Organic News

Guest contribution

"No organic association label is as widely represented on the market as Naturland."

An interview with Wilhelm Heilmann, new managing director of Naturland Zeichen GmbH

Generational change at the top: Wilhelm Heilmann is the new managing director of Naturland Zeichen GmbH. We spoke to the 44-year-old about current developments in the organic market, new Naturland partners and the challenges they pose.

Naturland: The Öko-Marketingtage (“Organic Marketing Days”) in November were held under the title "Turning point in the organic sector". Is this diagnosis correct and if so, to what extent is Naturland Zeichen GmbH affected?

Wilhelm Heilmann: "Turning point" is a very big word. But it is certainly true that the organic market is currently undergoing a major upheaval. On the one hand, we have recently observed that consumers are reluctant to spend money due inflation, which has particularly affected the traditional organic food trade. At the same time, however, retail demand for organic products is higher than ever. It's a contradictory situation: Although the current economic condition seemingly paints a different picture, the chance that organic will finally become truly mainstream is greater than ever.

Naturland: How is Naturland positioned for this situation?

Wilhelm Heilmann: The most important thing in a situation like this is to be as broadly positioned as possible. And we are! Especially in the important area of retailers' own organic brands, many new Naturland partners have joined us in the past year. The cooperation with ALDI naturally attracts the most attention, but two other German chains, Penny and Netto, also rely on Naturland. In the area of full-range retailers, for example, the HIT supermarkets should be mentioned, as well as EDEKA with its new organic brand "Naturkind" and a Naturland relaunch of its own brand EDEKA bio. And the established retail partnerships are also developing very dynamically, above all REWE, but also dm and Rossmann or the specialised trade with Alnatura and dennree.

I don't know of any other organic association label that is as widely represented on the market as the Naturland label. As Managing Director, I can build on the strong foundations laid by my predecessor Michael Stienen and Martina Romanski as his Co-Managing Director. And I am grateful that both of them will continue to contribute their extensive experience as members of the Management Board of Naturland Zeichen GmbH.

The management of Naturland Zeichen GmbH from left to right: Martina Romanski, Karin Romeder, Wilhelm Heilmann and Michael Stienen (Source: Reiner Schmitz)

Naturland: What are the biggest challenges?

Wilhelm Heilmann: The demand from retailers, who want to score points with organic and come up with all kinds of beautiful products, is one thing. But which of the products will sell in the shops and in what quantities? It is always a difficult task to assess this correctly and then to harmonise the requirements of the processing companies with the available quantities of raw materials from Naturland farms.

This then gives rise to a second, more internal challenge, namely managing the enormous growth in new partners and products in a very practical way. My top priority right now is therefore to find new employees. I am particularly pleased that we have been able to recruit Stefan Zeiper as the new Head of the "Trade and Processing" team. Stefan was Head of the Department “fruits, vegetable and potatos” at Naturland Bauern AG's market organisation for many years, and knows the organic market and the needs of our Naturland farms better than almost anyone else.

Wilhelm Heilmann (Source: Naturland)


Wilhelm Heilmann comes from a Naturland farm in Upper Bavaria. After studying agriculture in Weihenstephan, the agricultural engineer worked for the market organisation of Naturland Bauern AG, Germany's largest organic producers' association, for eight years. As Department Head for cereals and other threshed crops, he was able to build up an extensive network in the German organic market. In 2021, Heilmann then moved to Naturland Zeichen GmbH as Head of Processing.

The interview was conducted by Markus Fadl, spokesperson at Naturland e.V. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) for Issue 5/2023 of Naturland Nachrichten and translated from German.

This text is a translation. No guarantee can be given for the correctness.