Japanese trading house Itochu is entering the European fruit market with a US$12 million (£9.3 million) investment in a Serbian raspberry company made through its Dole business.
Publication The Nikkei Asia Review reported the company was seeking opportunities for growth in a region dominated by rival Del Monte Foods.
Itochu purchased Dole Food Company’s Asian fresh produce and global packaged food businesses for US$1.7 billion (£1.3 billion) in 2012.
The business has now acquired a 49% stake in Belgrade-based Master Fruits, which freezes and packages raspberries and other fruits for sale to retailers, eateries and food producers, primarily in the UK.
Serbia is a leading global raspberry producer. Master Fruits aims to extend its sales to the rest of Europe, including France and Spain.
The Serbian company can process an annual 5,000 metric tonnes (MT) of raspberries at its own factories. Sales volume in 2016 came to only around 3,000MT, but the processor will reportedly aim for 20,000MT in 2020 with help from partner factories.