Adelantex Brings Perishables Fresh to Europe’s Shelves

The Brussels-headquartered specialist in the handling of vegetables, seafood, flowers and fruits has become a flagship for excellence in processing all kinds of perishables. A key electronic tool is their ‘Sky Fresh’ platform, making shipment status fully transparent and real-time data constantly available for clients.

Business Director Frank van Gelder of Adelantex  -  photo: hs
Business Director Frank van Gelder of Adelantex - photo: hs

At Adelantex they understand themselves not only as being a ground handler of temperature sensitive goods, but as a service provider in a broader sense managing the cool chain in close cooperation with airlines, consignees, trucking companies as well as airport and customs officials. It’s service quality that counts when it comes to best processing temperature and time critical shipments arriving Europe by air, states Business Director Frank van Gelder of Adelantex, who is also board member of the influential freight association Air Cargo Belgium.

Handling-plus services
In practice, this means that his company offers clients assistance when needed, like guiding them through the bureaucratic jungle for obtaining a specific license or a certificate required for importing or exporting goods, in case of customs issues or alike daily imperatives. This all in addition to the company’s core business: the handling and processing of perishables. 
Official figures evidence how important this commodity has become. According to statistics 600,000 tons of perishables were flown into Europe last year, with Brussels accounting for ten percent. Connections to Latin America will enlarge that footprint significantly, estimates Mr van Gelder.
Adelantex is headquartered at Brussels Zaventem Airport, where the perishables specialist runs a 3,000 square meter facility with direct apron access equipped with different temperature areas, geared to the specifications of the individual commodities. The company provides direct tarmac transfers of perishables from aircraft to aircraft. “This way, we reduce ground time, speed up transportation and secure utmost product quality,” states Frank. At BRU, Adelantex subcontracts its top handling services to ADHandling, guaranteeing utmost product quality, states the company.

High rates of spoiled goods
Quality is a highly critical feature when it comes to perishables, as disturbing figures tabled by trading organizations show. According to statistics, roughly 45 percent of all perishables harvested in Sub-Sahara Africa spoil before they reach European consumer markets, as Frank confirms. He further points out that about one third of these 45 percent of wasted goods can be attributed to logistics deficits in combination with infrastructural shortcomings. This way, a huge mass of agricultural foodstuff is going down the drain day by day, affecting the economies of the source countries extremely negatively. This all the more since perishables account for nearly 95 percent of all African exports!

Long time in business
Up to now, nobody has found the philosopher’s stone for rapidly changing things for the better. The same accounts for Adelantex, despite the fact that the company is equipped with a wealth of experience after being in the perishables business since 1992. However, Frank van Gelder highlights a key tool to improve the dire situation in combination with an upgrade of infrastructure and the removing of bureaucratic barriers: the exchange of electronic data between all participants of a given supply chain. “The future of the perishables business lies in sharing data,” states the manager, pointing out that the current lack of communication between the players involved is a major factor cementing the waste problem. “We need to act disruptive not only think disruptive.” This requires the constant exchange of real-time information about the flow of goods from the fields to the shelves. A visibility that includes air freight transports which are a decisive component of the entire supply chain, Frank notes. “Air freight is a complex issue, involving different parties, different systems and operational specifics.”

In five hours from BRU to PAR
Receiving precise data prior to the arrival of a shipment in Brussels, Liege or Leipzig where Adelantex runs offices, enables the company to effectively organize their internal workflows, allocate sufficient storage space if needed and to ensure fast onward transportation. “From Brussels we reach 85 percent of the European consumer market by truck within 12 hours,” Frank says. To illustrate his company’s efficiency, he mentions transfers of “Fresh to Shelf” goods from Brussels to Paris. From the arrival of the aircraft at BRU it takes no more than 5 hours until the items are handed over to the retailers in the French capital, he states. “Perishables that arrive at Brussels in a fully loaded Boeing 747 freighter leave the airport by truck for their onward journey in maximum 4 hours after landing.”

  • some stats 600000 tons airfreight perishables to Europe, the Brussels footprint in this is 10% in total and growing exponentially. Connections to Latin America will enlarge that footprint significantly

It’s the mindset that counts
The company’s success is based on a number of pillars: focusing on the perishables business, pushing digitalization ahead, thus enabling clients and industrial players data access and transparency on a shipment’s real-time status and a noteworthy entrepreneurial mindset. Frank van Gelder further explains: “We look at our entire processes with the eyes of the consumers.”
This way of thinking might not be unique in the industry, but it has helped Adelantex to become the first among equals in handling and processing perishables at Brussels, Liege and the many other airports the company is present.  

Heiner Siegmund

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