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Steady rise in fruit & veg imports in Nordic markets

Nordic countries import €1.74 billion in vegetables and €2.77 billion in fruit

Over the last 3 years, volumes have increased by 8% for vegetables and 5% for fruit.

Sweden and Norway are the top importers for both the fruit and vegetable categories.

Norway – €1.45 billion import market

In 2015, Norway imported 446,212 tons of vegetables with a value of €548.8 million and 543,311 tons of fresh fruit worth €904.7 million.

Norway is Scandinavia’s second biggest importer after Sweden and the steady growth in its fresh produce imports reached a peak last year. The most valuable fresh vegetable imports into Norway are tomatoes, worth €107.7 million, followed by cauliflower and cabbages at €54.8 million.

Most fresh vegetables in Norway come from Spain. In fruit, Norway is a big importer of citrus (129,628 tons) and apples and pears (111,038 tons). In 2015, 60% of Norway’s apples came from Italy.

In contrast to Sweden, supplied by the Netherlands, Norway imports more from Spain, with a total value of €92.9 million in 2014 and €116.9 million for fresh fruits. Dutch imports reached €74.94 million.

The number one partner in Scandinavia is Denmark, with €9.7 million of fresh produce traded.

Sweden – the leading Nordic fresh produce market

In 2015, Sweden imported 768,832 tons of fruit for a total value of €1.03 billion and 522,103 tons of fresh vegetables for a total value of €627.37 million.

Imports from European countries increased by 13.5% for vegetables and 18% for fruits on average. In 2015, Germany was the main supplier (€236.62 million), followed by Spain (€163.58 million).

The most popular imported vegetables in Sweden are tomatoes, with 89,135 tons, and potatoes, with 52,846 tons. Carrot volumes saw the most important rise (24%).

In the fruit category, citrus (144,751 tons), and apples and pears (112,439 tons) were the most traded with Sweden. Both represent almost 50% of the total volume of fruit imports. In 2015, the import trend is more focused on melons (+13%), bananas (+12%), apples and pears (+11%) and berries (+10%), while grapes decreased by 17%.

Denmark – sourcing more in the EU

In 2015, Denmark imported 440,498 tons of fruit for a total value of €657.8 million and 384,697 tons of fresh vegetables for a total value of nearly €357.6 million. Imports from European countries increased by 10% in volume, in contrast to imports from outside the EU, which dropped by 33%.

The most popular imported vegetables in Denmark are potatoes (€1.2 million in 2015), accounting for a third of the country’s total vegetable imports.

Denmark has supplied more tomatoes (+8%), cabbages (+8%), lettuce (+4%) and carrots (+13%).

Citrus is the top fruit import and import volumes have remained stable over the last 3 years (82, 529 tons in 2015). While banana import volumes fell by 9%, exotics and melons rose by 15% and 22% respectively from 2013 to 2015. 

Finland – addicted to fruit

Finnish imports of fresh produce are the lowest among Scandinavian countries. In 2015, Finland imported 339,060 tons of fruit for a total value of €432.5 million and 180,092 tons of vegetables for a total value of €241.16 million.

Some 96% of fresh produce imports come from European countries, although Finland is increasingly sourcing further afield for its exotics and bananas. In 2015, import values reached roughly €27.9 million from Germany, €72 million from Spain and €90.5 million from the Netherlands.

In 2015, Sweden was the top supplier for Finland (€17.3 million). Vegetable imports have fallen 4.5% over the last 3 years, while Finland has been sourcing more and more fruit, especially exotics: banana (+189%), dates, figs (+177%) and coconut (+21%).

In vegetables, potato imports have suffered considerably, with a fall of 46%, while onions and carrots dropped by 11% and 3% respectively.


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BAMA going greener on banana imports

The Norwegian market leader for sales of fresh fruit, vegetables, berries and potatoes, BAMA, JB, Group (BAMA Gruppen AS) is actively promoting the Norwegian potato and on bananas moving to more environmentally-friendly transport.

The banana and the potato are respectively the fruit and vegetable that BAMA Group sells the most of. Here, in the second part of our latest coverage of BAMA, we look at what the Oslo-based trading group is doing in regard to these high volume products.

Promoting the Norwegian potato

One of the largest projects in 2014 for BAMA Industry was the expansion of BAMA’s potato production site in Rygge, which was set to double its production capacity via an increase in area to 5,200 m2 by August 2015. BAMA is adopting a major focus on product and variant development and new technology to further promote the Norwegian potato.

Asked why BAMA had made this a priority, BAMA Group CEO Rune Flaen told ED that: “Potatoes are the largest product group volume-wise and an important category for BAMA, and they are a healthy product. Our strategy is to increase consumption, especially through product development (processed potatoes), new varieties and by inspiring consumers by marketing tasty ways of preparing potatoes.”

In its 2014 annual report, BAMA said one of BAMA Industry’s most exciting innovations last year was the a range of sous-vide potato products which helped boost potatoes sales.

Bananas: ad campaign brings 6% volume growth

The average Norwegian eats 16.5 kgs of bananas each year, making the banana is the most popular fruit in Norway and BAMA’s largest fruit category, representing 25% of its total fruit volume. In 2014, BAMA ran an ad campaigns that included TV spots with simple messages and information promoting bananas’ health benefits and versatility with a volume increase of 6% the result.

Bananas: Increases in sales on previous year
2014: Volume 6%, value 12%
2013: Volume 7%, value 8%

BAMA achieved this growth despite a tough year “reflected in more unstable international container traffic, with slower transports due to route changes, problems with profitability and stricter controls at EU borders.” The situation created “challenges in getting ­bananas ripened on time, and our ripeners have performed an incredible job every single day to ensure that bananas are shipped out the right colour,” BAMA said in its annual report.

Move to more rail transport

All BAMA’S bananas are imported from South American countries and BAMA says that together with its suppliers, it is taking responsibility for ensuring its production occurs in the most environmentally friendly and sustainable way possible. “All our suppliers are obliged to comply with international GLOBALG.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practices) standards for sustainability and food safety within farming and production,” it said in the report.

It has always transported bananas from South America to Europe by ship, a journey of about nine days. “For many years bananas were transported in container ships to Europe, and freighted onwards by lorry to Norway. In 2009 we changed our transport policy so that the containers were freighted by ship all the way to Norway. Lorries are only used from the harbour in Oslo to our ripening plant. The switch reduced CO2 emissions equivalent to the average annual emissions of 16,800 private vehicles.”

“Rail transport is generally held to be the most environmentally friendly way to transport goods. Our target is for 50% of our incoming transport to be made via inter-modal solutions by 2020. Today this figure is around 12%. When the bananas are ripe and ready to be transported to various parts of Norway, they are increasingly conveyed by rail. In 2014 more than half of our freight was transported to Northern Norway by train. In Costa Rica around 40% of the bananas that Dole produces are transported by train. This form of transport is estimated to be 35% more efficient than road transport,” BAMA said.

Success with ready-to-eat avocados and mangoes

BAMA started offering avocado and mango in 2005 and these products have been a huge hit with its consumers in Norway, where annual per capita consumption greatly outstrips that in the Netherlands and Germany, for instance. BAMA’s avocado sales have increased 400% in volume since then and those of mangos by 600%.
It began offering ready-to-eat avocados and mangoes in 2008, with similar success. Its sales of ready-to-eat avocadoes reached just over 6,000 tons last year, up 170% in 6 years. “Nature’s Pride, our supplier, has been the key to this ripening success,” Flaen said. The Dutch company’s new terminal in Rotterdam is home to nearly 50 ripening sheds, ensuring “the avocados that arrive in Norway have just the right tenderness and appeal.”

sources: BAMA Group 2014 annual report information and phone interview with BAMA Group CEO Rune Flaen

Read part 1: Fresh cuts and berries among priorities for BAMA


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Fresh cuts and berries among priorities for BAMA

The Oslo-based BAMA trading group is expanding its offering of organic produce and Norwegian-grown vegetables and is committed to helping people choose healthier foods.

The Norwegian market leader for sales of fresh fruit, vegetables, berries and potatoes, BAMA Group (BAMA Gruppen AS) last year posted consolidated sales of BNOK 13.5 (€1.45b). Through its five business areas – including Grocery and HoReCa – each year 500,000 tons of fresh fruit, vegetables, berries, drinks and flowers – from a network of more than 1,300 producers in Norway and abroad – pass through its terminals on their way to 15,000 customers in Norway. Berries are BAMA’s top fruit category in value and bananas in volume, while for vegetables it’s tomatoes in value and potatoes in volume.













Competition in the Nordic grocery market is razor-sharp, Oslo-based BAMA said in its 2014 annual report, but in its favour is the growing interest Norwegians have in healthy diets, natural foodstuffs and food of Norwegian origin. BAMA Group CEO Rune Flaen says it’s the health trend that’s fuelled significant growth in products such as berries, avocados, spinach, root vegetables and kale. (In the last three years, sales volumes have shot up 856% for sweet potatoes, 1386% for kale and 80% for spinach.) BAMA’s overall volume growth for fruit and vegetables in 2014 was 2.6%.

Also favourable is that fruit and vegetable consumption continues to rise in Norway, in marked contrast to the rest of Europe. However, despite climbing 35% in 20 years, consumption in Norway remains below official dietary recommendations. The growth potential for BAMA’s product groups is therefore significant, BAMA said in the report. With excess weight emerging as Norway’s main health challenge, it has adopted a strategy of actively working to improve public health through increased focus on healthy diets and exercise.

Berries: 15% annual growth target

BAMA has certain focus areas for which it sets yearly growth targets. Berries is one of these, with a target of 15%, and by late September sales were already up 13% in volume. BAMA is the Norwegian market leader for berry sales and over five years logged spectacular growth of 140% to reach about 18,000 tons last year.

Instead of taking big volumes from external suppliers, BAMA now sources berries through its Rotterdam-based partner Nature’s Berries. “We also work directly with major Netherlands-based strawberry producers, cutting out expensive middlemen.”

Aiming for 20% growth in fresh cuts

BAMA Industry is one of BAMA Group’s five divisions and produces freshly-processed products, including fresh ready to eat/heat food, for the group’s HoReCa and Grocery business customers. It generated strong sales growth in 2014, a third of which came from products launched in just the last four years. Among these, new vegetable wok mixes and salad products, including two organic salad mixes, showed the most growth.

BAMA sees great promise in such convenience foods. Some European countries have market shares of up to 30–40%, but in Norway it’s still under 5%. “We see a huge market there in the future,” Flaen said. BAMA plans to grow the category through high speed product development, reliable quality, space management and good marketing. “We already have about 15% growth in fresh cuts grocery this year (first 38 weeks of 2015). The target for the category is 20% yearly growth, so we are well on track,” he said.  

Demand for organic, short-travelled & Norwegian produce

  • BAMA’s organic offering includes carrots, potatoes, onions, broccoli, bananas, apples and citrus.
  • Organic produce represents about 3% of BAMA’s total fruit and vegetable sales volume.
  • Demand for Norwegian-grown organic products rose 29% in 2014.

BAMA reports that its consumers show increasing interest in organic, short-travelled and Norwegian produce. In 2014, 60% of products were locally produced, no more than two hours away from the sales outlet. BAMA is collaborating with Gartnerhallen, Norway’s largest farm cooperative, to increase its proportion of Norwegian produce.

Future focus on smaller formats

In terms of goals for BAMA in the next 12 months, Flaen said one is to work on obtaining even better quality across all products. In doing so it will be examining logistics and temperature control, and working a lot on product development. Acknowledging there’s more focus today on food waste, he sees a need for BAMA to develop more products in smaller formats, “so a single household can have their solutions.”

“There will be a lot of focus on smaller packs in years to come,” he said.

source: BAMA annual report 2014 and interview with BAMA CEO Rune Flaen


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What’s booming for Norway’s BAMA Group



Health awareness – and huge distances – shaping changes in the country’s fresh produce supply


Blueberries, avocados and sweet potatoes are among the fastest-growing products in grocery stores under the umbrella of Norway’s giant BAMA Group, which has seen its turnover rise 9% on 2013 to an expected €1.65 billion this year.

“But the competition is tough,” BAMA Group CEO Rune Flaen says of Norway’s highly concentrated retail sector, which recently shrank from being dominated by four major retail groups to just three.

With news in October that Norway’s large Coop chain will take over the Norwegian operations of Sweden’s ICA chain, that leaves just three main retail groups in Norway: NorgesGruppen (40%), Coop (32%) and Rema 1000 with partners (28%).

NorgesGruppen and Rema 1000 are shareholders of, and supplied by, BAMA.


Tough climate makes marketing crucial

High taxes and costs, protectionist food policy, and dominance by just a few wholesalers and retailers are among factors shaping retail in Norway and another key one, as Flaen said at the Fresh & Life berry symposium in Madrid in October, is distance.

Norwegians have the highest concentration of shops per inhabitant in Europe, mainly due to the challenging logistics in a country which measures 2000 km from from north to south.

“A large part of the European industry is struggling,” so marketing is even more crucial, he said. BAMA thus makes sales planning and marketing a priority and among its various initiatives is a large sport sponsorship program, where the aim is to encourage physical activity and a healthy diet through different activities for children especially, and Norwegians in general.


Berries, then tomatoes and bananas lead fresh produce value

Flaen – who has spent more than 30 years at BAMA and the last 20 at its helm –

said bananas used to be its most valuable fresh produce category but now it’s berries, tomatoes, then bananas. The berry category accounts for about 3% of Norwegian grocery sales in the summer peak season, far ahead of Coca Cola – something Flaen noted as “really important.”

In berries, strawberries still lead but raspberries have also become an important year-round item and blueberries have had “explosive growth”.

“There’s enormous potential in the berry sector in years to come,” he said.


In an interview with ED at Fruit Attraction, Flaen shared more market insights:

There’s been huge growth in BAMA’s berry sales. Where else is demand rising?
We’ve had big growth in avocados (+137 % last five years – volume) and in all root vegetables. For example the sweet potato market has exploded, sales last year tripled in volume after a marketing campaign teaching families how to prepare them. Mashed sweet potato has become a favourite for kids.

What’s driving interest in root vegetables?
More and more people going back to basics and cooking at home. We’re seeing that trend really strongly – sales are up 110 %.  

What other trends are you observing?
Local produce is very popular, people are really interested in the region and history behind their food – that’s a clear trend for the future. Private labels will also grow.
What opportunities are on the horizon for fresh produce suppliers?

The health trend is very strong. We have to find the right products for consumers and inform them about what’s in them nutrition-wise and what they do to their bodies – that’s the big trend.
Are health benefits behind the explosion of blueberry consumption in Norway?
Mainly but also because we now have good quality and availability year-round – that’s the key to growth.

What is one of your priorities in fresh produce now?
We are always working on improvements in the value chain. Shelf life is very important to us and our customers are investing very heavily in coolers. In a country like Norway with long distances, quality and freshness are the highest priority.

What changes have you made in logistics?
One example is that we now have three drivers each on two trucks for our “Berry Express” from Morocco so they can arrive as fast and fresh as possible. From loading in Morocco to arrival in Oslo – before distribution in Norway – takes 3-4 days.

What is the “BAMA Commitment”?
For 15 years BAMA has adopted a dynamic and value chain–based model reflecting its desired holistic approach. Through detailed planning and predictability we aim for long-term, sustainable production and profitability in all stages.


Retail in Norway

logistics challenge: 5.1m people, 385,000 sq km

highly concentrated: soon just 3 main retail groups

about 3900 grocery shops, average turnover €5m

60% of grocers are discounters (highest in Europe)

0.8 grocery shops per 1,000 people (highest in Europe)

Norwegians shop 4 times pw

Norwegian F&V consumption (day/person)

2013: 443g

2006: 410g

BAMA Group (BAMA-Gruppen AS)

Est. turnover 2014: €1.65b up 9% on 2013)

7 business areas including food service & fast-growing flower business

2 retail customer groups in grocery business: NorgesGruppen & Rema 1000.

NorgesGruppen: 40% of grocery market, Norway’s biggest retailer

NorgesGruppen controls chains such as Meny, Kiwi, Centra, Joker & Spar.

Rema 1000: 28%, no-frills supermarket chain

BAMA also has representatives in Poland, Sweden & Holland

BAMA’s fresh produce

500,000 tons pa, of which:

72% imported (170 suppliers)

28% local production

serves 15,000 customers

BAMA’s fresh produce strategy includes:

Goal of min. 4% more growth pa in F&V than average for all categories

Focus on consumer — flavour & nutrition

Close relationship & long term cooperation with suppliers & customers

Importance of berries

300% volume growth in Norway since 2003

1% of Norway’s grocery sales

10.6 % of value of total F&V shopping basket at BAMA

30% of Norwegians buy fresh berries in a grocery store weekly

BAMA 2013 berry sales (in kg)

total 17 million

strawberries 10 million

blueberries 3.25 million (x12 in value since 2008)

raspberries 1.5 million

Cool chain investment

More coolers at checkouts

+3,000 new berry coolers in last 2yrs

+2,000 more in next 2 years




SPAR  berrie mix in cooler.JPG


Read this and other feature articles in Eurofresh Distribution edition 134

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Fresh fruit and vegetable demand in Norway



In recent years, berries and blueberries (highbush blueberries) have seen a spectacular increase in the Norwegian market and tomatoes are no longer just tomatoes, the range has become very wide.

“The Norwegian government’s policy is that organic fruit and vegetables should reach a market share of 15%.”

As general secretary of the Norwegian Association of Fruit and Vegetable Wholesalers, Oddmund Østebø knows Norway’s fruit and vegetable sector inside out. Relative to the rest of Europe, the country’s relatively small population – just over 5 million – has very high spending power but a low rate of fresh fruit and vegetable consumption and is highly dependent on imports.

What are some of the features of the Norwegian market?

Oddmund Østebø: The Norwegian fruit and vegetable market consists of 5 million consumers and is thus the size of the Danish and Finnish markets.

About 70% of Norway’s fruit and vegetable turnover is derived from imports – with Spain is by far the main supplier – and 30% Norwegian production. In recent years, berries and blueberries (highbush blueberries) have seen a spectacular increase in the Norwegian market and tomatoes are no longer just tomatoes, the range has become very wide.

What do you do in regard to marketing?

Generic fruit and vegetables marketing in Norway is mainly driven by the Norwegian Marketing Board for Fruit and Vegetables, whose main activity is the promotion of Norwegian produce.

But it is important to promote fruits and vegetables year-round, also in the import season of individual products. The vision for the future of marketing will be “Fruit and vegetables – naturally for all meals.” This will be achieved by increasing the knowledge of fruit and vegetables in all segments of the market.

What is happening in regard to organic and sustainable production?

Norwegian consumers consider regular mainstream products as very good. This means interest in organic fresh produce is not as high as in many other countries. However, the Norwegian government’s policy is that organic fruit and vegetables should reach a market share of 15%.

The organic products that have a certain market share of the total market are carrots and potatoes, otherwise the market share for organic products is low in Norway. There is a growing demand for certain organic products, especially staples like apples, carrot, potato, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers. These products are relatively cheap for the consumer, and it is easier to sell organic products.


This is a short version of a full page interview which can be read online here on page 13 of edition 134 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine.