Dutchman Derreck Bac runs a company called Springfresh in Sulecin, Poland. This is a vegetable processing and cleaning business. It does products like onions, shallots, radishes, rutabagas, and Brussels sprouts. The company is, however, always brimming with new ideas. It now also supplies a mash made from onions, Brussels sprouts, and pickled cocktail onions.
Derreck Bac in between his Polish colleagues
“I came to Poland 15 years ago,” begins Derreck. “My cousin had a grain company here and washed a few Brussels sprouts on the side. I had just finished school. He asked me to start farming with vegetables, incidentally for the Dutch market. We grew our own crops for years, but not all of them were successful. So we decided to shift our focus entirely to processing. This is now rock solid. That’s why we’re making plans to start farming again.”
“We still source most of our Brussels sprouts from the Netherlands, supplemented by Germany. And for year-round supply from the UK and Morocco. Polish farmers do grow these sprouts. But, due to the risk of frost, the season is shorter here. So, most are done harvesting by the end of the year. We, therefore, truck Brussels sprouts in from the Netherlands.”
“And then sell most of them back to that country. There’s still quite a bit of manual work involved, so it’s greatly advantageous to have our processing plant in Poland. We supply the German and Polish markets and indirectly to the United Kingdom too. There’s a significant increase in processed vegetable sales in Poland,” explains Derreck.
“Many Dutch people, when hearing I work in Poland, think it’s a world away. But it’s not that bad. We’re only 750 km from Amsterdam. Sulecin is right across the German border and 100 km east of Berlin. All the loads we send today reach our clients tomorrow. The plant runs during the day and we arrange logistics at night. Until last year, we had two processing sites in Poland. But we closed the site where we started in 2019. We now have only the one site, which was built in 2012.”
Derreck’s family still lives in the Netherlands and he always goes home on weekends. “Before COVID-19 hit, I was in Poland every week. During the pandemic, it’s been every other week. When the crisis is over, I have no intention of going to Poland weekly again. I don’t need to, because I have good people whom I trust 100% there. They have learned a lot already.”
“We have about 150 factory workers. We used to have 300 but are putting a lot of effort into automation. In Poland, too, the availability of good people is becoming more and more of a challenge. That’s actually a bigger problem than labor costs. That’s why we, and machine manufacturers, are tackling the necessary automation projects in-house.”
Springfresh hopes to penetrate new markets with its self-developed onions and Brussels sprout puree. “We’ve finished developing it and are now looking for clients. Up to now, we’ve mainly supplied vegetable processors and the hospitality industry. However, these processed products appeal much more to meat processors and fresh meal, sauce, and salad producers. We recently started producing pickled onions too. So, we’ve developed a product for a whole new client base. We’re excited about entering new markets,” says Bac.
Both Springfresh’s trading and processing activities are Skal certified. “There is a demand for organic products. But it’s a challenge to balance demand and trade.” In 2019, this company became the first in Poland to obtain Planet Proof certification. “This is a must for certain clients. We fully support PlanetProof’s goals.”
“However, we believe that working more sustainably should an internal decision, not because of a certificate. We’re continuously working on that. For example, we extract heat from our refrigerating system to heat the building. We use our residual heat in the mashing process, and we utilize our byproducts. I expect our trucks will be running on alternative energy within a few years, too,” concludes Derreck. (IH)
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