Clean data, clean processes, clean service…

With the appointment of Alberto Hoffmann as Managing Director at the beginning of June this year, the Kaarster company expanded its young leadership team with Florian Walther and Benedikt Wetterau. From the perspective of Managing Director Global, Marc Nikolai, this move sends an important signal to sharpen the group’s competencies in the procurement and marketing of fruits and vegetables and to continue the growth trajectory of the past years both nationally and internationally.

Before joining the KÖLLA Group at the end of 2020, Alberto Hoffmann had held various positions within the Schwarz Group. Initially, he worked in food procurement at Kaufland, then gained extensive experience in international fruit and vegetable procurement at Lidl, and subsequently acquired a deep understanding of the needs of producers and customers in Key Account Management at KÖLLA. In this role, he had already collaborated closely with the two managing directors, Florian Walther and Benedikt Wetterau, who will now jointly lead the KÖLLA Group into the future. “I look forward to the challenge because we are experiencing exciting times in the fruit business. To cope with the industry’s transformation, it requires concentrated expertise, and in that regard, I would like to contribute,” said Hoffmann.


Recognizing Producers and Countries with Potential Early On

For Marc Nikolai, it is crucial that KÖLLA consistently advances digitization and sustainable development of company processes alongside the complex demands of the international fruit business regarding procurement and marketing. “In recent years, we have not only grown as a group in the market, but our interconnected group structure has also brought us closer internally. This is especially evident in the improved data sharing, which has optimized all planning and distribution processes, as well as areas like finance, human resources, and services within the group.

This has been an enormously labor-intensive process, which is still not entirely completed. Our ERP system in Düsseldorf/Kaarst is expected to go live in the first quarter of 2024. At other locations, we have already had go-lives on a relatively smaller scale and have focused on overcoming initial challenges. But this task is much more complex because one can easily imagine how much data is involved with such a large quantity of items and product variants,” explained Marc Nikolai.

“Even though there are still relatively unpredictable variables like weather in the fruit and vegetable business, we can already access much better historical data today, which will support us in advising our origin partners in the future,” said Alberto Hoffmann.


In Trend

Despite the fact that everyday life and business processes are increasingly permeated by data and algorithms, people and their products still take center stage in the fruit business, depending on one’s perspective. After all, data is only as good as those who can interpret it and make it practical. And in the case of KÖLLA, practice means not only bundling goods and managing supply chains for customers but, more concretely, having the products grown in the origin countries by partner companies.

Florian Walther also wants to further sharpen KÖLLA’s profile in production. “We closely observe what is happening in different origin countries and the shifts that occur. Some developments, such as in Morocco or Greece, but also in other markets, we anticipated years ago. Building structures and the right partnerships there is very time-consuming and requires long-term planning and the corresponding investments.

According to Alberto Hoffmann, KÖLLA is not limited to ‘one’ origin. “In this sense, we are not just origin specialists but see our long-term strategy in expanding partnerships with selected producers, allowing us to work with a broad but focused portfolio of products and origins. Especially in our close collaboration with producers, it is our aim to create clear added value for both sides through our high product expertise,” Hoffmann explained. “That’s what defines KÖLLA at its core. Our strength lies in recognizing producers and countries with potential early on and positioning ourselves there when we believe we can offer the programs that the retail sector desires. With Turkey, one of our core competencies today, it wasn’t any different in the beginning,” Florian Walther elaborated.

During the DOGK in Düsseldorf, KÖLLA, according to Marketing Manager Catrin Lauf, will have a sweet surprise to offer. During breaks, premium Medjoul dates from the KÖLLA brand ALINDA will be distributed to the participants.


Michael Schotten, Fruchthandel Magazin 

> Original text 


September 2023