With around 14 million inhabitants, the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region is Germany's most populous region. It has always been one of the hubs of the German fresh produce industry, with several local wholesale markets and numerous independent wholesale market operations. In this highly competitive market, over the past few years, Raiffeisen Obst & Gemüse in Leverkusen-Opladen has been able to develop as a point of contact for market and specialist retailers, the catering trade and mass catering, says branch manager Johann Bergmann.
Together with his young team, Johann Bergmann provides advice and support to regional wholesale customers.
After the high-turnover years of the pandemic, the Leverkusen-based company is, of course, also facing the current challenges such as inflation, cost increases, and purchasing restraint, Bergmann says. "During the pandemic, the so-called Tante Emma stores, a significant sales segment for us, sometimes came to buy from us twice a day. This has now changed."
According to Bergmann, a similar trend is evident at the product level: "There is more demand for Class II strawberries that for Class I, while high-priced products such as honey tomatoes are in much lower demand than usual. Complicating matters further is this year's prolonged drought, which had a noticeable impact on volume availability for certain items. I'm also concerned that this year's Christmas markets will be slimmed down due to the energy crisis, and demand will be lower."
True to the basic cooperative principles in the Raiffeisen cooperative, the wholesale company strives to support local farmers, especially member farms, from the cooperative environment. Bergmann: "We consistently market potatoes from the surrounding Rhineland region, and the same applies to seasonal fruit, such as apples and open-ground vegetables. This give-and-take and mutual support in challenging times are particularly important to us."
Fruitful cooperation with Landgard
Raiffeisen Obst & Gemüse is a cooperation of the Landgard producers' cooperative and RWG Rheinland eG. According to Bergmann, the close cooperation with Landgard has already proven its worth. "We benefit from the direct sourcing of goods and the cooperative structures. Furthermore, products that are no longer needed for retail programs are marketed through us. Products that are left over, we will make available to food banks or local food sharing initiatives."
Fruit accounts for about 60 percent of the volume handled by the regionally active wholesaler, Bergmann further states. "To that extent, we primarily serve customers who demand fruit, but we're trying to expand our vegetable range even further."
Overall, the management of the wholesale company looks to the future with confidence. "We have a young, dynamic team of 12 employees, all under 40. However, from my point of view, the key to our success is our location, with optimal connections to the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region and the Cologne area."
According to Bergmann, the proximity to the local wholesale markets is rather positive in this regard. "Competition stimulates business. We are establishing ourselves as a one-stop store because the customer gets everything from a single source with us and also benefits from our cooperation with Landgard."