Only a few months ago award-winning Dutch specialty greengrocer Landwaart Culinair underwent a considerable expansion; closing for four weeks to double its footprint, completely modernise its facilities and add a large pâtisserie and bakery department. Speaking with founder Wim Landwaart, PBUK explores the reasons why Dutch shoppers drive out of their way to visit the store.
Although the beautiful village of Maartensdijk near Utrecht (with a population of just 4,900 people) may not be the most logical place for a specialty store, the Landwaart family and its team have proved it’s possible to survive and even thrive thanks to hard work, new ideas and a constantly expanding product line.
“In 1987 I started out in a tiny grocery shop in between two supermarkets with a surface area of no more than 40m2,” says Landwaart, who took over a 30-year legacy in the fresh produce business from his parents.
“We’ve just finished our fifth extension and the store now has no less than 900m2 of display cases filled with drinks, delicacies, bread, salads, vegetables, fruit, tea and a caterer who prepares fresh dishes on a daily basis.”
The elegant refurbishment has completely transformed the store into a luxury shopping destination, described by some as a ‘food lover’s paradise’.
The modern black and white branding continues through the doors with sleek, black display shelving which enables the vibrant colours of the products to shine.
This clean, sophisticated approach allows the extensive range of quality fruits, vegetables and other food products to speak for themselves.
“Fresh products, the best quality and the most beautiful dishes – that’s what we stand for,” Landwaart explains, adding that the store is best described as an experience.
“It’s a very friendly-looking, warm store in which it is very easy to change the interior and the display cases,” he says. “Practically everything can be moved so when we’re celebrating Christmas or when we’re hosting tastings we can change the interior to our liking.”
Landwaart Culinair has long specialised in selling high-end fresh produce. Following the expansion, the store features a kitchen offering a broad range of daily-prepared hot and cold meals, a pâtisserie, an artisanal bakery, a soup and salad bar, a specialty tea section, smoothies and more.
As well as the physical store, Landwaart Culinair operates a catering venture that delivers fresh products and themed buffets to restaurants, healthcare institutions, businesses and day care centres, as well as parties.
Across all these business areas, Landwaart’s philosophy is to deliver the utmost quality and freshness; meaning each day the store’s shelves are stocked full of fresh, healthy and sustainable food.
“We want to seduce every customer with great, healthy food,” Landwaart says. “That’s our wish, and that’s what our dedicated team works on daily. We want shoppers to be amazed and surprised; we want to make their mouths water.”
To wow its customers every day, Landwaart says his team works hard to make each visit a unique experience.
“We always want to be the leader when it comes to new developments,” he explains, pointing out that while the company is highly ambitious it never compromises on quality.
“The only thing our customers expect is good, fresh products,” Landwaart continues. “Everybody in the store is aware of that, so we make it our duty to ensure that that is exactly what our customers get.”
To that end, the business continuously tries out new products.
“We test new dishes and recipes with our employees first, and only if they pass the test are they offered in the store,” Landwaart says.
Recent introductions include a ‘Power Boost Salad’ that features tiny flowers. “It looks beautiful, it’s colourful and the flowers add a little surprise,” Landwaart notes. “It tastes absolutely fantastic with our special, organic dressing.”
Within each category, the Landwaart range is extensive. The vegetable assortment alone includes various distinctive and homemade products, such as cauliflower rice, three-colour vegetable ‘spaghetti’, stir-fry mixes, deluxe salads and homemade dressings.
When it comes to sourcing, the buying process is coordinated by Landwaart together with his two sons who visit markets in Breda, Barendrecht and Brussels weekly.
“Besides that, producers always know where to find us because we’re very open to innovation,” he adds. “Scoops always land in our lap because we’ve turned into an experimental garden for producers.”
Price-wise, Landwaart says he strives to achieve the best price/quality ratio for his customers.
“We always make sure we have the cream of the crop,” he notes. “On top of that, we try to surprise people with bargains. For example, we sell pineapples that are €1.50 each, but also pineapples that are €10 each.”
Simply put, Landwaart says his shoppers enjoy eating good and sustainable food, and when it comes to healthy food, he believes there is nothing healthier than fresh.
“Often it seems as if people no longer know what fresh food is,” Landwaart laments. “In a lot of food there is chemical litter that accumulates in your body, such as the wrong kind of E-numbers.
“Our meals are free from it. Landwaart stands for pure food and because of this our customers come to us time and time again.
“Most residents from Maartensdijk just buy their apples from the neighbourhood supermarket. But some people drive 40 miles to get their special products here.”
Shoppers clearly hold the store in high regard, and within the retail industry Landwaart Culinair has been recognised for its inspirational approach; frequently winning sector prizes.
Last year, the store received the highest possible recognition (three stars) from AGF Retail Netherlands (ADN), the Dutch fresh produce retail association.
“We were judged on a scale of up to ten points, and we had very high scores,” Landwaart enthuses. “A 9.2 was our lowest score, which brought our average down to a 9.6. We managed to get quite a few 10s in there!”
And while shoppers tend to be “very enthusiastic” about the store, Landwaart says he is always open to feedback.
“We’re also very appreciative when it comes to comments or criticism,” he points out. “Everybody makes mistakes and we intend to learn from ours.”
Combined with its top quality offer, Landwaart Culinair’s team of 25 enthusiastic and well-informed staff make the store stand out.
“Every employee has a lot of knowledge about our products and knows exactly what ingredients they contain,” Landwaart explains. “That knowledge, in combination with their enthusiasm, is what makes us unique.
“Knowledge is the foundation for this job. Everybody is perfectly schooled when it comes to product knowledge and they all follow courses to retain that information and to become better and better.”
At the end of the day, Landwaart says the business is succeeding because everyone is dedicated to creating “the perfect store”.
“But we remain down to earth because one must never be satisfied,” he points out. “The next day should be even better.”