interview Published on October 25, 2018

NPCC organises matchmaking for 10 companies

The source of this article is Link Bulletin Magazine No.63.

On 9 and 10 April, the NEC (Netherlands Export Combination), together with the Netherlands-Polish Chamber of Commerce, organised a matchmaking mission to Poland for companies from the food sector. The goal of the mission was to offer direct and high-quality meetings for participants in the retail sector in Poland.

As in many other countries, grasping the opportunities offered by foreign markets is essential for Dutch companies in order to grow and prosper. As was demonstrated by the significant number of 10 participants present during this mission, Poland is a market of considerable interest.

Prior to the mission, there were two months of preparations to organise the tailor-made meetings with Polish partners. The individual screening and market search was followed by contacting and cold/warm calling by the chamber’s staff to set up the meetings with the requested partners. Each year, over 30 companies benefit from such matchmaking services.
On Monday morning, the participants had their meetings in the premises of the Netherlands Embassy, which hosted the matchmaking. After that, some of the companies went for a store check, while other participants had their meetings in Warsaw or other places around Poland.

A good example is Expert Cheese, who travelled from Kraków to Gdańsk and only met the other participants on Tuesday evening during the monthly business drink organised by the chamber.

Many of the participants used Tuesday to visit the World Food Fair in Warsaw, which was being organised this year for the sixth time. For those who didn’t have individual meetings after Tuesday, the trip ended on Tuesday evening with a visit to the Business Drink of the NPCC in the Holiday Inn in Warsaw.

During the meeting, there was a presentation by Edyta Kochlewska, Editor-in-Chief of the portal dlahandlu.pl, who gave an interesting presentation about the main players on the Polish food market as well as on consumer behaviour. The speaker was organised by the Netherlands Embassy in Warsaw.

Expert Cheese upgrades cheeses which have been classified as side flow by the producers. The company participated in the matchmaking mission to Poland organised by NEC and the Netherlands-Polish Chamber of Commerce. Bulletin talked to Steven Geurtsen, Export Sales Manager at Expert Cheese.

Can you tell us something about your business?

“Expert Cheese buys cheese from the big producers in Holland, Germany and Belgium. We clean the cheese and upgrade any products that may have had certain production problems, such as too high salt content. Sometimes, the specifications are so tight that even a slight deviation can result in a downgraded product. In such situations, the product can still be suitable for people who grate it or mix it, or who make milk with processed cheese. That is the market in which we operate.”

How do you see the Polish market?

“The Polish market is quite big and there are many producers with whom we would like to cooperate, such as Sertop, Jager, and also Polmek and Mlekovita. The market is quickly becoming modernised and the competitiveness of the Polish market is also increasing.

I have noticed myself that the roads have improved, and that brings more efficient logistics. If you buy and sell, it must be possible to ship at the lowest cost possible because it is a competitive market, where each cent is important.”

Why did you decide to participate in this mission from the NEC?

“Personally speaking, it’s the first time I’ve used this mechanism of matchmaking as I’m the type of person who usually tries to find his own way. However, I just thought: “Let’s give it a try, why not?”

Sometimes we can focus too much on our own country and forget about Poland as we travel around Europe, but I was surprised by the visit and noticed that this country has a lot of potential.”

I think that you were one of the participants that travelled the most around the country. You started from Kraków and travelled to Gdańsk in the north. Do you know how many kilometres you covered?

“It must have been close to two thousand in a few days. I started my private trip at the weekend, and then on Monday at 8 o’clock
I had my first meeting in Katowice. It was also surprising for me that there were two meetings planned for Monday. I thought maybe it’s not enough, but in the end I arrived back at the hotel at 19.00 and I realised that travelling takes quite a long time in this country.”

And how was your experience with the companies?

“The meetings I had were always with three people or more, so they all took the meetings very seriously. Some spoke English, others spoke German, and then they talked to each other in Polish, of course. I noticed that you must gain their trust, which cannot be done in one meeting, so I have plans for another trip to get to know the partners better.”

So a “quick win” is difficult unless you have some superior product that nobody has?

“That’s right. And sometimes you don’t come at the right moment and you need to go back. In the current dairy market in Western Europe, with all the changes and EU regulations, we see that the prices of milk, butter and other dairy products like cheese have been increasing quite rapidly.

When you try to build up a business, and the prices increase quickly, then the people you deal with have to get used to this new level and you can’t expect them to buy your products very quickly.”

Can you tell us a little more about the meetings you had?

“All of the companies I met could become customers of Expert Cheese, I’m sure about that. It’s just that our market on the supplier side is drying up a bit so I don’t push them to buy when I’m not sure that I will have the products in stock. As I said, in most cases I didn’t go for the hard sell but I tried to build on the contact.

So I helped them with some contacts abroad, for instance. This is a kind of free gift that I give in meetings like that in order to keep the contact for a longer time and it also helps me to go back to them when I have more in stock.”

Noordhoek Cheese was one of the participants in the matchmaking mission organised by the NPCC and NEC. The company was founded in 1998 and grates all types of cheese but their main product is grated mozzarella cheese, of which they are produce around 15,000 tons annually. The company exports to 12 countries inside the European Union. We talked to Peter de Goede, Commercial Manager of Noordhoek Cheese.

You shared with us the story of how you started doing business on the Polish market. Can you tell us why you chose Poland?

Peter de Goede: “Poland is a huge country of 38 million people and it has an economy with strong growth. We are currently remodelling our company and want to increase the capacity and sales volume. Poland is therefore an interesting market.

From what I could gather from the companies that I talked to in Poland, the quality of the products from our competitors fluctuates a lot and this is where we stand out.”

You met several companies as part of the matchmaking process, what was your general impression?

“I spoke to several companies and the impression was very good. We had meetings with important players in the market. We were asked to send some samples and product specifications, which means that they are interested at least and didn’t have the meeting just to check our prices. Therefore, I am really satisfied with the results of the matchmaking so far.”

What did you learn from these conversations?

“Well, in a way, we got confirmation of our initial understanding of the market, which is that they love Dutch cheese, they are looking for reliable partners and they are very enthusiastic about Dutch quality. In all the conversations, I had the impression that the meeting was not for nothing and that they were willing to do business. Especially when I saw that one of the companies from Kraków was willing to come to Warsaw for one meeting, spending 3 hours in the car and 1 hour in the meeting. That showed that they really were interested.”

Did you find out anything new about your market in Poland?
“I learned that mozzarella is very popular in Poland. I did a small store check in Makro and shelves covering a couple of square metres were filled with all types of grated mozzarella. Some of them from Polish producers were not always of the best quality and, surprisingly, some of the prices were pretty high, like in the Netherlands, Germany or France.”

So how do you see the price level of your product in Poland?

“There is always a big competition and pressure on the price. Although I think that, of course, you have to be competitive in the market, the current market is also looking for reliable partners, continuous quality and a wide range of products. These are much bigger issues.”