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10.5% increase in the EU lemon market

In 2015, total imports of lemons inside and outside the EU reached 1.08 million tons for a total value of €1.22 billion.

In 2015, total imports of lemons inside and outside the EU reached 1.08 million tons for a total value of €1.22 billion.

Two-thirds of imported lemons’ value and half the volume were traded within the EU. IntraEU imports were worth €877.22 million while extra-EU imports came to €344.52 million. Over the last 3 years, lemon imports have increased by 10.5% on average.

The biggest European lemon importers are Germany (150,819 tons), France (131,588 tons), Italy (114,700 tons) and Poland (102,731 tons). The Netherlands and the UK reached the same volume of fresh lemon imports of 96,000 tons.

As for the source of the imports, Italian imports more and more from within the EU (+156% between 2013 and 2015), while Germany gets more supplies from outside the EU (+152% between 2013 and 2015).

Italy as a major European partner

In 2015, the biggest supplier for European lemons in Europe was Spain (533,864 tons), followed by Germany (64,267 tons) and Italy (35,575 tons). From outside Europe, the EU importers are supplied from Argentina (130,263 tons) Turkey (113,467 tons) and South Africa (41,191 tons).

This article was first published in edition 145 (Sep-Oct 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine on page 80. Read more citrus and other fresh produce news from that issue at:


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Record sales for European berry market

In consumption by country, northern nations are the biggest consumers of berries, especially the UK and Germany, consuming over 10% more than other European countries.

Berries have been the most valuable produce category in Europe over the last decade.

Red berries have overtaken all other types of fresh produce in terms of growth. In 2015, berries hit the spot in the UK, the top sales market in Europe in term of value, with £1.1 billion sales in summer.

Over the last 10 years, berry sales have risen by 132% in the UK alone. Where common fruits stayed stable, red berries have doubled in volume and value over the last 10 years in Europe.

From 2004 to 2015, the figure rose from around €620 million to approximately €1.3 billion. Rises were particularly strong in 2011 and 2015, with an increase of more than 18% in value.

Forecasts for the next 4 years are even more optimistic and foresee steady growth, becoming twice as fast for the five following years. Raspberries and blueberries are the most highly demanded, while strawberry consumption and trade should remain quite stable.

North and South: different consumer trends

In consumption by country, northern nations are the biggest consumers of berries, especially the UK and Germany, consuming over 10% more than other European countries.

Strawberries remain the most widely consumed berries, accounting for 75% of total red berry consumption. Then come Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Spain, France and Italy consume relatively low volumes of berries. Even in the type of berries, tastes differ from one country to another in Europe.

Northern countries prefer to purchase black berries, such as blackcurrants and blueberries, while Southern European countries go more for juicy red berries, like strawberries and raspberries. There are no significant sales of blueberries in Spain, France and Italy.

Spanish berry sales to the UK: more volume, more value

The UK is one of the biggest market for berry sales. Among fresh produce in the UK, berries represent the most valuable overall, followed by nectarines and citrus.

Over the 12 last months, the total value of berry sales in the UK rose by 16% and reached a total amount of €6.4 million. Blackcurrant sales reached €37,128, red fruits €1.4 million, blueberries €362,486, raspberries €278,104 and strawberries €207,805. Red fruits recorded the biggest rise, with 18.5% over the last 12 months. 

New worldwide production

Consumption of berries has been supported by huge efforts in production and promotion by British Summer Fruits. Many more countries have recently started to produce berries; more acres of berries have been cultivated than ever before in the world. Varieties are also more numerous than before.

Spain and Chile are the main berry suppliers for the UK. The sales season is longer, and supermarkets have established a favourable policy towards the berry market, with specific category management and extra shelves for sales. 

Produce that meets consumer needs In the UK, berries have been strongly promoted by marketing campaigns. They are seen as a superfood, and their size and consistency make them very easy to pack, sell, buy and eat. In summer, strawberries represent 51% of total soft fruit. In 2015, sales rose to £564 million.

In an annual report on UK berry consumption, British Summer Fruits chairman Laurence Olins said berries used to be a luxury item but are now a staple consumed as part of a healthy diet for many people.

British Summer Fruits promotional campaigns have also had an impact on berry consumption. From 2010 to 2015, total value rose by €105 million to €255 million (all categories).

The British Summer Fruits board has run public relations campaigns featuring berries all year long. One of the most efficient campaigns was ‘Eat smart’, which was promoted nationwide with the support of journalists, celebrity food bloggers and influencers.

This article was first published in edition 145 (Sep-Oct 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine on page 76. Read more berry and other fresh produce news from that issue at

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Colruyt: innovation needed for tomatoes

Colruyt expects increasing attention to health, sustainability and taste in tomatoes, which calls for innovation.

Colruyt expects increasing attention to health, sustainability and taste in tomatoes, which calls for innovation.

Having started out as a small family grocery shop, today the Colruyt Group has nearly 500 of its own stores and over 540 independent businesses in Belgium and affiliated shops in France. Colruyt not only offers retail store formats but is also active in wholesale, food service, fuel distribution, production of green electricity and printing and document management. Initially, there was only Colruyt Lowest Prices, but today in food there are different store formats, each with its own market position, brand promise and target audience.

Minimal stock for optimum

Within the Colruyt Group, the procurement of fresh produce has been centralised. A team of 10 buyers and 2 department heads is fully responsible from the sourcing to the sale of the range of fresh produce. Stock, quality, purchasing conditions, margins, promotion, assortment and publicity are all aspects of the process that are dealt with by the same person for one or more product categories.

Evidently, logistics have an important role in this process, too. Colruyt works with central warehouses where the stock is kept to a minimum to ensure freshness. This implies fresh deliveries daily.

Packing takes place in Colruyt’s own packing division and is done based on the needs of a single day. For sourcing, there is a preference for Belgian produce. The availability is secure and produce of Belgian origin offers advantages in terms of quality, sustainability and food safety.

Oversized assortments?

For Colruyt, tomatoes are an important segment within the fresh produce category. “Tomatoes are versatile and are widely applicable,” said Jan Schockaert, head of the fruit and vegetable procurement department at Colruyt, during the international conference ‘Tomatoes, trends towards 2020’. “They have a penetration of over 98%.”

Tomatoes also guarantee a large chunk of the turnover, with a share of 6.47% of Colruyt’s turnover generated by fresh produce and 13% of vegetable (excl. potatoes) sales. Volume-wise, this means 3.13% and 4.63% respectively. The long-term average tomato turnover share sits at around 6% and may vary a bit due to price differences (source: 2015 figures supplied by the Colruyt Group).

The division between large and small tomatoes is almost equal: 49% of the tomato turnover comes from large tomatoes and 51% from small ones. Nevertheless, it should be noted that 2015 was the first year when small tomatoes outperformed large ones in terms of turnover.

In contrast, only about a quarter of the shelves was reserved for small tomato varieties: 24.27% in terms of volume, as opposed to three quarters for the large ones: 75.73% of the tomato volume. Although it has been stable for the last 5 years, since 1990 the diversity in the tomato category has expanded a lot.

Whereas Colruyt presented an average range of 7 different tomatoes to the consumer in 1990, there are 13 on average in 2015, with a peak of 18 tomato varieties in the high season. This leads Schockaert to conclude that an increase in SKUs does not generate extra turnover.

“The tomato shelves are considerably oversized and the limits to segmentation have now been reached. If new types are added, then another one must disappear,” he said. “The total assortment is so big that the consumer also has trouble choosing.”

Trend in taste: the case of tomatoes

Schockaert said the small tomato category is growing strongly. “That is where the consumers find more taste in the tomatoes. The consumer is looking for taste.”

But he remains to be convinced that the ‘water bomb’ — the tasteless tomato from the eighties much discussed in the media — has completely disappeared. “A tomato should taste like a tomato,” he said.

Schockaert considers too much attention has been paid to the tomato’s appearance, yield and shelf life. “Innovations are needed in terms of taste.”

He believes people are prepared to pay more for taste. “I think the consumer particularly wants to enjoy eating a tomato.” He encourages growers to focus on taste and work that is market-oriented. In the future, there will be increasing attention on health and sustainability, but the predominant focus should be on taste, he said.

This article first appeared on page 22 of edition 145 (Sep-Oct 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more retail, tomato and other fresh produce sector news in that issue here:



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Asparagus: San Isidro de Loja successfully launches convenience item

"We decided to make a convenience product for the end customer, consisting of a 200g box of short asparagus, accompanied by a small bottle of olive oil and ready to eat."

The cooperative was founded in 1958 to unite the efforts of its members to trade the produce they harvested, so that the farms in the region would become the economic driving force for many families making a living from agriculture, while helping keep the present and future rural environment sustainable for new generations.

The main activity was olive oil production and on this basis and given the rising number of members, the co-op decided to accept asparagus as a product for handling and sale.

Germán Rodriguez Mir, commercial manager for the East, said given strong demand for asparagus tips or short asparagus, “we decided to make a convenience product for the end customer, consisting of a 200g box of short asparagus, accompanied by a small bottle of olive oil and ready to eat.

“It’s a product mainly designed for supermarkets, which the end customer can purchase for 3 euros. The good thing about this asparagus is that nothing goes to waste.”

Asparagus sales are growing and represent a very important turnover for the company, which 5 years ago was producing 500 tons and last year grew 2,000, doubling its production year upon year.

Volume growth is accompanied by an increase in the number of hectares devoted to this crop.

While Germany, a traditional asparagus consumer, is the main market, Rodriguez Mir said consumption is rising throughout Europe: in the Netherlands, in Scandinavian countries, Central Europe, and now Poland. 


Read more asparagus and other fresh produce news from edition 145 (Sep-Oct 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine here.

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Italian apples to delight more distant markets

Across the 28 EU countries a total harvest of about 12 million tons is expected - down 3% on 2015.

Even though prices have recovered slightly and the quality of Italian apples is just perfect, the European market has not yet restored its pre-embargo balance. This season will not be easy, but it offers new opportunities, especially in long distance markets.

The Italian apple season wound up after a complex business year characterised from the outset by several critical factors. The 2015/16 season was a difficult for sales, which started with high hopes last autumn, but turned out to be much more complex than expected.

The most significant of these include one of the biggest ever European harvests, the stifling of Polish apple exports by the Russian embargo, and political and financial instability in the Mediterranean area, which caused a lot of damage and brought most direct sales in North Africa to a halt.

Everyone knew the market was going to shrink, but such an abrupt cut-off, especially in Libya and Algeria, was unexpected. These factors, which put pressure on prices throughout the campaign, persuaded Italian apple exporters to focus more closely on long-distance markets for the upcoming season 2016/17, such as Brazil, India and South East Asia.

On the other hand, the euro/dollar exchange rate may encourage exports to markets around the Mediterranean Sea and further afield.

Estimates for European crops

Estimates for the 2016 European apple crop were published in early August, at the “Prognosfruit” congress in Hamburg. From a quantitative point of view, across the 28 EU countries a total harvest of about 12 million tons is expected – down 3% on 2015. But this total figure conceals big differences between the various European growing areas.

Poland bucks the trend, as it is forecast to be the only country to achieve a new record harvest of more than 4.1 million tons, +4% compared to 2015. In the rest of the EU28 states, the harvest is estimated at 7,855 million tons, a drop of 6% compared to 2015.

Subzero temperatures and frosts at blossom time led to severe damage in some countries around the eastern Alps. Austria and Slovenia have been hit very hard, with their crops decimated, but smaller harvests are also predicted in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, as well as farther north in Belgium.

South Tyrol: better quality for 2016

The first forecasts for 2016 are out and once again the total for the Alto Adige region will exceed 1 million tons. The Italians expect a fine quality crop and very bright start to the season. In quality terms, the 2016 harvest is expected to be much better than last year’s. As crops did not suffer the same heat peaks as in summer 2015, this year’s apples are of good quality and texture – ideal for storage and long shelf-life.

This article first appeared in edition 145 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more apple and other fresh produce industry news in that issue here:


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Reynolds: “Food safety is the foundation of our business”

Leading UK based produce supplier to the foodservice industry, Reynolds, focuses on food safety, product consistency and availability.

The UK foodservice industry is estimated to be worth in the region of £85 billion and although 2016 did not begin so well, the average annual growth is around 2.5% and expected to grow to 3% over the next 3 years said Matthew Jones, Reynolds’ senior buyer, at the international conference ‘Tomatoes, trends towards 2020’ held April 13-15 in Antwerp

The forecasts auger well for Reynolds, a leading distributor to customers including restaurants, catering, schools and healthcare institutions. Consistency of product is very important to its customers, which is why its quality control (QC) team checks every consignment against Reynolds’ own specifications. ”Product consistency is absolutely essential,” Jones said.

Another important focus is food safety. “Food safety is the foundation of this business and critical to our brand,” he said. BRC Food, Assured Food Standards and GLOBALG.A.P. are the standards required of Reynolds’ suppliers to ensure food safety and full traceability. In addition, Reynolds aims for a contracted grower base and long term partnerships with both customers and suppliers, so that all parties involved can grow together. “A stable supply base is a must so we can ensure our customers have a secure robust supply chain and consistent availability,” Jones said.

Flavour, quality and colour increasingly important

As one of the UK’s largest fruit and vegetable suppliers, Reynolds offers a broad range of fresh produce. For tomatoes, the most segmented category, Jones sees a shift in focus from price to other aspects. “In our business, tomatoes are often seen as a commodity and price is still king, but we are seeing a gradual shift towards flavour, quality and colour,” he said.

Education plays an important role in that shift. During customer presentations, Reynolds highlights new products and educates customers regarding the product characteristics, with a clear outlook to the future. “Varietal development is so important for meeting future demand and taste is a critical element.” For the sourcing of tomatoes, Reynolds aims for a long-term contracted supply base. “These days we are looking for commitment from growers and take a long term perspective,” Jones said.

One aspect of that is the opportunity to work with the growers on varietal development. Some of the research and development activities currently going on include work on mixed heirloom tomatoes, loose cherry tomatoes and on the vine specialties. Often imports are favoured because of their competitive pricing and consistent availability.

On the vine tomato categories growing

Reynolds has a 21-strong product assortment in tomatoes. “The tomato has got to be fit for purpose,” Jones said. For instance, the tomato used for sandwiches has got to be intense and contain less juice. For salads there is a focus on the smaller cocktail varieties, Datterini and Marzanino, for flavour, and green tomatoes are great for chutneys. Specialities such as Tomatillos Kumatos are also offered in order to allow Reynolds customers to keep up with industry trends.

Some of the current developments Reynolds sees within the tomato category include the increase in demand for on the vine categories. “The smaller tomatoes are being downsized to cocktail size and on the vine to bring the flavour profile back to the consumer,” Jones said.

Regarding the generic round tomato, Reynolds sees the sales morphing from 3 sizes to just 1 middle size. Organic tomatoes are a small category, mainly due to prices, but Jones expects growth in this category in 2-3 years. The plum tomato appears to be quite stable and the beef tomato category is growing due to increased interest in fast food and the growing number of hamburger restaurants.  

Customers value heritage

Heritage is playing more of a role in foodservice, since it can offer a point of differentiation for chefs. It is essential to listen to what the customer wants and work with the growers to deliver it,” Jones said.

Aside from the current developments, Reynolds expects major categories such as that of the tomato to evolve even further. Although it is believed that overall tomato consumption is dropping in the UK, Jones does not himself see a decline in volume. However, he thinks the assortment could reduce in SKU’s while volumes are maintained.  Moreover, size is an important matter. “Size is very important to us – we try to use the whole range and the whole crop through the sizes, because we can command better prices,” he said.

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Interview of the Month: the US Food Marketing Institute’s Rick Stein

“The ability to trace product back to its source is a critical part of the new produce supply chain,” says the US Food Marketing Institute’s Rick Stein.

The voice of food retail in the United States is the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Here the trade association’s vice president for fresh foods, Rick Stein, pinpoints what’s happening in his country on major issues for the sector. Stein was previously vice president of retail merchandising and marketing execution for Safeway, where he led marketing activities for the company’s eastern division spanning 180 locations and 20,000 employees.

What are the main challenges for fresh produce distribution in the US?

When it comes to providing fresh foods in retail, food safety is the utmost priority for the US retail food industry. The industry is doing a good job keeping food safe. According to the 2016 US Grocery Shopper Trends report, 9 in 10 shoppers have confidence in the safety of food at the grocery store.

As for fruit and vegetable distribution in the US, the produce supply chain is unique because products have a short shelf life, require fast distribution and temperature control is essential. We’re also often dealing with fresh foods being transported long distances. More fresh food providers in the US are relying on improved data quality to help address these elements of the produce supply chain. By optimising quality data, producers are better able to share data with retailers so they can provide a more transparent picture to shoppers about the path their produce took from farm to store. This ability to trace product back to its source is a critical part of the new produce supply chain and many US retailers and packers/shipper or implementing traceability initiatives.

In addition, shopper demand for local fruit and vegetables is changing the produce supply chain. Finding local sources, ensuring those sources have safe food, and getting product to shelf quickly is an emerging trend that is resulting in many new supply chains within the US produce business.

What are the latest improvements in food safety and sustainability?

Right now, food retailers and manufactures in the US are working to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping regulation of the US food safety system in 70 years. FSMA fundamentally changes the way food is regulated in the US and abroad and affects the entire supply chain from farm-to-fork. FSMA focuses more on preventing food safety problems rather than relying primarily on reacting to problems after they occur. FMI has worked closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) throughout the FSMA implementation process and continues to offer our members resources, training and implementation guidance.

FMI is also working on the issue of food waste. Every year, about 40 million tons of food waste is sent to landfills in the US. FMI has joined with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to form the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA). This group has three major business goals: 1.) Reduce food lost within our operations so it never becomes food waste in the first place; 2.) Recover safe and nutritious food that might have been wasted by sending it to our partnering food banks; and 3.) Recycle unavoidable food waste by diverting away from landfill and moving it to productive use, including animal feed, compost or food to energy.

What is being done to promote fruit and vegetable consumption?

According to FMI’s Shopping for Health 2016 report, two-in-three US shoppers agree that food choices affect their health, but half say they struggle to find the motivation to eat healthfully. At the same time, FMI’s Power of Produce 2016 report finds shoppers are choosing produce as part of a healthier lifestyle and eating habit.

Grocery stores are uniquely positioned to be key partners in health and wellness for the communities they serve, including helping to increase consumption of fresh foods. Food retailers have the opportunity to help their customers find and distinguish dietary choices, offer weight management solutions and share convenient meal ideas that help feed families. Some of the actions retailers take to incentivise more fruit and vegetable consumption start with the location of produce near the entry of the store. Also, the location of produce on the front page of their advertising circulars is another way supermarkets highlight their produce.

Many US food retailers are transitioning their stores into health destinations and that includes offering more resources for shoppers to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. According to the 2014 FMI report on Retailer Contributions to Health and Wellness, 95% of US grocery stores surveyed employ dietitians at the corporate, regional and store levels. In addition to offering nutrition counseling, grocery stores are helping shoppers develop culinary skills. More than half of the food retailers in this survey employ chefs at the corporate level and 74% of respondents have offered cooking classes to customers.

In the US, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer an opportunity for food retailers and manufactures to help Americans eat a healthier diet. Many retailers and manufactures help support this information by making it available to customers on packages, in store, online and through their nutrition counseling services.

How are online sales, home deliveries and the hard discounters affecting in store sales?

In the US, fresh produce is what brings shoppers to the grocery store. According to FMI’s Power of Produce 2016 report, 63% of US shoppers prefer the supermarket for their produce purchases. Consumers cite concerns over product freshness and quality, but also want control over selecting the produce they purchase. However, when the online shopping platform is supported by their primary brick-and-mortar grocery store, shopper interest increases.

When it comes to overall grocery shopping trends, the 2016 US Grocery Shopper Trends report finds 15% of shoppers occasionally purchase food or groceries online through a service or meal subscription. At the same time, 16% of US shoppers report purchasing fresh produce online in the past 12 months. This represents an opportunity for US food retailers to further enhance their online produce offerings, while also creating unique in-store fresh food purchasing experiences for shoppers.

Photos provided by the Food Marketing Institute