Colruyt Group expands cooperation with Belgian potato growers

Since 18 September, Colruyt and Okay customers are able to buy potatoes resulting from a close partnership between 16 local growers and Colruyt Group. It concerns the Boni Selection Friet (for French Fries) and Everyday Zachtkokend (Floury potatoes) in bags of 5 kg. The new potato harvest is the culmination of a pilot project set up last year, in order to achieve a more constant quality, guarantee a stable price for growers and extend the potato season in Belgium. This successful test illustrates that a relationship of trust has developed between the various partners in which they share their knowledge and experience with each other.

Extension of the season in Belgium

Last year's pilot project has lived up to expectations. Ronny Neufkens, head of the Colruyt Group's vegetable purchasing department: “However, 2017-2018 was a particularly difficult season, partly due to the warm weather and partly due to oversupply. Together we managed to extend the Belgian potato season by one month, before switching to imported potatoes. In addition, we have also been able to guarantee a stable price to our nine partner suppliers.” During the testing period, the potatoes were sold in 78 Colruyt shops. Due to the positive results, it was decided this season to offer them at all the Colruyt and OKay shops in Belgium, that is more than 370 shops in total. In order to make this happen, a further seven growers have joined the project this year.

The early potatoes were planted between March and May in sandy/sandy loamy soils in Flanders, while the late varieties were planted in sandy loam/loamy soils in Wallonia. Cultivation is closely monitored by specialised cultivation supervisors. The harvest comes on the market as Boni Selection Friet (for French Fries) and Everyday Zachtkokend (Floury potatoes) in bags of 5 kg.

Cooperation

Colruyt Group is the first Belgian distributor to have set up this kind of partnership with local potato growers. In the past, growers hardly ever had direct contact with supermarket chains. In this project however, they sit around the table together and share their knowledge. This has enabled them to select the varieties best suited for the local soil types and to make agreements about quality. “This partnership has proved even more valuable since we were confronted with an extreme drought last summer”, explains Ronny Neufkens. “By helping each other, cooperation has only become stronger.”

In this short supply chain, with a fair distribution of benefits and risks, Colruyt Group wants to highlight the expertise of Belgian potato growers and at the same time protect them against price fluctuations.

They participate in this project ...

As a buyer, I am very pleased that we were able to offer our customers the best quality until the end of the season. In this project both the growers and Colruyt have learned a lot from each other, by consistently searching for the best solutions together. It is also important that we are now better able to match supply to demand.”

Marc Boesman, potato purchaser for Colruyt Group.

As a producer, we now feel more involved. It is nice to know who our customers are and where our potatoes are sold. Because of our close relationship with Colruyt Group, we are doubly motivated to set the bar higher and higher for quality.”

Patrick Van de Steene, cultivation supervisor for late potatoes and grower from Hainaut.

This short supply chain creates more dynamism between producers and Colruyt Group. I am really satisfied with the quality we have been able to achieve.”

Wouter Devlies, cultivation supervisor for early potatoes, West-Vlaanderen.

It is the second year in a row that my brother and I have been working directly with Colruyt Group. It is always very motivating when we can tell our friends that they can find our potatoes in a Colruyt or OKay shop near them. I am so proud of that.  In this way, we are also aware of what customers think of our products. And it gives us the opportunity to adapt our supply to the demand.”

Philippe Brion, grower from Tourinnes-Saint-Lambert.

I am new to this project and joined in after positive feedback from a colleague who had participated in the test phase. In the past, I used to supply mainly industrial potato processors. Needless to say, being able to work for Colruyt and OKay customers gives me much more satisfaction.”

Henk Dewaele, grower from Ruiselede.

Each link in the chain benefits from this partnership. Of course, the climate may be playing tricks on us, but thanks to this cooperation, we have more control over several factors. Of course, the proper preservation of the potatoes also remains crucial.”

Bart Nemegheer, manager of the family business  Aardappelhoeve which packages and grows potatoes in Tielt.

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