Regional goods are booming in the German retail sector and so the big chains are trying to secure their share of the cake by contracting and gaining foreign investors through major projects. Florian Wolz, Managing Director of Franken-Gemüse Knoblauchsland eG advocates the preservation of structures: family farms should be made fit for the future - and investments should benefit the country and the region.
"Our cooperative has come a long way, and I want to secure the future," says Wolz. He took over the business in 2004 as Managing Director and soon set the focus on regionalism, following the example of Reichenau-Gemüse eG. "We were smiled at first by some customers, then REWE approached us after two years and since then we have had a close relationship to the chain."
This was not possible without significant modernization and expansion of offices, warehouses and loading ramps. "I believe that as a cooperative we have more innovation than contract farming, which also has a bad impact on the cooperatives, so we need to stay on the ball to justify our place in the market."
In the heartland of the garlic country, there are about 12 farms with high greenhouses, with about 100 hectares of total area. Many of these establishments are traditional family businesses and this results in cohesion, which can have a positive impact on growth. Wolz and some of his members regret the external intervention on vegetable growing in the region: "In Germany, we already had the problem with bakeries and butchers, now we naturally hope that greenhouse cultivation does not lead to the same centralization by corporations." He sees no advantage for Germany in externally financed large projects such as the 'salad factory' in Wiesentheid, 100km away.
(Super)regionality through online trading?
Another project that got the ambitious CEO rolling is an online shop for Knoblauchsland vegetables. The biggest hits there - contrary to expectations - are not the specialties, but classics such as soup vegetables and potatoes. "But there are also lovers of special varieties."
"The division is still relatively small, around 100 parcels are shipped every month. We already have some loyal customers and things are slowly growing."