What's it all about?
👉🏼 What does an International Trading Office (ITO) actually do?
👉🏼 METRO employee Andrea Ceballos Mascarell: A portrait
The earth smells of rain. Yesterday evening it poured – not such a common occurrence here in the Málaga region. And a blessing for the avocado plantation. Andrea Ceballos Mascarell tramps along closely planted rows of trees. Only from directly beneath a tree do the avocados become visible – great numbers of them, richly green in colour, hidden under dense foliage. They’re still rock-hard. But not for long. Three days from now, at a METRO store in Paris or en route directly to restaurants with the METRO delivery service, the avocados from Andalusia will be at their perfect degree of ripeness: ‘ready to eat’.
Pablo Teutsch, from the avocado producer Frutas Montosa, explains at the plantation the special water-saving technologies with which the fields of up to 30 hectares are irrigated, and how each avocado is harvested by hand and individually inspected again later. Frutas Montosa is one of the leading avocado growers in Spain and Europe’s biggest producer of guacamole.
Andrea’s visits to suppliers are important, she says – for her own understanding of the production processes, but also for the partners’ understanding of METRO’s requirements. An example: ‘Unlike in retail, Saturday isn’t a particularly big shopping day for our customers, who are restaurateurs,’ Andrea explains. ‘They buy a lot more on Thursdays to prepare their weekend menus.’ Allowing for the three days of ripening, she therefore orders larger amounts of avocados on Mondays. This, in turn, is relevant to the grower’s planning of the harvest.
Availability determines the price
A change of scene: to Valencia, on Spain’s eastern coast, 8.30 the next morning. The ‘commercial meeting’ is the first thing on Andrea’s agenda for the day. She is taking part online, along with 30 of her colleagues from the Valencia Trading Office (VTO). This week’s raspberry yield is especially strong, a colleague reports: ‘We have enough volume to run a promotional offer.’ Andrea nods intently. From raspberries, the focus moves to aubergines, then to broccoli, courgettes and tomatoes.
Tomatoes are a topic at her 9.30 team meeting as well – this time, in person in a conference room. A large monitor displays Excel lists indicating target and actual figures. What demand was predicted? How much has in fact been harvested and what price is it being offered for? For the own brand METRO Chef, the current demand for tomatoes is 25% above the amount projected. Because of this variability, Andrea’s team reviews the volumes from all suppliers every week.
What does Andrea especially like about her work as Senior Commercial Buyer/Seller? ‘It’s the best team I’ve ever worked with,’ she says with a smile. ‘Truly.’ An industrial designer by training, Andrea’s career has taken her to places as far afield as Tunisia. By ‘team’, she means, on the one hand, four of the 90-plus employees at the VTO. Under her lead, they are responsible for the fruit and vegetables that METRO France sources through the VTO (see info box). On the other, she means the French colleagues that she has taken to her heart. From the trading office perspective, METRO France – like any national subsidiary that sources goods through its own ITO teams – is technically a customer. Andrea shakes her head: ‘We’re ONE METRO. That’s how we think and that’s how we act.’
Close contact is key
Communication is essential, says Andrea. Colleagues in the local stores, for instance, need to understand that a special offer has to be coordinated right from the beginning of the supply chain – when, for example, volumes from an especially strong raspberry harvest present the opportunity to negotiate the price with the supplier. The ITO colleagues are specialised in this ‘common sourcing’, in which the demand from multiple companies is pooled rather than handling the demand of each one separately. In this scenario, Andrea’s team meetings take place in a lively mix of Spanish and French.
Andrea was born in France and moved to Valencia with her parents when she was ten. Even though she has a special connection with Paris (‘It calls up childhood memories’), Valencia is home. The hectic traffic in the city’s crowded streets doesn’t faze her. At the end of the work day, she eases her car into what must be the tightest car park in town. She lives right in the city centre, with her sons (15 and 17), her partner and his children (17 and 22). Andrea’s anchor of calm when the day is done is her cat, Lola, who greets her, meowing, at the door of their flat in their old building. Sitting on the sofa with the cat purring contentedly on her lap, Andrea talks about her next project: the minimum order quantities for the pallets of lemons, courgettes and, of course, avocados the VTO procures. It’s going to demand a lot from her. Seasoned pro that she is, though, Andrea is sure to take it in her stride.
of fruit and vegetables are sourced by the VTO per year.
Pooled purchasing minus the middleman
Whether it be avocados, citrus fruits or fish – for global procurement, METRO relies on ‘common sourcing’. This means that International Trading Offices (ITOs) bundle the demand from over 30 METRO countries. The ITOs source the products directly from local suppliers – without intermediaries. That guarantees not only variety, freshness and quality, but also price advantages, which in turn benefit customers. In addition to the Spanish Trading Office in Valencia, which specialises in fruit and vegetables, further Trading Offices for meat and fish are located in the Netherlands and France. At the ITOs, global sourcing and the regional sourcing of the countries complement each other. Depending on the season and availability, products like tomatoes may be sourced either from regional growers or – in the winter months, for example – Spain or Morocco. Around 80% of the food METRO sells is procured regionally and about 20% through the ITOs.