Frutas Borja is celebrating 40 years since it started growing strawberries in Spain. Here, commercial director Dinis Grussner picks out three key areas where he feels future opportunities lie for this pioneering soft-fruit firm
Key to any modern fresh-produce business is research and development and this is something that Frutas Borja has grasped with both hands. “We invest heavily in R&D,” explains Grussner. “We are always trialing new varieties as we believe it is very important to have something of your own; something that you own that can give you access to top markets world-wide and something that gives you a point of difference in the marketplace.
“It is also important to be fast-moving and quick to respond to the market and its changing demands, and to bring consumers what they want.”
Rapid raspberry expansion
Frutas Borja only started growing raspberries in commercial volumes for the 2014 Spanish campaign, but this year has tripled its output and in 2016 will be doubling that output again.
“We strongly believe that with the right variety you have the opportunity to gain more market share,” says Grussner.
The company links up with the Planasa Group on some of its proprietary varieties and he reveals that with the season for Adelita raspberries just ended, Frutas Borja is already planning increased volumes for 2016. “From June to August we are planting more Adelita for next season,” he says.
Next on the agenda are blueberries and blackberries. “We want to be able to offer the four big berry lines to our customers because some of them sell all four; strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries,” explains Grussner. “We grow Tupy blackberries and had our first blackberry season this year in what is a new market for us. We see opportunities in the UK market as well as other European countries.
“We are able to offer better quality berries to our customers, with longer shelf-life and the right brix levels for our customers in different markets, including the UK. We also focus very much on service levels and distribution getting our products from A to B for our customers.”
An important driver for the 21st century shopper is also knowing that their food has been ethically produced and with regard for the environment too.
Grussner says he takes this seriously. “We have invested almost €3 million (£2.15m) over the past four years in new accommodation for our pickers, which is being used by them now,” he says.“We have built our own housing for the seasonal workforce and fitted the buildings with solar panels to generate electricity. Although we have only 150 permanent staff, in the peak of season between March and April we can have up to 1,000 workers and some of these stay all year.”
Frutas Borja was at the London Produce Show and Conference this week where it showcased its business to UK buyers. “We want to present the concept of our business and show that we are a sustainable business that is here for the long term,” says Grussner. “We have opportunities in the UK with the right partners and we are looking for direct relationships in retail and in foodservice.”