Exhibitors make headlines at London Produce Show with innovative offerings, new developments

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The London Produce Show and Conference 2019 (LPS19) hosted more than 100 different exhibitors in the Great Room of the Grosvenor House hotel last week during the three-day event. Travelling from across the globe, the exhibitors showcased a number of products and services to the various international retail and foodservice buyers walking the show floor. Here is a snapshot of some of the key stories from a handful of the exhibitors taking part.

South African Raisins Association

PBUK learnt that the South African Raisins Association plans to launch a UK, and possibly European, marketing campaign early next year to promote raisins as a natural, portable snack.

“Dried fruit is a really interesting category,” explained John Valentine, chairman of RED Communications, which will coordinate the campaign in the UK. “Raisins are a natural product with great health properties. It’s a snack that’s easily portable, and an ingredient for the baking industry.”

For South Africa, the promotional push presents an opportunity to raise its market share in the UK, which currently stands at less than 4%. “That’s staggeringly low for a country like South Africa whose natural market is the UK,” Valentine pointed out.

Located around the Orange River in the Northern Cape, South Africa’s raisin industry benefits from hot and dry conditions. “The product is almost naturally organic,” Valentine noted. “The growing region doesn’t have problems with diseases like producers in hot, humid areas. South African raisins have almost zero MRL residues.”

Although well organised with a long history, South Africa’s raisin industry is not yet mature, meaning there is potential to grow the UK market and to gain market share. In particular, Valentine said the sector can compete effectively thanks to its relatively low labour costs in comparison to raisin suppliers California and Turkey.

Citrus from Chile

Exhibiting for the third year running, the Chilean Citrus Committee once again made the trip to promote lemons, clementines and mandarins on the UK market.

“The Chilean citrus industry is diversifying its exports, and a good place to start is the UK," commented Christian Carvajal, Marketing Director for the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (Asoex). “Slowly, slowly we have been building our presence, making contacts and looking for opportunities.”

Carvajal also shared the latest export estimates for the 2019 Chilean citrus campaign as projected by the committee. Volume is set to contract by 3% in total, due largely to an 8% drop in clementines to 58,000 tonnes and a 3% decrease in oranges to 97,000 tonnes. Supplies of lemons and mandarins are not expected to change greatly, with sendings pegged at 88,000 tonnes and 107,000 tonnes respectively.

Nonetheless, the committee predicts a solid production year in terms of citrus sizes and quality thanks to benign weather conditions.

Maersk

Maersk was at the LPS19 to promote its new company branding following the amalgamation in January (2019) of shipping line Maersk Line and freight forwarder Damco as an integrated logistics company under the name of Maersk.

“We’re a one-stop-shop right from the farm to the supermarket,” explained Danny Wright, Reefer Client Manager, who added that the change has been a seamless transition.

As part of the integration, Maersk has invested heavily in logistics, having just recently unveiled a coldstore in Russia to complement facilities in South Africa and Iberia. In the future, Maersk is considering partnering with a company in the UK to operate a domestic coldstore.

“It’s an exciting time, with many different, new opportunities,” Wright said. “We are offering a more bespoke solution for customers; they have a choice of options.” 

Later this year, Maersk will roll out the second release of its Remote Container Management system for use on mobile phones via an app. The upgrade will have more user-friendly and proactive features.

Peru

Peruvian produce exporters Don Ricardo, Camposol, Agrícola Chapi and Ecosac exhibited at the show, together with the Peruvian Trade and Investment Office in the UK.

Joanna Meza from the trade office was pleased to share the news of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that was signed on 15 May between the UK, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador to ensure the continued, smooth supply of fresh produce into the UK whatever happens with Brexit.

Peru continues to be the world’s leading exporter of avocados and mangoes to the UK, the third-largest supplier of blueberries and the fourth-ranking distributor of table grapes.

Exports remain on the up too. During the 2018/19 season, figures provided by the trade office indicate that Peru’s exports to the UK of table grapes rose by 47%, blueberries by 44.7% and avocados by 7.3%.

“We’d like to push more Peruvian exotic and tropical fruits on the UK market, like golden berries, pineapples and bananas, as well as organic produce,” Meza commented. “The UK is one of the most important markets worldwide, and a trendsetter within Europe.”

UKAPEEL

Apeel Sciences, USA

Hot on the heels of gaining European approval for the use on avocados of its plant-derived shelf-life extension solution, Apeel Sciences was in London to explore the opportunities for citrus.

Gordon Robertson, Chief Revenue Officer, told PBUK that the California-based company plans to carry out trials with UK retailers for citrus from Peru.

Apeel expects its technology will double the shelf-life of the product, and offer a “total solution for the supply chain”, including reduced shrink, less food waste, a lower carbon footprint and a better eating experience.

“Initially, we’re focusing on easy peelers (Murcotts) from Peru,” Robertson revealed. “The application will be at source. We are in discussions now with the UK retailers.”

While it will be another year before Apeel gains European approval to treat more produce items, in the US the firm is launching its solution for use on cucumbers and apples. “We know we can get two-times the shelf-life on dozens of products,” affirmed Robertson.

Naylor Farms, UK

UK cabbage grower-manufacturer Naylor Farms used the occasion of the LPS19 to showcase its new range of long-life coleslaw and potato salad products.

Company CEO Simon Naylor told PBUK that the unique selling point is a 120-day shelf-life with no preservatives. In addition, the range benefits from strong provenance, being manufactured by a family-owned grower established over 100 years ago.

Launched in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Dubai, the products are packed in resealable pouches and come in a number of different flavours, including: original, cheese, sweet chilli and chipotle.

“It’s a nice format that’s different, fits easier into the fridge and uses less plastic,” pointed out Naylor, who runs the business in Lincolnshire. “We’re trying to create a brand for the company.”

Delgado Pitahaya, Ecuador

Ecuadorian supplier Delgado Pitahaya came to London to raise the awareness among UK buyers of yellow dragonfruit, with the goal of exporting the exotic fruit to the market.

“Yellow dragonfruit has a white flesh that tastes sweeter than red dragonfruit,” explained deputy manager Gabriel Álvaro. “It’s easier to eat as it’s more watery, so you can cut it with a spoon, and it’s easier to hold due to being less spiky. In my opinion, it’s better than red dragonfruit.”

Benefiting from a range of health benefits, including regulating cholesterol, Álvaro suggested that yellow dragonfruit has a variety of uses, from salad to meat dishes, and as a decoration.

Delgado Pitahaya, which is GlobalGAP-certified, has the capacity to produce 900 tonnes of yellow dragonfruit on a year-round basis, with production peaking in February.

“It’s an interesting product with a long shelf-life,” Álvaro indicated. “We can export it at 60-70% ripe, so it’s 80% ripe on arrival in the market. We’ve had interest [during the LPS19] from buyers in the UK, including the wholesale sector, as well as from Malaysia and Singapore.”

PDO Spanish Persimon

Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) Spanish Persimon will be promoted actively during the UK’s Halloween holiday period when the UK supply season kicks off later this year.

A series of activities, jointly coordinated by RED Communications, will roll out, including: recipes, preparation and usage ideas, imagery, social media content, plus a Spooky Supper Club hosted by chef Kerstin Rodgers.

“Persimon is ideal for Halloween as it’s far more manageable for children to carve,” noted John Valentine, chairman of RED Communications. “You can do everything you would with a pumpkin, but more safely. Halloween is such a big trend in the UK now, and it’s a good way to get kids involved with produce.”

Equally, PDO Spanish Persimon has experienced “unbelievable” growth in the UK over the last 10 years. “It has gone from being almost unheard of to one of the fastest-growing fruits in its category,” Valentine revealed.

Cañas Trejos, Ecuador

Ecuadorian grower-exporter Cañas Trejos came to raise awareness of the potential to grow both the plantain and yuca market in the UK, as well as to look for baby banana buyers.

Founded in Los Ríos during 2007, the company currently supplies year-round red bananas, baby bananas, plantain, yuca, and squash (Kabocha and Muscat varieties) to markets including: Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Russia. Cañas Trejos also distributes plantain to one established importer in the UK.

Its point of difference is the ethical way in which it works with its associate growers. “I wanted to work in a different way, so we pay our growers 50% up front,” stated General Manager José Cañas.

“Many exporters don't care about the grower, but the only way to produce a quality product is to pay the grower well. For example, I pay my plantain growers US$0.50 more than other exporters, even Chiquita and Dole, and the quality is superior as a result.”

Valstar, Netherlands

Part of the Best Fresh Group in the Netherlands, greenhouse vegetable specialist Valstar exhibited within the Holland pavilion for the fourth consecutive year to meet with existing customers and to attract new clients.

Matthew Barritt, Valstar’s UK representative, emphasised the “big opportunity” in the UK to focus on seasonality and speciality varieties. “People want produce to taste good,” he stated. “Also, we want kids to buy into produce. It needs to not disappoint.”

Recognising the importance of differentiating itself, Valstar increasingly supplies speciality varieties where the focus is on flavour. To that end, the company showcased two of its branded products, Tinkerbell mini bell peppers and Tomberry tiny tomatoes, which have been developed by Dutch breeder Eminent Seeds.

“Tinkerbell mini bell peppers have been picking up steadily on the retail market across Europe,” explained Account Manager Quincy Barrow. “They’re nice to stuff with meat or cheese. They’re ideal for the specialist wholesale market or foodservice sector.

“Tomberry is a tiny tomato variety that’s nice for garnishing. It’s well suited to the foodservice and retail markets.”

LPS 19' (low res)_40

Pan United, UK

As the leading supplier of garlic to the UK, Pan United’s Commercial Manager Nilay Kamdar, spoke briefly with PBUK about the state of the market at present.

As the trade moves into the new Spanish and Chinese crops, Kamdar said overall he expects garlic prices will be higher, while volume will be about the same compared with last year, although it remains too early to make an accurate indication.

“Last year people were losing money,” he noted. “Some import prices from China were at cost or low cost value, so no one wants that situation again.”

Demand-wise, Kamdar said levels remain stable in the UK for garlic, while challenges for the trade currently are dominated by Brexit and the lack of clarity surrounding what, if any, trade deal will be agreed.

Stay tuned for more LPS19 exhibitor stories over the coming week.

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