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Kibsons starts banana imports and building of new cold store


“Everything has its challenges, but the fruit and veg business is moving in a positive direction here in the Middle East,” according to Daniel Cabral, senior import manager at Kibsons. Annual turnover has been increasing by 12-13%, something he expects to continue in the near future due to improving market conditions and the new business activities this generates. “We are also confident of increasing our market share thanks to our year-round service offering consistent quality and supply volumes.” The company has just started the distribution of bananas and pineapples, with deliveries to both supermarkets and wholesalers in Al Aweer and other emirates. 
“A one stop shop” is the winning concept of the company, which offers more than 300 items on a daily basis. The group has 300 employees and 40 distribution trucks. “We also remain one of the three market leaders in airfreight imports.” This business unit so far represents 25% of turnover and is growing at the same rate as shipments. Vegetables and berries are the main two air cargo categories. The US is Kibsons’ number one berry supplier, representing 70% of volume, while Europe (Holland) is the main source of vegetables; Australia for stone fruit, grapes, cherries and mangoes; and Thailand and Vietnam for exotics. On average about 50 different kinds of items arrive each day by airfreight, and 250 in the course of a year. 
Citrus, apples, pears, grapes, kiwis and stone fruit are the main items. The main sources for citrus fruit are South Africa, Spain, Italy, Chile, the US, Brazil and Australia. “Since there is no local production we have no disease control restrictions on South African imports.” Oranges, lemons and easy peelers are all popular in the region. “We are increasing our sourcing from Egypt and Spain, with Navels and Valencias from November until March,” Daniel said. 
No chances are taken with quality – Kibsons complies with both HACCP for food safety and OHSAS 18000 on occupational health and safety. “We also have several other protocols in process, namely ISO9001, ISO14000 and 22000 for environment and food safety,” he said.
The company is building a new cold store to increase its storage and distribution capacity. Located near the market, it will be ready by early 2015 and will complement the existing one – which has a 2500-pallet capacity – with triple that storage, while also equipped with 12 cold stores and 6 banana ripening rooms.

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Pan Fresh starting catering division and retail activity


The importer Pan Fresh International opened a new catering division in January in order to directly supply end customers such as restaurants, hotels and food service contractors. “We now hold a larger portfolio of about 80 fruit and 30 vegetable varieties, making us capable of supplying end users with the full range of products they need,” said commercial director Mohammad Ali Arjomandi. Smaller greengrocers and supermarkets are also among the targets of the new division, both in the UAE and other GCC countries. As a result, Pan Fresh has increased its fleet of 40-foot trucks from 15 to 25 units this season. It also operates 30 smaller trucks for local deliveries.
The overall import activity of the group continues to increase, in particular with more specialty varieties, like mangoes and pomegranates. The full exotic line is also more popular, such as mangustan, tamarillo and passion fruit. “Our overseas shipments have increased significantly. Today we offer a very competitive range of items from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and the US.” Pan Fresh has a proven track record with new businesses requiring more specialties, such as year-round cherry supply, kumquat, and so on. Half of its total imports are re-exports to other GCC countries and beyond, such as to the Caucasus.
The group today employs 200 people and saw sales rise 20% in 2013. Pan Fresh managers see market conditions as favorable for continued growth at the same rate. “Our success lies in providing our customers with the best service and product quality, and on-time delivery,” he said.