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German company Davert: Ready for the future

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Davert GmbH is a wholefood pioneer and is among Germany’s the top 10 wholefood manufacturers. In the last three years the company has subjected itself to total renewal. The product range and the packaging were re-designed throughout and re-launched. Finished in time for its 30th anniversary, Davert is ready for the future: a pervading modern image, from the firm’s headquarters and the revamped packaging to innovative product ideas. We spoke to the managing partner Erk Schuchhardt and marketing and sales manager Axel Frerks about the new Davert concept, proven standards, focal points and the company’s plans for the future. You can also watch us on video: Video Interview.

Picture: Partner and managing director Erk Schuchhardt has set a lot of new developments in motion at Davert

New people at the top of the firm, a new building, new machines, a new outfit for products and lots of new offerings for convenience cooking – that’s Davert in its thirtieth anniversary year 2014. After not altogether easy years in cramped conditions at the old address, a new age dawned for the company domiciled in Westphalia, whose products can be found in any specialist organic store. In 2011, the founder Rainer Welke transferred responsibility for Davert to the Friedrich Niehoff family and his cousin Franz Niehoff who - already a partner in the company - then took on a bigger role. They took over Davert in order to carry on the family tradition of the medium-size enterprise whose new location in Ascheberg also borders the Davert nature reserve after which the firm was originally named. (Picture: A lot of space: the site offers the possibility of expansion. Erk Schuchhardt standing in front of the administrative wing of the new complex in Ascheberg)

In October 2012, the foundation stone for new headquarters was laid in Ascheberg. About a year later the company moved into its new premises: a modern 8,000 m² building with a hi-tech mill, the very latest filling technology and logistics (space for 8,000 pallets) and an administrative wing. With Erk Schuchhardt, another partner and managing director joined the company. With a long biography in organics and 18 years experience in South and North America, he’s an ideal addition to a firm that imports and processes raw materials from all over the world. Friedrich Niehoff and Schuchhardt have been managing the firm jointly since 2013. Marketing and sales manager Axel Frerks, like a number of young employees, has been in the firm since 2013. The generational change has been carried out successfully and the bold re-launch reflects the rejuvenation of the business. (Picture: Good cooperation: sales manager Axel Frerks and managing director Erk Schuchhardt)

The new Davert headquarters has united four locations under a single roof. The new site is also big enough for further expansion. Modern technology, including four plants with fully automatic case packers, and excellent links to the motorway network mean efficient operations throughout. The modern infrastructure creates a good basis for processing almost 20,000 tonnes of material a year and filling 2.4 million packages a month. But for Erk Schuchardt the trump cards held by Davert are not only the technical improvements but above all the motivated young team of employees embedded in a firm that has 30 years of experience. One of his focal points is securing raw materials: “I’m always concerned to keep on going and making contact with farmers in their locations all over the world – not just to negotiate contracts with them but so that I can understand the reality of their lives.” (Pictures: Latest technology: Hi-tech mill. Packaging lines. Big pack filling)

From the outset, Davert has championed product quality and the promotion of organic farming. A guarantee of provenance is a concept that incorporates a long time frame and fair trade relations that are ensured by project work in particular locations, starting on their doorstep in the cooperation with Westphalian cereals farmers and extending to longstanding links with rice farmers in Italy, farmers supplying dried fruit in Turkey and to the international suppliers in projects in Bolivia and Peru (quinoa, chia), China (for example, millet) and India (for example, basmati rice). Axel Frerks is proud of their huge product variety – fir instance, 38 kinds of rice – and he is delighted that as a consequence of the packaging re-launch they are even more in evidence on the shelves of retailers. “We’ve registered a large number of new listings, and sales have tripled,” Frerks commented in the interview. (Pictures: Andrea Niehoff visiting Indian rice farmers to ensure supplies of raw materials. Millet waiting to be processed and packaged

(Video: Interview with Erk Schuchardt and Axel Frerks)


“Our boldness has paid off,” Frerks concludes. “The feedback from the specialist trade has been wholly positive.” It was a good decision to allocate strong colours to the different product lines – yellow for cereals, red for pulses, blue for rice and pink for ready meals. Moreover, our product developers at Davert were extremely creative and have already greatly expanded the ready meal line that was begun before the re-launch. “Customer surveys have shown us that cooking is still on trend and many people want to develop their own creativity by using simple recipes, and this has given rise to the concept of using fresh food.” Of course, the vegetarian and vegan trend also played into our hands. Cooperation with the vegan Ayurveda chef Volker Mehl will continue to inspire the development of the product range. (Picture: Ayurveda chef Volker Mehl devising vegan recipes for Davert)

As well as constantly developing new products, securing raw materials and ensuring quality, working on the structures within the company and improving operations is, of course, going on all the time. With around 110 employees and turnover of approximately €45m, Davert belongs to the cohort of important medium-size businesses in the Munster region. As Schuchhardt disclosed in the interview, they are already planning new buildings. Looking ahead over several years, their plan supports growth with investment in machinery and infrastructure. “We’ll start building the next phase in a few month’s time so that we can carry on what Davert’s mission has been from the very start, namely to supply the organic sector with top products.” (Picture: Building an extension: Franz and Friedrich Niehoff will soon be reaching for a spade again for the groundbreaking ceremony)

Company profile:

Location                           Ascheberg (Westphalia)
Area                                 21,200 m²
Employees                       110
Business sectors              Brands, private label, trading raw materials
Processing                       Annual purchased volume: 19,000 tonnes
Warehouse                      Space for 8,000 pallets
Technology                      4 plants with fully automatic case packers, automatic pallet packing,
                                         Big-bag filling plant for bulk sacks, 24 multi-head truck filling plant
Certifications                    BCS Öko-Garantie GmbH (DE-ÖKO-001), IFS (top level)
                                         Demeter, Bioland, Fair Trade, Vegan Society
Turnover                          €45m







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