TRADE AND MARKET I NG “By working together more, we can take important steps forward” In the spring of 2017, Potato Cooperative Nedato in the village of Oud-Beijerland announced a change of strategy. An important spearhead in this was the setting up of a strategic form of cooperation. Now, almost 2 years later, Carel van Buchem is in charge here as General Manager. We ask him how far the planning is now. Time for an update. What was your task on entering the organisation? ‘My first and most important task was to give the Nedato team a strong future and more energy. We could do with a bit more zeal. If you’re new to an organisation in which people have been working together for a long time, you see things that make you wonder why we’re doing things that way. By taking a fresh look, new possibilities arise. This gives people energy. For me personally, energy in an organisation is very important. It starts with me and I’ll then pass it on to the organisation. The people around me need to feel that I’m willing to seize new opportunities. This is the same as investing and is also what the Supervisory Board has in mind. We’ve already initiated various investments. For example, we’ve renewed our internal automation programme and we’ve purchased a state-ofthe-art packaging machine. This summer, we’ll be installing a new packaging line costing over half a million euros for our export programme. This means that we want to expand in every aspect of the sales market. And not only in machinery, but particularly in people, too. That’s what’s necessary to grow in the market.’ What are these plans for growth? ‘There are several different strategies for growth. You can do this, among other things, by price competition or by raising the overall market to a higher level. I believe more in the latter. As a company, we need to take steps in marketing. We need to show more ambition. That’s what we’re working very hard on. For example, for six months now we’ve been focused on conducting market research at various levels among consumers in an effort to discover what they really think of potatoes. What exactly do they want and how much of it do they want to buy? That’s a very expensive exercise. You can also do it by trial and error, but we have to take the step towards working with more focus. It’s important to realise that supermarkets are setting the bar higher and higher when choosing their products. The supermarket has a lot of options, which means that you have to demonstrate with clear facts exactly what the consumer wants. We can also formulate this ambition by working together. After all, there’s more challenge in having the entire sector grow rather than in mutual competition, which means that we have to think in terms of concepts. You need courage for that.’ What kind of conceptual thinking do you have in mind? ‘In the Benelux, the market for packaged potatoes is shrinking. In this declining market, there are at least ten relatively small packaging companies that do more or less the same thing. This means we’re entering a market with an ever-smaller number of supermarket chains. In itself, it’s not a bad thing that you’re active in a market with only ten companies. But, for competitive reasons, that’s not optimal, you’re going to fight each other more, which takes a lot of energy and isn’t efficient. Machines will then fall idle or won’t run optimally. We must also realise that our biggest competition is from other categories in the supermarket. When you delve into the potato world, you can see that there’s a lot of creativity there. The question now is, how to communicate this to the consumers. By co-ordinating our efforts, I think we can be very fruitful. For example, in the field of marketing, together we can stand out better from other categories in the supermarket and on the consumers’ ‘We must also realise that our biggest competition is from other categories in the supermarket. plate. Those are the big choices in the supermarket. By working together, we’ve got a chance to make a big impact on the shelves. This will enable us to operate more effectively as a sector. Especially because the consolidation and increase in scale in the supermarkets is continuing. In addition, the food service and retail sectors are moving closer together. Companies such as HEMA and Jumbo are already working together more and more, which increases their purchasing power. The table potato sector has allowed itself to be played off far too much by its customers. You can resist this better by working together.’ How far have you progressed in working together with other companies? ‘I’ve had many informal chats with other people, to get to know the industry better. But also to see whether companies are interested in working together. I’ve noticed that there’s some willingness, but sometimes the courage and the future perspective is still lacking. We must first ask ourselves how cooperation can contribute to the overall picture. I believe that we should get rid of the narrow way of thinking, what’s good for my own company, and focus on how we can sell more potatoes in the new situation.’ Wouldn’t it be better for Nedato to focus only on the table potato sub-segment? ‘No, definitely not. We are a potato sales company that sells the potatoes of all our five hundred affiliated growers. We buy the entire volume of each grower and offer them a wide range Potato World 2020 • number 2 5 Pagina 4

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