JAVIER SOTO, General Manager of BEHR in Spain
1. Behr Iberia in three lines
Behr Iberia, markets products grown by Agrar Systems S.A. Unipersonal, a member of the Mecklenburger Ernte producers’ organisation, and produce from Behr AG. Behr Iberia’s objective is to supply consumers with vegetables which look and taste good.
2. The Behr Group produces and operates at a European level. Where are your main production zones and which are your main destination markets?
We have six production sites, five in Germany and one in Spain. These sites are divided into different production areas, classified by conventional or organic production. In the Hamburg area, we have two sites, one for organic production of arugula, zucchini, etc., and another for mini-leaf crops, German turnip celeriac, salacrispy, spinach, cos lettuce, other types of lettuce and conventional crops. In Gresse, in the Federal State of Mecklenburg Vorpommern, we have two sites where we produce organic and conventional Iceberg, Mini Romaine, broccoli, minileaf, celeriac, picco salate, Lollos, spinach, Treviso, etc. The fifth location, where our group’s main crops are grown, is in the southern area of Germany, in Büttelborn. This is also an area that overlapping our Spanish and German production in the change from summer and winter crops.
And finally, we have land in Campo de Cartagena and Mazarrón in Spain where we produce Mini Romaine, Iceberg, Lollo, Salarico, German Turnip, etc.
3. Are consumers’ tastes in different countries very different, or are they similar?
They are generally quite similar, although there are minor differences in the different countries, not only in the type of vegetables preferred, but also what people eat at each time of year. For example, cooked vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and turnip and consumed less frequently during the summer. On the other hand, in Scandinavian countries people like crispy types of lettuce, and in Germany, in recent years, consumption of Mini Romaine has increased exponentially. In Spain, Little Gem lettuces are far more popular.
4. What are Behr Iberia’s main objectives?
Our main aim is to satisfy our customers, which is something we work hard to do every day. That is why we are always working to achieve uniform quality.
5. As president of the lettuce sector of Proexport, you are very knowledgeable about this subsector. What are the main challenges facing the leafy vegetable sector?
We want to produce lettuces in a socially responsible and sustainable way in the widest sense, without killing ourselves in our pursuit to achieve this enormous challenge. We want our consumers to be aware of this, which is another challenge for the sector, since we to show the public that lettuces really do have added value. Sometimes you get the feeling that consumers see lettuces in the aisles, and they are like part of the furniture, or almost that grow there, although they are healthy per se. That is until December and January, when the products are not on the shelves, and mass consumption products leave a gap in the shopping cart, which is when we realise that we do not appreciated how valuable they are. From a production point of view, we also know that south-eastern Spain is faced with the challenge of being the only supplier of outdoor vegetables in winter, under both normal and extraordinary conditions like cold snaps, floods, snow, etc, like those that happened last year. As I mentioned before, producing lettuces with the highest guarantees of quality, availability, as well as being socially responsible, to be sustainable in the broadest sense of the word, must have recognised added value.
6. The growing importance of lettuce and leafy vegetables to Spanish fruit and vegetable production will be underlined this year at FRUIT ATTRACTION, with a seminar entitled "Lettuce Attraction". What will you be talking about at this event?
We will tackle matters of great interest to everyone working in the sector. These will take the form of five presentations-panel discussions: Firstly, we will analyse the international lettuce and leaf sector with a presentation by the general manager of Proexport, Fernando P. Gómez Molina. This will be followed with the adventure of producing lettuce in Europe, narrating experiences and future strategies in Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom, courtesy of some leading sector companies. We will also analyse the revolution in the consumption of ready-to-eat salad, with participation from companies specialising in this activity. The fourth presentation will deal with retail, and will be given by representatives of Marks and Spencer and Carrefour. Lastly, we will look at innovation in the sector.
7. Behr Iberia has been an exhibitor at FRUIT right from the start. What do you think the trade fair does for the Spanish sector and for your company?
Behr Iberia pays special attention to quality standards, ecology and sustainable economics, as well as social responsibility in all its sites. I believe that we are a benchmark in the Spanish sector. We represent our company under these conditions, showing our best products to customers at Fruit Attraction.