Peru starts to realise potential as superfood demand booms

LPS16 - Peru seminar Liz Bonsall Promar

Lizzie Bonsall from Promar International addresses delegates at the All New From Peru seminar

Ask most people in the UK to name the first thing that comes into their mind when you say the South American country of Peru and invariably Michael Bond’s iconic bear, Paddington will be mentioned. The times-they-are-a-changing though. Peru has been quietly transforming itself into a major fresh produce player in the last decade. It has made significant inroads into the competitive UK market in that time. And this formed the basis of the All New From Peru seminar at The London Produce Show and Conference earlier this month

An overview of Peru’s rapidly evolving fresh produce markets, its relationship to the UK and a market profile of the UK was first provided by Lizzie Bonsall, a consultant at Promar International. This research was requested by the Peruvian Embassy in London, and the embassy was represented by its counsellor for economic and commercial affairs, Jaime Cardenas.

The first notable statistic was that Peru is the 19th largest supplier of fruit into the UK. And while the biggest supplier, Spain, holds a 16% market share, Peru’s figure is 2%. Yet Peru has seen the greatest growth among those major suppliers – an incredible 414% - in the last 10 years.

Grapes – having risen by 250% in the last five years – and blueberries are both seen as key drivers for the increased awareness of Peru as an importer into the UK. Indeed since entering the UK blueberry market in 2012, Peru has tripled its volume, with growth coming in at 636%. The future looks rosy too with projections for blueberries rising by 12% per year until 2018.
 

Within the UK the continued demand for superfoods – still a buzzword for the end consumer according to Bonsall – gives Peru a terrific opportunity, particularly within blueberries and pomegranates. The rising demand for exotic fruit among an increasingly diverse population also gives Peru an advantage.

Bonsall concluded that the positive view of Peru within UK trade (possibly as a result of strong trade agreements between Peru and the EU and the UK) and allied to growing consumer interest gives the country a great launch-pad from which to make further inroads.

There then followed a panel discussion comprising John Giles, divisional director at Promar, Juan Carlos Leon, executive director at Barfoots of Botley, Rob Cullum, managing director of Pacific Produce and the aforementioned Cardenas. The discussion was chaired by our managing editor, Kathy Hammond.

Unsurprisingly the panel were all enthusiastic about Peru’s potential as a major fresh produce player. Leon pointed to the country’s “outstanding climatic conditions” and its business climate with an open economy and competitive and efficient labour.

Cullum urged the audience to consider Peru’s impressive scale and speed as clear advantages. He noted how trials are huge and fast. “Some of the regions have got scalability because of infrastructure and weather,” he said. “We can be fast to market. We can have a decent yield in year one and a good one in year two. By year three we can be in full production.”

One of the potential threats mentioned in Bonsall’s presentation was the possibility of overproduction. John Giles was optimistic that this wouldn’t affect Peru though. “Farmers can be prone to planting first and thinking later but in Peru it’s the right climate and environment to do that,” he said. “There’s a very positive attitude. The feedback we’re getting at the moment is that Peru is the place to be at the moment. There is real long-term growth opportunity.”

Getting produce to the UK has become more efficient as Cullum stated. Indeed vessels into Peru were previously beholden on Chilean ships calling into Peruvian ports, but this is no longer the case.

There was an acknowledgement that more promotions were needed to raise the profile of Peru in the minds of the consumers. Gastronomy was one trend Peru could piggyback on Leon thought.

“Peru has evocative imagery,” Giles enthused. “It’s a good source of supply, it has good growers, but the next challenge is to build that perception at a consumer level and that does take a long time. Trying to change consumers’ minds about anything does take time. It needs a long-term approach.”

Cardenas concluded that the findings of the research alongside other information gleaned vis-a-vis Peru’s relationship with the UK would be furnished to all parts of the supply chain in order to help exporters make informed decisions.

Peru, it’s clear, is bound to be a name to watch out for in the years to come.

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