Royal FruitMasters, with four hundred affiliated fruit growers, is the largest fruit cooperative in the Netherlands. They market Dutch quality fruit and imported fruit directly from the source to trading houses and retailers both domestically and internationally. Trade fairs are an important part of their marketing mix. For this purpose, they have been doing business with Eldee Expo Experts for many decades. A conversation with Dick Heijmans (Innovation Manager at FruitMasters) and Caroline Drost (Managing Director of Eldee).
In Berlin, Madrid, practically all European countries, and even in Asia, FruitMasters can be found with their exhibition stand. “We are where our market is,” says Dick Heijmans. “Trade fairs are important for us, not only because we can showcase our products there, but mainly because we can have one-on-one conversations with our customers. That’s where we meet new customers or strengthen existing relationships. We present our new and existing products there, or show customers, for example, how they can increase their sales more intelligently.”
To ensure that these operations run smoothly every time, the people at FruitMasters need a reliable partner. Dick Heijmans says, “A company that not only needs to continually surprise us with a striking and attractive stand design but also handles all the aspects of participating in such a trade fair for us. Don’t underestimate it; participating in a trade fair involves more than just building a booth. You’re talking about permits, safety requirements, logistics and transportation, catering space, the construction of one or more meeting rooms, the number of refrigerators for fruit refreshments, whether we bring all the equipment or rent it on-site. All of this needs to be decided and implemented within a limited timeframe and an agreed-upon budget.” Caroline Drost adds, “That’s precisely what we do. We facilitate our clients from A to Z. Of course, we don’t need to explain who they are to a company like FruitMasters; they are a global player. In every briefing, we discuss extensively what their goals are, where the emphasis will be this time. We focus on the design, and we’ve developed a unique 6-step approach for that. It also takes into account factors like sustainability, safety, storage capacity, and transportation logistics. For clients with a trade fair in the USA, for example, we build the stand entirely ourselves, while in Russia, you can outsource it, and we only do the final inspection. FruitMasters remains the critical sparring partner with fruit expertise throughout the entire process, and we don’t interfere with that.”
How do you ensure that a trade fair booth does what it’s supposed to do? How do you engage visitors so that they enter your booth, make them feel comfortable, help them find the information they’re looking for effortlessly, and create an environment that combines efficiency with a professional image that suits your company? “It’s almost a science. Every time we visit a trade fair, I walk around critically, looking for things that could also be valuable for us,” says Dick Heijmans. “And the professionalism, creativity, and innovative capacity of your booth builder naturally play a significant role. Every time we commission a new booth, we want to be surprised with a new concept or a different idea. However, it’s not automatic that Eldee gets every project. Every few years, we issue a request for proposals and invite multiple agencies. Essentially, it’s a competition where the best one wins. The fact that the people at Eldee know our company inside and out and can understand us with just half a word gives them an advantage, but it’s never a sure thing.”
Eldee Expo Experts and FruitMasters have been working together for a long time. “I remember that in the late 1980s, we needed a new name,” Dick Heijmans recalls. “I sat down with Henk Drost (founder of Eldee) on a Friday afternoon, and we came up with FruitMasters. Over the weekend, we had Caroline, who was already working here, create examples, which we presented to the Board of Directors on Monday. It was approved.” According to Caroline, the strength of the collaboration lies in constantly challenging each other. “This is a highly competitive industry. That’s why we need to listen carefully, recognize the customer’s needs, and provide the optimal solution. Ultimately, there also needs to be a connection because you have to work closely together. We’re a company that places a high value on service. Attention to detail, understanding how we can further assist a customer to make their trade fair participation a success. It starts with staying critical; that’s ingrained in our organization, never operating on autopilot, but always striving for maximum performance. Always keeping in mind that you’re only as good as your last performance. Because that’s the truth; if you slack off, there’s always a colleague ready to take over.”
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