Belgian coop, Hoogstraten, ends 2020 with record €290 million turnover

A business' annual reflection is usually limited to reporting figures. And trying to explain why volumes and prices developed as they did. However, 2020 was a year of so much more than statistics, writes Coöperatie Hoogstraten director, Hans Vanderhallen.

"We started the year ambitiously. Coöperatie Hoogstraten formulated a new vision and defined five core values - connection, horizon, growth, involvement, integrity. The challenge was to not only capture the auction house's culture. We also wanted to define our 223 affiliated growers' motives. These should guide our business operations."

"Coöperatie Hoogstraten's growth can, of course, be clearly illustrated by one remarkable fact - its new 2020 sales record. We've closed 2020 with a turnover of €290 million. That's 19,8% (€48 million) higher than the previous record year, just a year earlier. The vine and specialty tomato acreage increase are partly responsible for this. But there's so much more behind this number."

"The organization and farmers possess a wealth of knowledge. This proved flexible enough to tackle the market situation. Something that had been completely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A key element in this success was the cooperative's staff's commitment. They strictly follow the corona measures. They also constantly looked for new ways to connect with producers and clients in a real way," continues Hans.

"Strawberry prices benefited the most. That was thanks to the increased retail demand and increased focus on local, healthy food. With an average price of just more than €4,00/kg, this product set a new record. Tomatoes had a harder time holding their own. At €1,60/kg, the specialty tomatoes recorded a mean price in line with recent years. But standard tomatoes sold at the worst prices this century (€0,60/kg). The general picture for the other products shows slightly increasing volumes and stable to slightly better pricing. These products include bell pepper, cucumber, and soft fruit."

"But, for Coöperatie Hoogstraten, it doesn't stop with this revenue figure," writes Vanderhallen. "The main focus is on those behind that amount - the businesses, producers, and their families. In the long run, price developments will keep pace with rising production and personnel costs and the costs of necessary investments. You can't sum that up in a single figure - it's 223 individual stories."

"To live up to our role, we must constantly be looking toward new horizons. There are some good examples of this. We switched to cardboard strawberry punnets. That affects producers' sustainability, marketing, traceability, and cost structure. We also developed the Care4Growing, growers' new digital assistant."

"The year 2020 was full of unexpected turns that presented people with major challenges. Coöperatie Hoogstraten's mission is 'to shape a sustainable future in fresh fruit and vegetables, together, through craftsmanship and high-quality services'. Complemented by our five core values, it provided enough support to face this crisis and to go optimistically into 2021," concludes Hans.

For more information:
Hans Vanderhallen
Coöperatie Hoogstraten
Kluis Z.1 - 1050, 59 Loenhoutseweg
2320, Hoogstraten, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 334 00 211

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