The project began in 2017 and became known internally as the ‘Fruit & Veg Revolution ’ at METRO Bulgaria. Preparations were intensive. ‘During the first 6 months we were constantly on the road. We travelled at least 40,000 kilometres, as much as the Earth’s circumference,’ Ivan Raynov recalls. He and his team criss-crossed the country, and meetings with small producers followed one after the other. The trip was organised with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and local organisations of farmers from the different regions. ‘There was a song rolling in my mind; one by Willie Nelson,’ the METRO manager says. ‘On the road again.’
Today METRO Bulgaria’s range of fruits and vegetables includes more than 300 kinds of local products, supplied by over 150 small farmers across the country. In the last year, over 4,300 tonnes of fruits and vegetables were sold, including Bulgarian varieties – from tomatoes and cucumbers to onions and peppers through to cabbage, beans and many others. The selection of regional fruits is just as impressive.
The products are offered according to a fixed schedule, which is determined by the time the farm products are grown and harvested during the season. ‘Garlic is on the shelves in March and April, and radishes too. Onions arrive in early March. Greenhouse production of cucumbers begins in February, and of cabbage in April. We start selling strawberries in the same month, and potatoes and courgettes follow in May. The pink tomato is available from June until late September.’
METRO Bulgaria supplies all key customer groups, including the independent traders (Traders) as well as service providers and other independent market participants (SCOs). The most important engine for the growth and successful development of the company with its over 2,200 employees, however, are the hotels, restaurants and catering businesses (HoReCa). The hotel and food service industry is expanding fast, especially in the big cities and tourist centres along the Black Sea coast and the regions that are popular amongst hikers and skiers, in the Pirin, Rila, Stara Planina and Rhodope mountains.