The role of producer cooperatives as a link between producers and the food retail trade, current developments in the organic sector and the trends of the coming years - these were all topics that Armin Rehberg, CEO of Landgard eG, and Labinot Elshani, General Manager Fruit & Vegetables at Landgard, discussed with FreshPlaza last week at their Bornheim location.
Armin Rehberg, Chairman of the Board Landgard eG, and Labinot Elshani, General Manager Fruit & Vegetables.
Over the past three years, the site has been working to rebuild outdated structures that were the remnants of the former central market in Bornheim. Rehberg explains that they want more functional and less representative areas: "The fruit and vegetable trade is an emotional industry and the human factor plays a decisive role. But the trade has changed a lot in the last 10 to 15 years: we see the consolidation in the trade and the stronger proximity to production. According to Rehberg, Landgard stands for the personified producer. "We are the basis and the bundling of the producers. At the same time, we offer retailers added value through quality management, logistics, concepts and marketing," Elshani added. "We are problem solvers for all areas of the process chain. As a modern cooperative, this is the only way to be sustainable."
But what exactly should the future look like for a cooperative with its "heart in the west" and more than 3,000 member companies from Germany, Morocco, Turkey, China and many other countries that come from the fruit, vegetable, flower and plant sectors? "Over the past five years, we have focused strongly on our internationalisation strategy and category solutions in order to offer our partners added value, with year-round product availability. The enormous success we have had with this, confirms us in this strategy. All this with a permanent focus on our core business and our production in Germany," says Rehberg.
Although we have many sources of supply and diversity and taste also play an important role, we still want to be honest and consistent when purchasing goods," says Elshani. "If here in Germany a certain product is in season, it makes sense to buy it from here. This solves two of today's main issues - regionality and sustainability - at the same time". There would also be diversification in domestic cultivation. "Some products simply could not be grown in Germany in the past. As a result of climate change, German watermelons, apricots and sweet potatoes are now available in small quantities. We will certainly see an increase in such developments in the future."
As far as the organic market is concerned, the cooperative would like to work on mutual appreciation between producers, retailers and consumers. Rehberg explains: "Of course, organic services also have an organic price. The customer must be prepared to pay for it. This is simply difficult to enforce for customers who have historically been very strongly focused on a good price-performance ratio. We want to change that." Elshani agrees: "Products that are easy to convert are gradually being converted by retailers. Examples are carrots, but also pumpkins and onions. If it makes sense, we advise our producers to switch to organic, but sound conventional cultivation, as we have it especially in Germany, should not be underestimated under any circumstances".
New concepts and storytelling will also play a major role in 2020. The cooperative wants to address young consumers and families with children in order to make traditional and new products better known. One example of this is cooking boxes, which have already gained a good foothold with our European neighbours, in the Netherlands: "We want to stay traditional, but we also want to try new things. Consumers are becoming more cosmopolitan and their eating habits are becoming healthier. We would like to encourage this further by becoming even faster, more attractive and fresher."
Labinot Elshani sums it up: "We are continuing to look at our strategy in order to remain innovative in the future. We want to educate consumers about new trends and issues and communicate the concerns of all levels of the supply chain."