For years, Germany has been the most important sales market for Dutch greenhouse vegetables. Nowadays, these are available practically year-round, but that doesn’t mean the kick-off of the traditional greenhouse vegetable season isn’t still a benchmark for exporters of greenhouse vegetables to Germany. As soon as the availability of Dutch product increases, demand from Germany naturally follows. That has been a certainty for years. After all, there’s always demand for Dutch product. However, it has been noticed that orders are becoming increasingly varied and stocks are becoming smaller throughout the supply chain.
“Germany is the market for us,” says Eric Groenheide, one of the salespeople of P. Solleveld Export BV. Last year, the company celebrated its 70th anniversary, and they have traditionally been focused on the German market. Last winter, the office and shed in Maasdijk were a bit calmer, as is normal for that time of year, but now that the Dutch greenhouse vegetable season has started, fresh products – greenhouse vegetables being the most important ones – arrive at the shed every day again. “It doesn’t matter to our customers how large we are, as long as we do a good job and show we’re a reliable trading partner.”
Quickly processing varied orders
They have been successful in that for years with their own brand Natura, which is focused especially on Germany, and which Solleveld uses to sell tomatoes, bell peppers and aubergines. “That brand is as sure as eggs,” Eric says. “But our range is much more extensive than just that. We can supply all possible greenhouse vegetables, while it’s becoming more important to also be able to supply exotics, cresses and vegetable sprouts. We’re seeing more and more demand for these kinds of vegetables. You can’t really be distinctive in greenhouse vegetables anymore. Everyone in that field has an extensive assortment. You have to be distinctive in quality and flexibility.”
According to Eric, the challenge is to work with as small a stock as possible. “That allows you to offer your products to the customers as fresh as possible, and that’s to the benefit of the customer as well. We’re seeing customers coming to us with custom-made orders more and more. Even when such an order is placed late in the afternoon, we ensure the shipment arrives in Germany that same evening. That can only be done thanks to our own fleet of cars, if necessary with the help of an external logistics shipping agent, and because of our way of working. Quickly processing our varied orders, that’s our strength.”
The reason for those ever more varied orders is that German customers prefer not to work with stocks that are too large either, and therefore place smaller orders every day rather than placing one big order per week and then work from those stocks. “Only when the customer sells something, they place another order with us. Stocks are becoming more minimal throughout the supply chain and freshness more important. In winter, it’s mostly the smaller German customers who aren’t able to buy products directly from Spain, for example. That’s when we actually have a wholesaler’s market function, and customers can have their demand met thanks to us with products we buy for them. Yet as an exporter it’s impossible not to have some kind of stock, and that’s why we also have a wholesaler’s market function in summer more and more as well.”
Despite the growing power of major retailers, Eric still sees a future for the wholesaler’s market so typical for Germany. “Wholesaler’s markets still play an important role, particularly for customers with smaller orders. For us, the combination of retail and wholesaler’s market works well.”