4 March 2021
How German supermarket chain Edeka disrupts its own market with Picnic – Joris Beckers, co-founder Picnic
In 2017, Edeka – Germany’s largest supermarket chain – partnered up with online supermarket Picnic to disrupt its own market. Joris Beckers, co-founder of Picnic, talks about the partnership in our new video. Read the transcript of the video below.
Alexandra Jankovich: I want to know: Where will you be expanding, what do you see as your greatest challenges?
Joris Beckers: We have concluded that the milkman idea may stretch beyond Amersfoort and Almere. We wanted to expand in the Netherlands and we’ve gone about doing that. And then, more or less by coincidence, Edeka, that’s Germany’s largest supermarket chain, called us, three years ago: ‘We’ve heard what you’re doing in Amersfoort, can we come and take a look?’
Edeka is split into seven regions. North Rhine-Westphalia is about the size of the Netherlands. So the manager for North Rhine-Westphalia, Dirk Neuhaus, called me. I didn’t know the guy, but he said: ‘Hi, this is Dirk, I’ve heard about what you’re doing in Amersfoort.’ This was in 2017, so quite a while ago, in our early days. We were operating in five cities.
Alexandra Jankovich: He obviously had foresight.
Joris Beckers: Amazingly so. He wanted to come and visit, so I said: Of course, that’s great. Two days later he called me: I’m taking 30 people, is that okay? So a coach arrived in Amersfoort with 30 entrepreneurs from North Rhine-Westphalia. They were all store owners, franchisers, who are also the co-owners of Edeka. Dirk is a very nice guy and he says to them, with a big smile: ‘This is the future, these vans are going to take away your business.’ And he was laughing out loud.
Alexandra Jankovich: That’s awesome.
Joris Beckers: The clever thing is that they’re so forward-thinking that they say: We’d better jump on this bandwagon rather than miss out on it. There are very few companies of that size who are willing to take that leap of faith.
Alexandra Jankovich: Absolutely. You’ve got to have guts to cannibalize yourself.
Joris Beckers: That, but you also have to dare work with entrepreneurs. A classical large incumbent will say: That’s a really nice idea. If they want to consider your idea at all. And if they do, they would want to buy it. Even if we want to sell it, the question is if it’s better to develop a concept like Picnic or Zalando, or whatever. These are hardcore entrepreneurs who understand how to enter into a partnership with other entrepreneurs. That’s what makes Edeka so clever in their move.
Alexandra Jankovich: Did they enter into a partnership and give you free rein?
Joris Beckers: The nice thing is that it didn’t start out on a grand scale. When they arrived, we hadn’t even considered Germany. We were in Almere, Utrecht and Amersfoort, there was a whole world to gain. Maybe we could open up one little hub across the border. ‘Maybe we could do this together.’ So we started a fairly simple collaboration, for North Rhine-Westphalia only — although that’s the size of the Netherlands. We had no intention of conquering Germany, not even the whole of North Rhine-Westphalia.
‘Let’s give it a try with three hubs. Maybe 30 kilometres across the border from Venlo.’ That was the idea. So we started this collaboration and it went really well. We found out that the German customers were just as enthusiastic as the Dutch customers. They even buy the same stuff.
Alexandra Jankovich: Really? What are the differences between Germany and the Netherlands?
Joris Beckers: There are lots more similarities. The conditions they pose, how often they order stuff, it’s all the same. The only difference is that the Germans may order different types of products than what we’re used to. But other than that, it’s all the same. So, this was all very well received.
A few years later — Edeka had its own national e-commerce company, called Bringmeister. They took leave of that particular company and went with Picnic all the way.
Alexandra Jankovich: That’s very daring. Not many companies are willing to discontinue things. We’ve often seen this in practice.
Joris Beckers: They dared to discontinue this, and then become partners in a business they didn’t control. They were definitely on board, and they were adding great value but we’re not a division of Edeka. They have a minority share in Picnic, and we’re very happy with that. It’s an awesome partnership and it had led to the idea: If things are going so well in Germany, and there’s still lots to do, we might be brave enough to think it might work elsewhere, too. So we’re considering a purchasing combination and turning Picnic into a European company.