Supplying inspiring, visually attractive perennials with a high turnover rate for our clients. That is the mission of F.N. Kempen from Mijdrecht. Director Sander van der Vaart explains how they do this every day at home and abroad, with an eye for people, society and the environment. And how they always seek to cooperate with parties such as Container Centralen.
“Our plants are always the most beautiful version of themselves,” says Sander. “No matter what time of year they are on the CC Containers in garden centres or DIY stores, they almost call out ‘take me with you’. They are just as beautiful in real life as in the picture. That is a real Kempen’, we often hear back from our customers. We offer quality products with our own Black Label and have a solid base of more than 40 plants, including the Heuchera (purple plant) and Echinacea (sunflower).
We are very proud of this and we all work very hard for it throughout the year. Because we have a very extensive range and are constantly innovating, we are the leading player in our segment.”
Sustainability within limits
“There is an increasing need for a ‘license to produce’ within our sector; a guideline that allows you to operate sustainably within the business conditions required to keep your company healthy,” Sander continues. “Because sustainability is of course one of our starting points, but sometimes it cannot be fitted into the market in which you operate. Or it is not profitable enough. The guideline is The Floriculture Sustainability Initiative 2025 (FSI). This is an initiative from our sector itself. It connects members in the flower and plant sector worldwide and strives for members to continuously monitor progress on issues such as transparency, responsible production and trade, positive impact on the environment and improvement of the supply chain. With the year 2025 as an oak tree or measuring point. I am extremely proud that we have already achieved the maximum score on all points long before this year. For example, we have all the certifications to meet this target, our nursery is officially recognised as a zero-waste facility and we do not use neonicotinoids. We use recycled pots, we have solar panels on our roof, our colleagues drive electric cars as much as possible and we drink our coffee from stone cups. The involvement and input from colleagues is also great, which stimulates us every day to take the subject further, even if it is sometimes in small steps.”
On the road together with Container Centralen
“About half of our production takes place in Mijdrecht. The other half takes place in southern Europe, in countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal,” Sander continues. “That creates a lot of transport flows, which we obviously want to handle as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
About three years ago, we discovered that we were driving south with empty containers, shelves and bases, while Container Centralen was doing the same in the north. We both thought that we could do this more intelligently and efficiently. What if we did it together? With our account manager Andrea Louise Wright, we went to Italy to look for a solution that suited us both. We found it in the use of the CC depot in Milan and later Albenga in the northern Italian province of Liguria. By combining and exchanging the residual flows from our joint trips, we have made enormous profits. There are no more half-empty or empty trucks driving from north to south or vice versa and we have found each other at a good price. This makes a considerable difference to our joint footprint in terms of emissions and is therefore profitable for both of us in many ways.”
Only together you get there
“It’s nice to work with a party that understands your goals and mission, because they feel the same way. Container Centralen has the same vision when it comes to sustainability, which makes discussions easy. And, not unimportantly, the solutions are profitable for both of us! We are convinced that, when it comes to sustainability, you always have to look for connections in order to work together. Only then can you really bring about change together; you just don’t start much on your own. In addition, the requirements of retailers are becoming increasingly higher. We are therefore proud of our GlobalG.A.P. certification, which, since last year, has full coverage of FSI 2025 and is therefore a globally recognised standard for the agricultural sector. This allows us to properly show what our standard is in terms of quality and sustainability, which is something we are happy and proud of.”
“Our location close to the auction offers many advantages. One of the biggest is that we can let our customers experience how beautiful our plants are; in the summer, our site is a motley collection of colour. We can therefore always put together a representative CC Container for the shops. And of course it is sustainable in transport, with such a small distance. I stepped into Kempen in 2016 during FlowerTrials Ⓡ and never left,” laughs Sander. “The company suits me. I am at my best in the hectic and bustle of a seasonal business. I am therefore very proud to be co-owner. The planning, the beautiful product, our great team, the sector… I enjoy every aspect of it, every day.
With the wind
“I’ll be honest,” Sander concludes, the COVID-19 pandemic, unlike previous financial crises, has not done us any harm. I have been in the flower and plant business for a long time, but this was an unprecedented situation. After the first big shock and the complete halt of trade, we are now back to business as usual. With all the organisational measures and challenges that this entails, by the way. It turns out that consumers want to be cosy right now, and fortunately for us, a green, fresh interpretation is part of that. Because our plants always look beautiful, an impulse purchase is easily made. The purchase of a plant ensures cosiness and colour in the garden, things that are so badly needed. It is great that we can contribute to this with F.N. Kempen!