In December 2016, Urban Industrial (UI) acquired the Wholesale Market, which was previously owned by the Municipality of Rotterdam. Rotterdam Food Cluster talked to business developer Robert van ’t Blik about the redevelopment plans: from the construction of production kitchens for food start-ups and caterers to the creation of office space and services for educational parties, logistics partners and e-commerce businesses.
The belly of Rotterdam
The Wholesale Market was founded in the 1960s and was originally the fruit and vegetable trade market in Rotterdam, also known as: ‘the belly of Rotterdam’. Since there were no supermarkets at the time, all the small shops and grocers bought their products here. To this day, the Wholesale Market is still unique in the Netherlands due to its size. ‘We are one of the largest trade markets for ethnic supermarkets and local market traders. We have a highly extensive range of products from all over the world. This is also consistent with a metropolis like Rotterdam, with its large port, lots of trade and inhabitants of diverse nationalities.’
From ‘shifting boxes’ to food hub
UI is going to transform the Wholesale Market into a multifunctional food hub, which will include additional services for entrepreneurs, such as logistics services, education, the experiential aspect and production. ‘We are keen to collaborate with SMEs as well as with municipalities and government institutions. In other words, a real food hub that not only involves ‘shifting boxes’, but that genuinely adds value and offers cross-pollination.’
In order to optimally use these opportunities, they are closely examining trends and shifts in the food market. Consumer demand for local and artisan products is constantly growing, as is demand for increasingly diverse flavours from the four corners of the globe. Traditional supermarkets are focusing more and more on the experience, and online supermarkets such as Picnic are offering new ways of shopping. ‘We see the world of food changing dramatically. We want to respond by being a hub for diverse food-related entrepreneurs, with online and offline services housed in a new logistically-efficient guise.’
At the moment, approximately fifty businesses are based at the Wholesale Market: from fruit and vegetable sellers to ethnic speciality firms and from cheese producers to a fresh chips producer and flower and plant sellers. The range of specialist fruit and vegetable wholesalers will be optimised. In addition, the ethnic cash & carry wholesalers will be expanded. ‘These include dry goods from all over the world, like sauces, curry pastes, noodles and rice, etc. Possibly supplemented by meat that is halal, organic and/or of local origin.’
The range of products and services on offer will also be expanded with new activities related to food production, e-commerce applications and last-mile logistics. ‘We will develop a multifunctional food hub that is ready for the future’.
'We are keen to collaborate with SMEs as well as with municipalities and government institutions. In other words, a real food hub that not only involves 'shifting boxes', but that genuinely adds value and offers cross-pollination.'Business developer Urban Industrial
Opportunities in the e-food business
What’s innovative about the redevelopment plans is the focus on what they call the ‘e-food triangle’. On the one hand, it consists of building production areas where food entrepreneurs can process basic products into end products. This offers serious potential due to the changing food needs of end consumers. ‘We are observing an increasing interest in artisan food, catering, eating out and ordering food in. In our production areas, caterers, food start-ups and established businesses can start making products that respond to these needs.
’We are also focusing on e-commerce, by housing businesses and solutions such as Buurtboer, Marley Spoon or Rechtstreex. They can set up their office or distribution centre here.’ The third major component is last-mile logistics. Clean transport of all products to retail and the end consumer. We are in talks with several parties who want to collaborate with us.’
The combination of the e-food triangle and wholesale activities gives an additional boost. ‘Products from our wholesalers are processed into end products in the production areas. In turn, these are sold using e-commerce applications and transported by the logistics parties. Thus reinforcing the chain as a whole. And we literally shorten distances, which results in time savings and more efficient transport.’
Further cross-pollination through education and the experiential aspect
The connecting factor that unites all facilities at the Wholesale Market is education. Therefore, practical training courses will be attracted for everything related to food and logistics. ‘There is huge potential for employment in this sector, but people are often unaware of it and there is a serious mismatch between supply and demand.’ The Wholesale Market aspires to play a facilitating role to train young talent in a new way. ‘Here students can acquire all-round knowledge of the entire process: from a production kitchen’s operations to trade and logistics.’ The Wholesale Market also wants to focus more on increasing the experiential aspect, by offering consumer activities. ‘To enthuse the end user with regard to the products they trade, and to teach people exactly what happens before their groceries arrive in the shops.’ At the beginning of May 2018, the production kitchens will be opened and the first step in the redevelopment will be an established fact.
Interested in the following phases of the plans? If so, contact Robert van ‘t Blik