Step into the Reef-Corner shop in Belgium, and your eyes will be on stalks as you take in the stunning corals. Theo, Joey and Ruben are a close-knit team that, based on its passion for coral, supplies fellow enthusiasts throughout Europe. Expertise comes into play in growing and nurturing but also in transporting it too. Joey Verhoeven, in charge of Wholesale and Online Sales, explains how they managed to reduce unsuccessful deliveries by a whopping 75%, by using Coolpack Phase Change Material tray packs.
“Coral species are live, protected animals. Much comes into play when growing and nurturing coral species: the quality of the water, technology, bacteria, temperature stability and so on. I started out as a hobbyist at 18, just as others grow flowers as their hobby. At the time I grew one species, which I then sold. A friend and I sometimes wondered how easy it would be to set up in serious business, as was also happening in the USA,” explains Joey.
The result: Reef-Corner, a great coral shop founded by Dutchman Theo van den Berg in 2004. Here, enthusiasts can delight in an impressive array of rare, and more commonplace corals, imported directly from, e.g., Indonesia, Australia, Hawaii and Florida, with all the preparatory work that that entails. “We didn’t yet have a web shop, but saw the opportunities this would provide,” explains Joey. In March 2021 the web shop went live, and since then the corals are sold and transported to enthusiasts across Europe.
“Coral lives in sea water at an approximate temperature of 24 to 25 °C. A popular misconception is that coral comes in all manner of stunning colours but in actual fact it’s algae that colours the coral. These algae survive on light and provide nutrients to the coral. When the water temperature starts to fluctuate, such as is the case in Australia, the algae loosen and the coral dies. And this is the exact challenge that arises during transportation to customers. You see, the temperature in the warehouse is 24 °C, yet outside of that we have no control whatsoever,” tells Joey.
He first sought packaging solutions within the medical sector. “A friend of mine works at a hospital, where organs are sometimes dispatched to or from. For that they use packaging with cooling plates and a temperature logger. My hunt for a similar solution ended with Coolpack’s Phase Change Material. Due to volume limitations in the shipment packaging we require a flexible temperature element; we didn’t go for shape-retaining plates but instead opted for tray packs filled with Phase Change Material.”
Joey carried out numerous tests to find the perfect shipment packaging. “I placed temperature loggers on the inside and outside of the package, and experimented with different combinations of heat packs and PCM tray packs. I attune the packaging to the outside temperature: in cold weather I use a heat pack along with a PCM tray pack that I store at 16 °C; in warm weather I just use a PCM tray pack that I store at 25 °C. In this way I am assured a temperature range of 21 to 25 °C inside the packaging, which I need as anything above or below that brings the coral in danger.”
Things can go awry during transport occasionally. “That not only costs us money, but also affects customer experience,” explains Joey. “By guaranteeing a stable temperature inside the packaging, we have managed to reduce the number of dead on arrival deliveries by a whopping 75%, to an absolute minimum. The PCM tray packs do of course entail an additional expense in the packaging, but when I look at the costs we consequently save, this easily outweighs that.”
Thanks to its own import capabilities, Reef-Corner enjoys a unique position in Europe. “We possess all the necessary certification to import corals, which are protected animals, to Europe ourselves. This means we can supply corals that our competitors don’t have. Clients across Europe come to the physical store in Belgium to see what we have with their own eyes,” tells Joey with justifiable pride.
“And, although there is still more online scope, we are doing really well in serving our client base throughout Europe via our web shop. With our packaging we stand out from our competitors, of course: ours is exceptionally effective and looks good besides.”
Curious to see all the stunning products Reef-Corner has on offer? Take a look at their web shop! Would you like to learn more about Phase Change Material and what it could mean for you? Please get in touch, we are on hand to help!