“We process and deliver unpeeled onions in one day”

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Roussel Onions has been processing fresh onions for over 25 years. This Belgian onion peeling company serves the Belgian, Dutch and French markets. It is now increasingly focused on the UK. “We find this to be an extremely interesting market“, says Jan Vandenabeele. “We’ve been operating in the well-known markets for over 25 years and always will. But everyone knows us here. The UK market is much bigger, which certainly gives us plenty of opportunities.”

Trade shows
Roussel deliberately chose to focus on the UK. “They import around half of the onions they need, so there are plenty of opportunities for us,” add father and daughter Pol and Charlotte Roussel. “Many Asian dishes are also eaten there, which make extensive use of onions, garlic and ginger. It is the holy trinity of Asian cuisine. This is also linked to our FAIA collaboration.

During the pandemic, contact was usually made online or by phone. Now people are finally allowed to meet in person at trade shows. “We presented our FAIA brand (a Roussel, Waterman Onions, Biesheuvel and Sawari Fresh collaboration) at Fruit Attraction in Madrid. After that, we and other companies were finally able to participate in Fruit Logistica,” Jan continues.

“There we managed to reconnect with potential business partners, which is much easier to do in person. We made several interesting contacts, especially in the UK. It happens much easier that way, instead of the hassle with teams and emails, we now want to develop these new relationships further.

Niche Market
Pol says processing fresh onions is a real niche market. “Fresh onions are maybe 10% of the processed onion market. Customers choose this product very deliberately. Industrial processors of tomato sauce, for example, are more likely to opt for freeze-dried onions or onion powder. But large pizza chains, for example, typically use fresh onion rings on their pizza, which consumers expect. However, this requires some expertise because you are working with a product that has a more limited shelf life.

“That’s where we stand out,” adds Jan. “We buy around 75% of unpeeled onions within a radius of 30 km, with the exception of onions specially requested by our French customers. We do all the peeling, processing and transportation ourselves.

“Some UK processors use peeled onions from, for example, Poland. This means that there is a lot of transportation and time between peeling and destination. This adversely affects the quality and shelf life of the onions,” he explains.

“The trick is to get the onions packed and delivered as quickly as possible. We can offer our English buyers the same service as our Belgian buyers. z, in one day. The unpeeled onions arrive in the morning, are processed, and in the afternoon we transport them. They are delivered, in any desired format, the next day. It really can’t get any faster than that. “

News
For the future, this family business pays particular attention to innovations in automation and packaging. “We are always looking for even more automated processes,” says Charlotte, “but these machines or technologies must of course be perfectly suited to the task and sufficiently reliable. Sorting onions optically is difficult.”

“Unpeeled onions may look perfect, but sometimes it’s only after you peel them that you see their internal problem.” The company also closely follows the evolution of packaging. “We are going to install a whole new packaging line, which is much more automated,” explains Charlotte. “Whenever possible, we automate, but if the technology is not yet fully ready, we wait before taking the next step.”

“Everyone is also trying to find more ways to pack their goods sustainably, which we are certainly open to. For example, we and our customers are increasingly looking for alternatives, such as Big Boxes, to traditional disposable wooden pallets. There is still resistance to this because buyers have been using these wooden pallets for 15 years. Change is not always easy, but buyers are visibly optimistic and want to be part of this sustainability effort. Over time, we want to start minimizing things like ‘single-use’ packaging,” Charlotte concludes.

For more information:
Roussel onions
221 Ypres Street
8560, Moorsele, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 565 05 306
Email: info@rousselonions.com
Website: www.rousselonions.com

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