Climate change is becoming a risk for the nut brand

Cologne The bush fires in Australia also have consequences in the Swabian town of Ulm. Not only did the fires kill koalas and kangaroos, 6000 hives were destroyed in New South Wales alone. As of July, the almond trees are now missing millions of bees for pollination.

“This could lead to serious crop failures with almonds,” fears Ralph Beranek, Co-Managing Director of Seeberger, specialist for nuts and dried fruit. After all, Australia is the second largest almond producer in the world after the USA.

Climate change is increasingly becoming an unpredictable business risk for Seeberger. “The shortage of water in California a few years ago caused the prices of walnuts, almonds and pistachios to explode,” says the 54-year-old. Three years ago there were hardly any dried apricots worldwide due to the drought. In order to better spread risks, Seeberger has been buying its goods from different climate zones and continents for several years.

The former grocery store Seeberger has been selling coffee, nuts and dried fruit for more than 175 years. With almost 600 employees, the family company today generates around 300 million euros.

“We have never had any loss years and have grown strongly recently. But rising raw material costs are already a burden, ”says Clemens Keller, co-managing director from the shareholder family. Regarding the result, he only says Swabian reserved: “We are satisfied.”

Second mainstay

“Seeberger has established itself as the top dog in the field of fruit and nut snacking in Germany,” says Sebastian Theopold, Managing Director of Munich Strategy Consulting. Europe’s leading brand provider benefits from the trend of natural snacks. If dried fruit and nuts stuck to something stale for a long time, they are now on the menu of vegans and hipsters.

Because the prices of natural goods fluctuate strongly, Seeberger has built a second pillar: the all-round supply of companies and restaurants with coffee and tea. The Ulm company offers coffee machines with filling, technical service and in-house payment systems nationwide. “We deliver our own roasted coffee, our nut and fruit snacks and oat bars in our own machines – nobody else can do that,” says Beranek. Customers are Miele, Iveco or Philips,

Seeberger started in 1844 as a small grocery store. Back then, the free commercial city of Ulm was the capital for nuts and seeds alongside Hamburg. They were delivered from the northern Italian ports. In 1882, a large coffee roaster was added and today it is one of the oldest in Germany.

After the Second World War, the Seeberger family, who had no suitable descendants, handed over their five-man company to the current Rohm / Keller family. Ralph Beranek has been on the management board since 1996, initially with owner Julius Rohm. Ulm Beranek has already completed his dual business studies at Seeberger. After two years in sales controlling for an international freight forwarder, the company brought him back for international business. “It was a rocky road to make our brand known abroad,” he admits.

Today, foreign sales are around a quarter of total revenue. In 2003 Clemens Keller, 48, took over the management post from his uncle Julius. After completing his studies, he worked in industry for a few years.

Seeberger bosses Clemens Keller and Ralph Beranek (right)

Coffee as a second mainstay.

(Photo: Seeberger)

Keller takes care of the Ulm location, production, finance and human resources. Beranek is responsible for sales, marketing and purchasing. “We also complement each other well: I am the more extrovert, Clemens Keller the analyst and strategist,” says Beranek. When two shifts were introduced in 2014 due to increasing orders, there was trouble with the works council. “It has long been established, the cooperation is going well and constructively,” emphasizes Keller.

Beranek explains the success of Seeberger as follows: “Unlike our competitors, we work with fixed suppliers – sometimes for generations. We know the entire supply chain right down to the tree. The farmers get the best and most beautiful nuts and fruits from the field for us. ”Only ten percent of a harvest has“ Seeberger quality ”.

It has its price. “Customers expect something special from us. We cannot and do not want to keep up with the discounter prices,” explains Keller. The company deliberately does without private labels. Seeberger’s market share among the branded products is around 30 percent. Competitors are the family company Kluth from Henstedt-Ulzburg or nut specialist Ültje, which belongs to the Intersnack snack biscuit group.

Seeberger tries to stand out from the competition with product innovations. For example with soft fruits such as plums or apricots. In 2009, the Ulm company developed a special process to keep them juicy and durable at the same time. Bestseller remains student food. Exotic nut mixes with cranberries and mangoes are increasingly in demand.

“Our customers are getting younger,” says Keller. “Students also afford high-quality natural products today.” Three years ago, the traditional company took over the start-up Müsliglück from the Black Forest. But it was not until Porridge’s breakthrough came. “A new product rarely hits Germany like a bomb, we have to be patient,” says Beranek. Industry expert Theopold honors this: “Seeberger is extremely strong in bringing new concepts to the shelf.”

Competition from corporations

New in the range of around 100 products are natural snacks for on the go such as fruit balls, oat bars and nut mix in bar format. “Healthy snacking continues to be a growth segment,” said Theopold. Last but not least, this can be seen from the fact that Nestlé and Mars is just going big in this market. Mars with the “Be Kind” nut bar and Nestlé with “Yes!”

In addition to balanced nutrition, more and more consumers are also paying attention to sustainability. Seeberger produces around 100 million orange bags of dried fruit and nuts every year. The packaging should keep it fresh for as long as possible. “Biodegradable films made from corn or sugar cane cannot do that at the moment,” says Beranek. This year, however, the Ulm company is converting the packaging to recyclable mono-material film.

The Seeberger bosses not only sell natural products, they are also close to nature in their free time. For many years they undertook racing bike tours and triathlons. They completed the one-week Transalpine Run several times in a team of two.

“With extreme running, you learn to appreciate and trust each other,” says Beranek, who is now a little sporty. Clemens Keller continues to run and relies on a secret weapon from Seeberger: “No marathon without dried pineapple.”

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