Dusseldorf The Bofrost men have a lot to do these weeks. Since Ash Wednesday, when the first corona case in Germany became known, the demand for frozen food has exploded. The pre-orders in the Bofrost online shop alone have doubled compared to the same period last year.
“Everywhere in Europe we feel a significant increase in demand,” says Jörg Körfer, Chairman of the Advisory Board and Chairman of the Bofrost Foundation. “The regular customers increase their inventories considerably and we have won a lot of new customers.”
Europe’s largest frozen food distribution barely comes behind with the delivery. A Bofrostan can visit 40 to 60 households a day, more is not possible. So there may currently be longer waiting times of around a week. Because no additional direct sales representatives can be quickly recruited and trained.
The approximately 5700 sales drivers are permanently employed by the family company from Straelen in the Lower Rhine region – an exception in the direct sales sector. “We are able to deliver and are working at full speed to further increase our stocks,” emphasizes Matthias van der Donk, who is responsible for strategy, marketing and communication at Bofrost.
The sellers are doing everything possible to ensure that Bofrost will remain available for delivery in the next few weeks. “In the corona crisis, direct sales to customers can make an important contribution to a stable food supply,” states Jochen Clausnitzer, managing director of the Federal Association for Direct Sales in Germany.
Corona boom as first test
By ordering online and delivering directly to the door, as with Bofrost, infection in the supermarket can be avoided. “Our delivery to the front door is very important, especially for the elderly, the sick and risk groups,” emphasizes Körfer.
The 54-year-old was appointed to the Foundation Board in March last year, which is the highest position at Bofrost. Entrepreneur Josef Boquoi, internally called JHB, retired to the board of trustees. The now 86-year-old founded the frozen food distribution business in 1966 as a one-man business and made it big across Europe. Succession within the family had failed.
Patriarch Boquoi brought Körfer to Bofrost in 2018 because he had many years of experience in direct sales. The business economist worked at Vorwerk for 15 years, where he was responsible for the Thermomix food processor and until 2016 for the Kobold vacuum cleaner.
With the Corona boom, Körfer now has his first major test at Bofrost. In Italy, the second most important market for the Straelen and epicenter of the pandemic, Bofrost has been playing an important supply role for weeks – especially in the heavily affected corona areas.
It is important to take special precautions. When the Bofrost man rings the bell today, he only places the frozen vegetables, pizzas or fish fillets on the front door. In order to avoid infection, the sales drivers in their blue jackets no longer put the goods in the freezer. And they no longer take orders at the kitchen table.
Bofrostans currently only wear breathing masks in Italy. Distance and hand hygiene are the most important. After each customer contact, the hands are disinfected. “It is now a priority for us to provide customers and employees with the best possible protection while at the same time ensuring the food supply for our customers,” says Körfer. The approximately 200 employees in the central warehouse in Straelen are working at full speed.
Freezers are in demand as rarely
In times of quarantine, the entire frozen food industry benefits from the fact that people stock up on food that can be stored. However, the industry turnover in this country has been increasing continuously for years. In 2018, it was 14.5 billion euros, the German Freezer Institute has determined.
The crisis-ridden Bofrost competitor Eismann also benefits from the fact that people are now cooking at home. Also manufacturers of frozen foods without delivery service such as Frost report brisk demand. “The strongest in our online shop,” says Frosta boss Felix Ahlers. “90 percent more is currently being ordered there than usual.”
Accordingly, the Germans are upgrading with freezers. Freezers are currently very much in demand, says electronics retailer Media-Markt Saturn. The order boom comes at the right time for Bofrost. The market is undergoing tremendous change due to new freshness delivery services from supermarkets and start-ups.
Even if only one in four people in Germany buy groceries on the Internet, as the advice from Alix Partners found. For frozen food supplier Bofrost, business has become icy. Bofrost recently had four million customers, including 2.3 million in Germany – there were once half a million more. European sales were also higher. In the 2018/19 financial year, it reached EUR 1.24 billion.
The corona boom helps Körfer make Bofrost’s business future-proof. While the regular customers are older on average, first-time buyers come from all age groups. Körfer hopes that the new customers will “get a taste and stay with us in Corona”.
However, Bofrost is worried about the supply chains. You get frozen food for your warehouse from many nations. The residents of Straelen hope that the federal states and municipalities will not accidentally restrict the activities of the sales drivers when implementing the federal corona measures. Bofrost boss Körfer emphasizes: “There must be clear exceptions for all food suppliers as for pharmacy drivers.”
More: While truck traffic is stalling at the borders, the train gets a special order to transport pasta.