At the age of 24, Matthew started in the food e-commerce business. He has created his own online shop of local products and travels the Belgian roads to discover new products. Today, however, online sales tend to stagnate a bit in our country, after significant growth in the wake of the health crisis. In fact, Belgium lags behind in this respect, compared to our French, German and Dutch neighbours.
“A new site dedicated to produce launched a few weeks ago. It brings together the best Belgian food products”Mathieu wrote to us via the orange alert us button. At 24, this young man from Chaumont-Gistoux travels the roads of our country discovering new products to display in his online store. A few months after launching his project, Matthew now wants us to discover it. He also gets the opportunity to explain to us how much he believes in the future of e-commerce for food in Belgium. “There are more and more players in this sector. It is a thriving sector that is starting to weigh on us and today we see that customers are looking for it. They want local products or no more big retailers and would prefer to have them delivered to their home or office, without having to go shopping”he comments.
It is a thriving sector and it is developing very well in other countries, so there is no reason why it should not develop here.
Mathieu notes that online sales are on the rise and that things tend to get more and more digital. This is what prompted him to create Belmade. “Domestic commerce and e-commerce, these are things that can coexist very well. I see more and more demand and more and more substantial supply, so it shows that it is developing. C is a booming sector and it is developing very well in other countries, so there is no reason not to develop here.”he said confidently.
12% of Belgians shop for food online
It is true that at present Belgium still lags behind compared to our French, German or Dutch neighbours. Only 12% of Belgians buy food online, compared to 30% in France and 25% in Germany. So food e-commerce has not found its full place with us yet. And for good reason, the inertia in the organization of work in Belgium slows down this kind of development. “Companies have long tried to launch their own food business online, but setting it up is very complicated.”Dominique Michel, General Manager of Comeos, explains the association responsible for Belgian shops and services.
When a large structure, which employs a few hundred or thousands of people, wants to change the way it works, it takes years, because “Our system goes back to the last century in social matters, in terms of regulations”Dominique Michel points out. “We saw it during the coronavirus crisis, and we see it now for all digital activities, it takes years. However, digital does not wait. New ideas arrive every day, so we must have the possibility to evolve and adapt much faster”Continue.
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Therefore, these large Belgian chains do not have the possibility to adapt to today’s world, and as a result, foreign companies surround the Belgian market and provide us with these services immediately. Hello Fresh is a good example of thisquoted by the general manager of Comeos. This supplier from the Netherlands has surprised its turnover in recent years. Unfortunately, it’s not a Belgian channel and it’s not 100% Belgian labor and Dutch products. Is this the message we want to send to our farmers? That tomorrow or the day after tomorrow they will have less and less work because their products will be replaced by Dutch or French products?
For him, the main problem is labor market reform. “Even if the government tried to make some small changes a few weeks ago, it is not enough. The small steps taken by the government must be multiplied and must be modified so that we can finally work in Belgium as foreign countries do.” The issue now? Allow the Belgian players in the online food retail sector to develop as they wish, without falling into an archaic system as is the case today. “If we do not do this, we will in any case lead to an explosion of food trade via the Internet, as in neighboring countries, except that a significant part of this trade will go abroad.”Dominique Michel regrets.
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The latter also congratulates Matthew’s initiative and encourages him to continue on this path. “We have to do it, we don’t have a choice. This is what the consumer wants: he wants sustainable local products, from home … We must have this possibility, from Belgium, so that we can organize it all and not be invaded by operators from neighboring countries “he insists.
However, according to an economist we interviewed, the current trend in e-commerce has not evolved much for some time, after “amazing growth” After the health crisis: “What we’re seeing in most European countries is that this explosive growth of e-commerce is now picking up slightly. We’re seeing the consumer returning to physical stores, but Belgium, it’s rather a downturn in that trend, a stagnation rather than a decrease”analyzes Pierre-Alexandre Billet.
I think this is the future and there really is a place for home delivery of food
Of course, this does not mean that the online food business is in danger. exactly the contrary, This trend will continue to exist.according to the economist and professor at the Solvay Institute, however “less advanced speed”, notice. In 5 to 10 years, we expect food e-commerce to account for between 20 and 30% of the market, according to our interlocutor’s observations. And if Belgium seems to lag behind our neighbors today, it is also because our country has a large number of physical stores. Thus, alternatives such as home delivery of food items are not an absolute necessity for the population. “We have approximately one store for every 3,500 Belgians. We are one of the most densely populated countries in Europe in terms of physical stores. Thus, this is not a lag in terms of e-commerce, but simply a less developed consumer necessity”says Pierre-Alexandre Pellet.
Despite all this, this economist also emphasizes the project created by the 24-year-old Chumontua. “I think that this is the future and that there really is a place for this home food delivery. But above all, the framework at the political and economic level must support the development in a sustainable way. I think that this delay that we are talking about continues to be a source of strength today and should make it possible Question some things. But we have to find the answers now.”Concludes.
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