Marc Puccini – SCEA Les Fruits du Soleil – and Philippe Jean – Cofruid’Oc: “Asparagus are a historical product for our company”
“We now differentiate ourselves by producing only green asparagus”
In the southeast of France, Marc Puccini has been producing melons, salads, grapes for high-end wine (Domaine du Mas des Armes in Aniane) since 1986, as well as more than 40 hectares of green and white asparagus. The early arrival of his asparagus on the market used to be his way to differentiate himself from other production basins, but the asparagus grower has now opted for another strategy.
“We do have greenhouses and tunnels to arrive a bit earlier in the season. But the competition for white asparagus is increasingly tough. The Landes region, largest producing basin in France, has relatively advanced cultivation techniques allowing them to gain in precocity. For the last 3 years, precocity has not been an asset for our region. However, we have some leverage thanks to our green asparagus, a product that is very popular in France. Our product is qualitative and a great way for us to differentiate ourselves. It is of course more technical to produce than the white asparagus, but its popularity has been growing everywhere in France, which also allows us to sell it locally,” explains Marc Puccini.
With this in mind, the producer decided to produce only green asparagus this year. “Little by little, we have specialized in the cultivation of green asparagus. We start harvesting in February and finish in early May. The production in greenhouses allows us to offer a product that is visually attractive, regular and of great taste quality.”
Partnership with marketer Cofruid’Oc
For 5 years now, Marc Puccini has decided to work with marketer Cofruid’Oc, better known for its activity in the apple sector. “We have decided to join forces in order to market our asparagus. We share their premium brand ‘La Sauvageonne’ and are therefore able to multiply our outlets.”
“Asparagus are a historical product for our company,” explains Philippe Jean of Cofruid’Oc. “It is a fresh product that announces the arrival of spring and is very dear to us. Over the last 15 years, Cofruid’Oc’s asparagus production has declined slightly. But in the last 4-5 years, some new producers have started cultivating this vegetable and they even have their own packaging units. Our asparagus offer has therefore increased again. Green asparagus now represent two thirds of our volumes. We have surrounded ourselves with real specialists, who know very well how to work the product. This allows us to provide our clients with premium asparagus that are quite long (about 27 cm), with a beautiful green color on almost all the length. And since we are in a region with a relatively warm climate, the asparagus can grow quickly and well, which is an asset in terms of quality because the faster an asparagus grows, the more tender it is.”
‘La Sauvageonne’: a premium brand of green asparagus popular in France and abroad
Marc Puccini and Cofruid’Oc sell their asparagus all over France, via wholesalers and shippers, and Cofruid’Oc also sells them for export. “The asparagus is sold a lot on open-air markets because it is sold fresh and requires the shortest possible distribution channels,” explains Philippe Jean.
“The vegetable is also very popular among chefs, especially when it comes to premium brands such as La Sauvageonne for green asparagus and our Célestine brand for white asparagus, which we sell through wholesalers and Cash & Carry. Regarding the white asparagus, the marketing of our products depends greatly on the production from the Landes region, even if we have a premium brand to differentiate ourselves. For the green asparagus, on the other hand, we are one of the leaders on the French market. The competition mostly comes from abroad: Peru, Latin America and Spain. We used to export a lot more, but the markets that used to import have now become producers themselves which has really slowed down their imports. Luckily, other markets are very fond of our green asparagus, such as Scandinavia, especially Norway. Our clients follow us from the beginning to the end of the season.”
With the cold temperatures of the past few days, the production has slowed down a bit, but “within 2 to 3 weeks, we should have much larger volumes.”
For more information:
SCEA Fruits du Soleil
Phone: +33 (0) 4 67 29 62 30
Phone: +33 (0) 4 67 91 90 19