Regional cooperative food network in West-Flanders

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 - Published by Hein Braaksma
An example of a regional cooperative food network between local producers and institutional kitchens. In this pilot, we want to adress consumers of the institutional kitchens of Boeverbos, Sint-Bernardus and ViVES Kortrijk, as they have a large impact on the society. By bringing the local products to the institutional kitchens, the SME’s can increase their turnover.

By bringing the local products to the institutional kitchens, the SME’s can increase their turnover. This is only one of the numerous benefits of the cooperative food network. However, through interviews of the institutional kitchens, some difficulties were identified:
-       They want to be sure that the safety of the food they order is guaranteed.
-       They are afraid that this will go with a lot of administration.
-       They are facing difficulties to include local food in public offers.
-       They say that there is little demand from the costumers of the institutional kitchens.

To tackle the first two difficulties, a solution was to include a distribution platform as a logistic partner in the network to facilitate the link between the producers and institutional kitchens. Two different distribution platforms were therefore included in the pilots: Bidfood in Oudenaarde, East-Flanders and Horeca Totaal in Bruges, West-Flanders.
Both platforms are very different. Bidfood is an international company that has a lot of experience in provisioning institutional kitchens, but only little experience in cooperating with local producers. Horeca Totaal, on the other hand, is a national platform that has a lot of experience in cooperating with regional producers, but is experiencing a decreasing demand of local food from the institutional kitchens.
Two different approaches will be used to tackle the challenges of the platforms. With Bidfood the supply side will be facilitated by showing the producers how to cooperate with Bidfood. With Horeca Totaal the demand side will be facilitated by trying to raise awareness in the institutional kitchens to increase the demand of local food.

How did we do it?
To bring the SME’s in contact with the distribution platform Bidfood, the Flemish partners organized a network event on 20th December. During this meeting, the project was presented, the producers got to know each other and Bidfood explained how they operate.
From February 2018 on, the website of the pilot will be published online, and the SME’s will be able to register themselves via the website. Once an SME is registered, we will contact him to evaluate which requirements the SME is not yet complying with to deliver his food to the distribution platform. To comply to these requirements, they will be given support by the team of experts. In the following step, the SME will be incorporated in the mapping of the supply on the website. As such, his company details will be visible for the institutional kitchens. The SME will also be introduced to the distribution platform. Finally, the institutional kitchen that is interested in one of the products on the website, will order the product through the distribution platform, that will take care of the delivery of the product. 

Next steps
To make the project a success, we will have to convince as much SME’s as possible to enrol in the project, and at the same time raise the awareness in the institutional kitchens to increase the demand of local food.