Never in short supply
In an emerging Polish produce sector, Fresh World International Sp z.o.o is one of the companies helping to drive a diversifying market
Fresh World International is a Polish-based distributor of groceries, supplying supermarket chains and the hospitality industry since its establishment in 1998. Located in Bronisze, north Poland, the company has grown over the past 12 years to become one of the country’s leading importers of fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside growing sales to neighbouring regions.
Bronisze is an ideal location for a company like Fresh World. Not only is it located close to the Poland’s capital city Warsaw, but it is also home to the largest wholesale market in central and Eastern Europe, the Warsaw Agricultural and Foodstuffs Wholesale Market. The company recently opened a sales point here, and credits this for the increasing number of customers the company is serving from areas such as Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states and western Russia.
The domestic market remains the company’s largest sector however, and is enjoying expansion at a greater rate than the company’s international affairs. Managing director of Fresh World, Frans Koppes, talks about one of the reasons behind its steady growth: “We are sourcing our produce direct from farms across the world, which gives us the ability to provide our clients what they are looking for: traceability. Traceability means that in 24 hours you are able to tell the customer exactly which field the product has come from, how it has been treated, and what exactly has happened to the product.”
Being able to provide precise details on the fruits and vegetables it supplies has become central to the business as it benefits both company and customer. With suppliers based throughout the globe, Fresh World claims the widest assortment of imported fresh produce in Poland and being able to account for its movements gives the customer confidence about their purchase. Equally, it allows Fresh World to improve the quantities, prices and logistical planning of its products so that it can maximise productivity. Frans comments: “The bottom line is it helps to increase the volumes because of better product category management. If you want two cartons of a certain fruit from us, it is possible to have it within 48 hours. Our clients are impressed with our quality of service.”
Formulating a strong relationship with its suppliers is important to Fresh World because it understands the market as a network where co-operation is important. When looking for partners, it is first 64necessary for the supplier to posses the correct qualifications such as Global Gap and Salomon certifications. However, what draws Fresh World to a supplier is a kinship with its market philosophy of creating a stable, year-round market for produce even if it means temporarily reduced prices. The Polish retail sector is a strong market, as evidenced by its performance in 2009 when the economic recession was at its deepest; it was the only market in Europe to display growth rather than decline.
Frans attributes this to two different reasons: firstly, that Poland is currently a rising economy with average annual income increasing yearly, and secondly its recently opened borders. After many years with only a narrow range of produce such as potatoes, cabbage and carrots available due to the country’s political climate, people’s tastes are now beginning to expand and there is demand for increasingly exotic fruits and vegetables. This emerging market, however, is a very competitive one and to establish itself as a leader Fresh World looks for companies that understand both the market’s widening palate and the need to lower initial cost for greater returns in the future. “It’s a philosophy, and I am looking for suppliers that are interested in it because there are times when they have to go with very, very competitive prices,” says Frans.
The company has an equally important philosophy to its customers. “I think it is vital if you want to have a growing business,” Frans explains, “to add more value to your product. We are always trying to give our produce greater value. First of all through the quality of our customer service, which our clients are quite impressed with, but also in terms of volume. Our reaction time is fast and that’s very important for supermarkets.” Fresh World possesses its own fleet of trucks that is responsible for 65 per cent of its national distribution and helps to maintain the rapid, 48-hour response times.
Increasing business also means an increasing need for storage space. Fresh World currently possess a 7000 square metre distribution facility that includes refrigeration units, six banana ripening rooms and citrus packing machines. There are plans to have this developed further by 2011, however, as Frans highlights: “The expansion will contribute to helping keep our current high level of service to clients, but on a bigger scale. Most probably our logistics operations will increase as well. Of course the main target of these is to further improve our efficiency.”
Looking ahead to the future, Frans feels Fresh World has plenty of opportunity to expand its client base. With the Polish economy becoming stronger by the year, and with custom from abroad steadily increasing in quantity, the company has a sturdy foothold from which to move upward. Frans highlights the growing trend of a diversifying market: “Our clients are growing and the final consumer has an increasingly higher income. Some produce is quite new to this country and there is a lot surrounding what can be done with them in terms of growth, especially with tropical goods.”
He adds: “There is a lot of talk about the consumption, too: what to do with the product, how to prepare it, what kind of meals you can make with it. The solution comes down to the marketing carried out by organisations that represent a product from a certain country. We are working with these companies, and with them there is the possibility of helping to grow the market.”
Fresh World is at the heart of a new market and already has a firm grip on it. With the market look set to grow and the company set to capitalise on it, Fresh World International is certain to have a bright future.