With over 20 years of experience in various quality and commercial positions and three years of recruitment experience within the fruit and vegetable sector, Taco van der Louw is ready for the next step: full independence with his own company Up & Up. In collaboration with international strategic recruitment partners, he matches the right candidates to fruit and vegetable companies, who are increasingly struggling with staff shortages. “With Up & Up I want to offer a positive service in which not only the result, but also the growth of the person and the fruit and vegetable company are central. With this company I am focusing on what I find most important in my work: helping people.”
Taco van der Louw
Taco talks with great enthusiasm about his new career move, with which he wants to offer more than just recruitment in the sector that he knows very well. “Up & Up consists of 90% recruitment and the remaining 10% focuses on services in the field of personal development, such as mental coaching, assessments and team building. In addition, I am still working on the development of a Fresh Academy, where young people can register and orient themselves in different areas of the fruit and vegetables through "browsing internships". That way they can get to know this great sector and the sector can get to know them."
No matter how great he thinks the sector is, Taco is aware that there are indeed problems. “There is a large shortage of people in the fruit and vegetable sector and this will only get worse as the population ages. To cope with this growing shortage, we not only need new "supply", but also older newcomers: people from outside the sector who want to commit themselves to the fruit and vegetables and who can also be meaningful with the right training. By bringing them to the right companies and in the right place, I want to offer a sustainable solution together with my partners. You cannot solve staff shortages by competing with each other. You can work together better and serve the customer well, so that they have a candidate quickly. Helping both the client and the candidate is central. ”
To achieve this goal, Taco knows that he must be constantly up-to-date and must keep a close eye on developments in the sector. He is struck by a number of things. “In addition to the ageing population, you see more and more trading houses disappearing. After all, the lines are getting shorter and shorter: the products arrive from abroad, are sorted, receive a label or sticker and then go straight to the DC. You will see the real trade functions disappear as a result and replace functions such as account management, category management and marketer and strategic buyer. You didn't have these functions at all in the past and there is more focus on the long term and the policy of retailers. ”
Missed the boat
“Current developments demand a great deal of adaptability from fruit and vegetable companies and I expect that as a result many will stop. For example, those who currently do not have their own cultivation or production have already partially missed the boat. With the current requirements of retailers and consumers with regards to food safety and quality, you see that companies themselves must guarantee their products. That is why you see that companies that work with retail are becoming increasingly specialised and keeping shorter lines. This all includes different functions, which creates more demand for higher-educated staff. These changes are radical, but also offer new opportunities for the sector."
By functioning as a go-between for fruit and vegetable companies and candidates, Taco hopes to prompt change in the sector. "Fruit and vegetable companies do not realise that there are many people from outside the sector who really want to work in the fruit and vegetable sector," he emphasises sharply. "At the moment they are still sometimes laughed at a little, but there is plenty of good potential among those who want to join. If companies help these motivated people on their way, they will find that they themselves can learn a lot from them.”
Taco believes that the sector can continue to grow by attracting the right people and also investing in their growth. “A lot can be achieved, but the sector must get moving and do something. Fresh produce companies are often concerned with what happens today, while it is just as important to look ahead to the future and prepare for it. Unfortunately, I still see that some companies do not want to hand over their work to people "from outside". I say to them: dare to invest in people who come from outside the sector. To attract these people, companies may have to adjust the long working hours. We notice that the "work life balance" is becoming increasingly important for candidates. The fruit and vegetable sector must ultimately come up with a solution for that."