visiting the harbour town Hamburg
from Gregor Sieböck
Hamburg has the third largest harbour in Europe and thus life in the city is closely interwoven with the sea. Seagulls circle above the roofs of the city, the air is filled with a salty sea breeze, fresh fish are offered at the market stalls and old, bearded "sea dogs" wander around the streets. Bode Naturkost (organic food) is located not far from the harbour, on the outskirts of the city. Bode delivers macadamia nuts from Kenya and Australia, pine nuts currently still from China but soon from Siberia, peanuts from China, white poppyseed from Turkey, apricot stones from Bulgaria and Pakistan, physalis from Ecuador and Peru, grapes from Argentina and Brazil nuts from the Bolivian, Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon to Zotter.
The company was founded by Horst Bode in 1960 and is now being run by the family's second generation. At first they specialised on delivering soft fruits such as figs and apricots to health shops but, as time went by, the product range continued to grow so that, by now, 3,000 different products are on offer. At first only a few products were of organic quality, but Horst Bode wanted to offer only organic food from the beginning. Currently, the share of organic products is 98% of the entire range, the remaining 2% of conventional products are only delivered to health shops that have been costumers for many years and continue to ask for these products.
At the moment, there are 15 employees in the office and 30 employees in the warehouse, whereby 6 employees are busy with quality assurance alone. It is important that the employees share the organic attitude and the philosophy behind it and work conscientiously. Samples are thus taken from all products, which are then checked by nationally accredited laboratories to guarantee impeccable organic quality without residues. Sometimes the strict quality checks discover that the high standards for organic foodstuff have not been met, which leads to the products having to be sold as conventional products, because returning them is often no longer possible. In any case, Bode, together with the supplier, attempts to find out why residues polluted the delivery so that an impeccable organic quality can once again be guaranteed for the next delivery.
The products never stay long in the warehouse of Bode Naturkost because the company tries to offer products that are as fresh as possible. That's also a challenge, however, because the customers usually want quick handling of their orders. Which means that enough fresh products have to be stored in Hamburg at all times. To compensate for crop failures and to disperse the risk, Bode is usually in contact with suppliers from several different countries: for example, they obtain the macadamia nuts for Zotter from Kenya and also from Australia.
The goals of Bode Naturkost are to offer high-quality organic foodstuff and to continue to grow in this sector of the market. In the past few years, Bode has increasingly banked on biodynamic suppliers as trade partners and wants to expand these further.
Bode delivers mainly to processing companies, bakeries, repacking companies (these are wholesalers who supply organic shops or health shops, for example) and also directly to a few health shops. 70% of their customers are in Germany, 30% of the products are being exported.
And the connection to Zotter? Michael Heymann, who has been telling us about Bode Naturkost for the past two hours, asks whether he can be honest with us. "Yes, please!" we prompt him and he tells us: "Zotter is extraordinary because he is our only customer who doesn't have such a marked price sensitivity. To him, the main issue is that the products are of the best quality, it's all right if they cost a bit more. When our suppliers raise their prices, I inform the Zotter chocolate factory about the new tariffs - and that has never led to a discussion yet. For that, Zotter does get the best products from Bode Naturkost, even if they are a bit more expensive."
After our visit to Bode, Simone and I walked back to the train station and took the express train to the harbour. We wanted to go where the containers for Bode arrive every day and thus cruised to the container terminal. We were lucky because the Christophe Colomb from the French shipping company CMA-CGM had just anchored. With a capacity of over 14,000 containers it is currently the larges cargo ship in the world and travels as a liner service between Hamburg and Shanghai. Might the organic peanuts from China for Zotter's famous peanuts and ketchup chocolate have just been delivered in the Christophe Colomb? Who knows?
We also walked through the city and made a little detour to the cargo ship travel agency of the Hamburg-Süd shipping company. We wanted to know if there was any possibility of traveling from Europe to East Africa with a cargo ship. I'd already written to dozens of cargo shipping companies to ask if they could take Simone and me to Africa but they had all told me that they offered no passenger services to the East of the continent. Since I had already travelled from Europe to South America with one of their ships, I also wanted to ask Hamburg-Süd about East Africa, but they had to give me the same negative reply as all the other shipping companies. Now it's clear that we cannot travel to East Africa by ship. Since the alternative of taking the train via Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia is currently too dangerous because of the tense political situation in Egypt, this only leaves the plane as our means to get to the Congo... so we will be taking a plane to Uganda in mid December and will then continue on land into the Rwenzori Mountains.
For us it was now time to return to Austria. We went to the main train station and asked if there were any available tickets for the night train to Vienna. The railway clerk said no and added: "The entire train is fully booked. You can only travel to Salzburg with several changes in the middle of the night and if you still decide to take the night train to Vienna, it's possible that you will not get seats. I wouldn't recommend getting on that train!" This wasn't an altogether brilliant prospect. That's why we walked back to the centre and met Clemens and Marlene Mader from the Lüneburg University there. Clemens is a professor at the renowned sustainability university and we talked a lot about ecologically and socially compatible food production while enjoying a wonderful dinner together. Then Simone and I felt that we still wanted to try taking the night train to Vienna and both had the feeling that it would work. Lots of travellers were already waiting on the platform but when we got on the train, we could hardly believe our eyes: the first compartment already had five empty seats. In fact, the entire compartment coach seemed to be fairly empty. We were glad that we had trusted our intuition and the cosmic travel agency, with which we always travel. Thus we could even pull out the seats in our compartment and each of us had a bed to sleep on. We travelled back to Austria like royalty - having gained lots of experiences and a wonderful trip...
Find more information about Bode Naturkost at: www.bodenaturkost.de