Fresh-cut herbs from local cultivation are obviously in vogue. Not only classics but also special herbs, mixed packs, as well as (organic) cresses are enjoying increasing popularity. With three locations and a total of around 300 hectares (of which ten hectares are tunnel cultivation and two hectares are greenhouse cultivation), the Dreesen company, based in Bornheim, has been one of the leading producers and marketers in the herb sector for many years.
In February of this year, the Dreesen company moved into the new office and logistics center in the Roisdorf industrial park. Despite inflation and a reduction in purchasing power, herb sales continue to be stable and pleasing, Managing Director Artur Lammert tells us on-site. "After Corona, gastronomy is on the upswing again, I would even call it a renaissance. People are going to restaurants more again, which is reflected in correspondingly high demand. But I could imagine that one or the other price increase will also hit sales in the direction of gastronomy at some point."
Robert Dreesen (left) and Artur Lammert are the managers of the Bornheim-based company.
Excerpt from the range of products offered by Dreesen. Depending on the customer and the variety, the containers for the food retail trade vary from 15 to 200 grams.
According to Lammert, the figures in food retailing are also positive again. "However, we are noticing that consumers are buying more consciously. The trend is moving away from top herbs more in the direction of cut herbs, with the small packaging we offer being particularly well received. What also benefits us is that herbs are trend articles that are also versatile in use. Not only with the popular classics such as parsley smooth and curly, mint, or chives but also with special herbs such as thyme or sage, we see an increasing demand. This is also being driven further on the part of food retailers through corresponding promotions or tastings."
Growing basil in a foil house
From a cultivation point of view, however, growing herbs is particularly cost-intensive, which in turn has an impact in times of rising production costs. Lammert: "Fortunately, we have already invested a lot in automation and digitalization in recent years. The same applies to the topic of irrigation technology, which will also become increasingly important in herb cultivation."
Basil (left) and cucumber dill
Furthermore, the trend towards doing without plastic is also being taken into account at the Dreesen company. "Cresses are now only offered in cardboard trays with cellulose. We are also trying to optimise our packaging for cut herbs so that no unnecessary material is transported around. At the same time, it is particularly important to us that the quality of the product does not suffer, that the packaging is still transparent to a certain extent, and, last but not least, that the materials used are actually sustainable. These are often only small levers, but on balance, they make a big difference. For example, we reduced the film by 1.5 cm for one customer, which is why we can ultimately save a few tonnes of material."
In addition to cut herbs, Dreesen has also been producing and marketing cresses for two decades, which can now be found in food retailers throughout Germany. The product range comprises more than ten varieties and extends from standard garden cress to microgreens and special and mixed varieties. Up to two-thirds of the total quantity is now organic cresses. "The special varieties are experiencing interesting growth, although demand varies greatly in some cases between the individual regions. In contrast to the cut herbs, where we have to buy imported goods from Spain, Israel, Italy, or Morocco in winter, we can supply the trade with German cresses all year round thanks to lighting," says Lammert.
Rosemary in the foil tunnel
Export to neighboring countries
In addition to supplying the German domestic market, smaller quantities are also exported. "We see interesting demand in Scandinavia and Great Britain in the summer. In winter, on the other hand, we have been able to establish a good sales channel in Austria and Switzerland with our imported herbs. To do justice to the issue of regionality, our subsidiary Franken Kräuter is responsible for logistics and trade in southern Germany."
Differentiation and further development
A clear growth trend is discernible in both product lines, Lammert emphasizes. "Our focus now remains on differentiating our product range. In cresses, there will be a further variety of innovations and product novelties. In the case of cut herbs, the main thing is to be able to offer several varieties per crop. For example, not all mint is the same; there is also Spanish, Mexican, and pineapple mint. The further development of the varieties is an important cornerstone of our marketing strategy and also drives the entire herb segment forward. The same goes for the mix packs we offer, such as fish herbs, herbs de Provence, or drink mixes."
Images: Dreesen Frische Kräuter GmbH & Co. KG