Parallel to the social discussion about sustainability and natural fresh products, the demand for untreated goods is steadily increasing. Especially at this time of year, large shipments of untreated citrus fruits arrive at German specialist traders. Tim Wehmeyer – Managing Director of the Bielefeld-based Schmidt Fruchtimport GmbH – discovered this interesting niche five years ago. He obtains his untreated goods exclusively from a Spanish supplier. Under the label Numen Nature, the products are being marketed to wholesale customers within the region and beyond. Demand is growing gradually, it is said.

From the field to the box
The cultivation method is very special, says Wehmeyer. “The most significant difference compared to conventional citrus cultivation is that the goods that are picked will go directly into the box at the site. In addition, our producer has a specially prepared calibration and sorting machine, so that the goods can be processed directly on site and loaded onto the trucks.”

Basically, all clementines and oranges locally cultivated will be bought up, no matter their caliber. Packed in appropriate wooden boxes, the coveted goods are ultimately transported to Germany where they will be offered at the Bielefeld wholesale market. A great added advantage for the marketer of this cultivation technique is that these product hardly see any drop in quality later in the season. “The Clemenules variety for example, will tastes less good from the end of December to the beginning of January. The taste of the Numen Nature clementines, however, remain unchanged until mid-February. This simply has to do with the short chain, because the goods do not carry the usual procedures via the sorting system into the ripening room.”

Extension of the season
At the moment, the citrus importer is inevitably in the final stages of this year’s Clementine campaign. Clemenules have already left the a few weeks ago. Instead this year, for the second time, there is an innovative late variety called New Finas on offer. “We have included this strain in 2018 in order to be able to extend the Numen Nature clementines season by a few weeks. However, since last week, we are finally through with this product.”

The Numen Nature brand was first offered in the wholesale trade in Bielefeld about 30 years ago, while untreated citrus fruits have been marketed under this label for five years now. “Of course we are not talking about mass-produced goods here. Nevertheless, we have built up a loyal clientele for these products, consisting mainly of weekly marketers, delicatessens and some owner-operated retail outlets.”

Good starting position in the citrus segment
In general, the experienced wholesaler rates this year’s harvest as “satisfactory to all parties”, right before the close. Quantities were excellent and there were hardly any quality problems. “The prices were also right, in the sense that our customers have received reasonable prices for their products as well. In the end, this is an advantage for the consumer as well, because the bottom line is that it has a reasonable product for a corresponding price-performance ratio.”
Sorting the goods

Especially in the field of clementines, the retailer is seeing a massive development over the last 20 years. “In the 1990s, at the beginning of the Spanish campaign, we still traded varieties like the Marisol, that tastes somewhat like a lemon. Now there are also early varieties such as Oronules and Clemen Ruby. The biggest improvement, however, I am seeing in the year-round offerings. Because now there are good Nadorcotts from South Africa in the summer, after which the first varieties from Spain come in seamlessly.”

Innovation makes perfect
The classic wholesale has been a bit complex in recent years, notes Wehmeyer. Nonetheless, the retailer also succeeds in attracting new customers and markets, because a growing part of the turnover is achieved through deliveries as well as the online shop, which was launched several years ago. Even outside the trade, the company is always developing; they are busy with a relatively new photovoltaic system and a modern warehouse at this time.  –