydGrönt’s origins started about 25 years ago when the old Swedish cooperative went bankrupt. The associated members fell apart into two groups and each choose their own way. Growers who had faith in the auctions joined Odlarlaget. Growers who had more faith in a system based on contract sales were absorbed by SydGrönt. “We are the largest cooperative of Sweden,” Lars says. The 70 members are active in nearly every segment; top fruit, greenhouse vegetables and outdoor vegetables.

Three years ago, a fire started by a pyromaniac reduced the company to ashes. Thanks to insurance, a brand new building could be constructed. “The logistics solutions is a key element in our offering. We function as a distributor for the products,” Lars explains. “Sometimes the products go directly from grower to customer, but we also repack products so that full lorries can go north.” Originally, SydGrönt only supplied Swedish products and that is still very much the core offering of which SydGrönt is very proud. Very little imports are done and only during , but during the winter months Because of that, customer’s demand can be met year-round. “It is important for us to promote Swedish quality and standards and do not wish to compete with our members.”

No Swedish flags
“Local is the new organic,” Lars says. Demand for local products is rapidly increasing. This is apparent from the investments made by the cooperative for the storage of cabbage. This product can now be supplied year-round. “In the past, it was imported from Germany, but a large supermarket chain wants domestic cabbage.” It’s noticeable that most local products are practically anonymous in supermarkets. While packaging of British, Danish and Icelandic products clearly show flags that make the products distinguishable as import, that isn’t the case for Swedish products. “We didn’t do much branding at first, we left that up to supermarkets,” Lars explains. “Perhaps that wasn’t the smartest decision.” Two years ago, a project was started to make Swedish products more recognisable on shelves. “The Swedes tend to be a bit low-profile. We’re a bit like the Dutch in that regard, they don’t really promote local products either.”

To promote local products, the various organisations work together. Tomato and cucumber growers, for example, help finance a campaign promoting Swedish greenhouse vegetables. Growers from other cooperatives, such as Odlarlaget, help finance the sector-wide campaign as well.

For the future, it’s important to maintain value in the supply chain, according to Lars. “Innovations are necessary,” he says. “In packaging, for example, but also in offering half cabbages as opposed to whole ones.” The convenience market is a growing market in which SydGrönt is investing. “We have to look at what consumers want and how demand will continue developing in future.” Annually, SydGrönt looks at which products have to be grown in which quantities with their growers. “We make a programme with each grower,” Lars explains. This helps us serve the changing consumer and customer needs in the market.

For more information:
Lars Wall Persson
Knut Påls Väg 11
256 69 Helsingborg, Sweden
Tel: +46 42 490 27 00
Mobil: +46 70 925 90 81