In the last 12 months Dutch produce exporter Valstar Holland has continued to evolve and add value; unveiling a new brand identity, opening an office in the UK, and forging further alliances with key suppliers. PBUK speaks with sales director Wim van der Burgh about reinforcing Valstar’s position via a new commercial approach.
Belonging to the Best Fresh Group – a pool of companies specialised in their own fields; from glasshouse vegetables, exotics, specialties, soft fruit and organics; to packaging, logistics and catering – Valstar’s philosophy has long been to concentrate on strengthening its prospects for what lies ahead, says van der Burgh.
“We cannot change the past, so we focus on making a stronger future,” he tells PBUK.
With the world of food constantly evolving, van der Burgh says Valstar’s way of working required another approach with new solutions.
“We needed to improve and innovate to secure a healthy future,” he explains. “With modern technologies things are changing rapidly in the business, and we want to remain ahead of the game.”
To that end, Valstar has changed its strategy by segmenting its commercial team into four specialised units: retail, trade and foodservice which supply European customers; and the overseas unit for its global clientele.
“We now have four dedicated and motivated teams that create added value through discovering and developing unique solutions,” says van der Burgh.
The time was ripe, therefore, to change the company’s brand identity with a new logo and strapline ‘Valstar – Vitality in Vegetables’.
“Segmenting the team required a fresh identity for Valstar with a new logo,” van der Burgh says.
Launched in February this year, the new branding ‘Vitality in Vegetables’ describes the essence of Valstar’s business.
“We’re young and dynamic,” van der Burgh points out. “We initiate, innovate and facilitate. We are inspired by consumer trends and customer needs.”
Encouraged by the strength of its UK business and recognising the need to shorten the supply chain from the Netherlands, around this time last year Valstar opened an office in the UK. So far, business is solid.
“Our UK office is progressing more rapidly than we thought,” reveals van der Burgh.
“Our plan was to establish ourselves in the UK market and see if our role would offer added value for our customers. In terms of direct trading and shortening the supply chain we found out quickly that our formula was working.”
On top of expanding business with its longstanding, loyal customers in the UK, each year Valstar is growing with new customers and larger volumes.
Valstar UK handles the same commodities as the company’s Dutch office – primarily produce from the Netherlands, Spain and north Africa.
The team specialises in maintaining direct contacts with the source for Valstar’s UK retail and foodservice clients; thereby adding value to its supply service.
“Besides handling the traditional trade towards the UK from Valstar, our UK office adds extra value in terms of direct account management by employees who have known the UK market for many years,” points out says van der Burgh.
“Our English colleagues have a lot of knowledge and experience in UK retail and foodservice.
“The office is run by Julian White, a well-known person in our line of business, with a huge network of contacts. Adam Beba and Matt Barritt complete the UK team as experienced account managers.”
Looking ahead, Van der Burgh says Valstar is keeping a close eye on the UK’s Brexit negotiations.
“A lot of issues are still unknown and that makes it difficult to come up with a plan,” he admits. “But we are paying attention to the news and any speculations about Brexit to make sure we are ready when it happens.”
Besides its UK presence, in 2015 Valstar opened an office in Almería, Spain, to supply its Spanish customers with Dutch produce in the summer, as well as providing account management for many of Valstar’s customers during the winter.
Eager to remain a step ahead, recently Valstar has introduced some innovations into several supermarkets, together with some of its retail partners and growers.
“As Valstar itself is mainly focused on commodities, our sister companies Eminent and Yex are providing us with new products for the niche market,” reveals van der Burgh.
This includes a new brand and product range called ‘Easy to Grill’ that the group developed last year.
“It’s a range of products which make it possible to prepare the most delicious grilled dishes featuring vegetables with a twist – it’s fast, easy and fresh,” says van der Burgh.
Besides the Easy to Grill range, Valstar has introduced Easy to Cook Guacamole – a kit to make guacamole with fresh vegetables.
“Retailers are looking more and more for specialities in the niche market to ensure they have something special for their customers,” notes van der Burgh.
“Valstar is innovating together with them and we guarantee exclusivity on a certain new line, product or packaging.”
In the future, van der Burgh says Valstar has additional plans in the pipeline, but none he is willing to share at present.
“Our competition never sleeps either so we’ll keep these plans to ourselves and our partners,” he notes. “But we guarantee that Valstar is evolving continuously.”
Valstar invites anyone attending The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference 2017 to visit its stand or local office during the three-day event.
The APS17 trade show takes place on 15-17 November at the Westergasfabriek.