Bon appétit.
Transport Magazine

Bon appétit.

apetito stands for delicious, deep‑freeze menus delivered directly to customers – predominantly using the Mercedes‑Benz Atego.

Be it for nursery children or senior citizens: the high‑quality, frozen dishes from apetito feed hundreds of thousands of happy people on a daily basis. The flagship in the company’s fleet is currently the Atego.

“This is our boiler room” says Frank Schartmann, referring to the logistics centre. Despite its warm nickname, it’s ice cold in the long hall. Minus 24 degrees Celsius to be precise. Glasses fog up instantly and anyone who works here sorting the small boxes on the conveyor line or moving the bigger boxes into the loading bays with pallet trucks has to wear thermals. That’s because, in the apetito AG logistics centre in Rheine, where the frozen menus are prepared for transport, this is as warm as it gets!

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A strong team: Frank Schartmann (left), Head of Cockpit Distribution/Fleet, and Heiko Schreck, Head of Distribution Strategy and also responsible for vehicle management.

“From our location here, we deliver all over Germany, the Netherlands and Austria,” says Frank Schartmann, Head of Cockpit Distribution/Fleet for apetito’s decentralised logistics processes. Many of the meals are eaten by nursery and school children, or senior citizens in care homes or their own houses. For these customers, apetito’s business system offers a range of 1,650 menus and menu components. For example, beef roulade in gravy with boiled potatoes and red cabbage – the favourite dish at the beginning of the year among older customers. Or even vegetarian lentil soup – a plate well‑appreciated by children.

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For both customer groups, apetito is a real pioneer: in 1969, the provider was the first to bring child‑friendly meals onto the market. Two years later, the company’s founder Karl Düsterberg entered into a co‑operation with the German Red Cross to deliver “meals on wheels”. Today, the firm is still run by the same family. apetito AG is the leader on the German market when it comes to “Kids & Schools”. The entire group of companies – including the COSTA frozen fish and seafood specialities brand and the group’s own catering company – even managed to achieve a turnover of more than a billion euros despite the 2020 corona virus crisis.

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years ago, apetito’s founder Karl Düsterberg came up with the idea of providing complete meals. Before that, he mainly sold fruit and veg.

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A good portion of the success which apetito AG enjoys can be attributed to the company’s own national truck fleet. Although external logistics firms transport the products from the ice‑cold logistics centre to the company’s two‑dozen decentralised locations, it is generally the company’s own fleet of trucks and drivers which then deliver to the customers. “That’s an important aspect for us, as we want to be a personal face for our customers and we value the direct contact,” says Frank Schartmann. “We offer delivery to the point of use. That means that we often bring the goods on roll containers right into the kitchens of the nurseries and schools, or put the menus directly in the cold stores for the customer. That’s why we only want friendly and well‑trained driving staff.” For a number of years, the company has been training staff itself and currently also has eight trainee professional drivers in operation.

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“At apetito, we’ve always understood that quality and sustainability are of crucial importance, and that’s why Mercedes‑Benz has been one of our reliable partners since we founded the business,” says Heiko Schreck, Head of Distribution Strategy who is also responsible for vehicle management. The last‑mile distribution using trucks is predominantly organised by the company itself. “Our 12 to 18‑tonne trucks have the company logo on the refrigerated box body. Of the 100 trucks in the fleet, currently around 90 percent are from our partner Mercedes‑Benz – almost all of which are Atego models.” All vehicles are equipped with a wealth of safety and assistance systems. Maintenance and repair work for wear and tear parts on trucks registered since 2019 are processed via a Mercedes ServiceCard contract. Each truck covers a daily average of 220 kilometres and delivers to around 15 stations. Many customers are supplied on a weekly basis, and some even daily.

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The menu express: in Germany, apetito AG delivers directly to its customers with a fleet of around 100 trucks. The group of companies also includes further branches in a number of European countries, as well as in Canada and the USA.

“We offer delivery to the point of use and often bring the goods on roll containers right into the kitchens of the nurseries and schools. That’s why we only want friendly and well‑trained driving staff.”

Frank Schartmann, Head of Cockpit Distribution/Fleet

At apetito, quality is a top priority – and that applies to all areas of the business. But where it is most noticeable is in the menus themselves. Regardless of whether it’s a fricassee, a beef roulade or a vegetarian dish such as sweet potato curry, the menus are developed in‑house and fine‑tuned ready for marketing to customers. This includes determining aspects such as the presentation and portion size, not to mention looking at how the customer needs to prepare it. All of these issues fall under the umbrella term of “catering solutions”.

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Tasty, healthy and sustainable: at apetito, great value is placed on the use of high‑quality ingredients from certified providers. The majority of raw products come from Europe, of which almost half come from Germany.

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Tasty, healthy and sustainable: at apetito, great value is placed on the use of high-quality ingredients from certified providers. The majority of raw products come from Europe, of which almost half come from Germany.

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Tasty, healthy and sustainable: at apetito, great value is placed on the use of high-quality ingredients from certified providers. The majority of raw products come from Europe, of which almost half come from Germany.

After the meals are cooked, they are blast frozen within the 200,000 square‑metre company premises. The menus and their components are temporarily stored, among other places, in a tall and highly visible building. Deep‑freeze warehouse number 8 uses automated technologies and has space for around 18,000 pallets stored at temperatures below minus 20 degrees Celsius. “On average, we keep sufficient stock for 40 days,” says Frank Schartmann, Head of Cockpit Distribution/Fleet. Among other things, this is where we store raw goods, which generally come from a provider located 500 metres down the road.

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Searching for the optimum: the menus in the boxes are no longer in aluminium foil trays, rather they are now packed in extensively developed containers which result in only a minimum of waste.

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Searching for the optimum: the menus in the boxes are no longer in aluminium foil trays, rather they are now packed in extensively developed containers which result in only a minimum of waste.

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Searching for the optimum: the menus in the boxes are no longer in aluminium foil trays, rather they are now packed in extensively developed containers which result in only a minimum of waste.

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Searching for the optimum: the menus in the boxes are no longer in aluminium foil trays, rather they are now packed in extensively developed containers which result in only a minimum of waste.

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Searching for the optimum: the menus in the boxes are no longer in aluminium foil trays, rather they are now packed in extensively developed containers which result in only a minimum of waste.

Customers tend to order the menus online but some also phone their orders in. If an order is due to be delivered, the products are moved directly from the deep‑freeze warehouse to the logistics centre. They pass through the busy hands of employees in thermals at the speed of Polar winds, then go through a temperature gate before arriving in the load area of an Atego truck.

For the driver, this then means it’s time to hit the road because a whole lot of children and senior citizens are already looking forward to their tasty lunch!

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Photos: Christian Schmid, apetito