Chile seeks out Pole position
With 38 million people and changing food consumption habits, Poland could present more opportunities for Latin American fruit exporters in the future. At www.freshfruitportal.com we speak with ProChile's commercial director in Warsaw Felipe Gajardo, about what might be in store and how to do business with Poles.
In your opinion, what are the greatest opportunites for Chilean fruit exporters in Poland at the moment?
Poland imported more than US$1 billion in fruit from around the world in 2010, but only US$4.3 million of that was from Chile. The opportunities for Chile in the Polish market come both from the demand and supply sides. On the demand side, Poland is an attractive market for more than 38 million people with a transition from traditionally seasonal to continuous supply throughout the year.
Our country as an off-season supplier to the Northern Hemisphere has a new opportunity in Poland and in Central European markets in general. We also need to consider the fact that per capita consumption of fruit (55kg) is at levels well below the European Union average, and the trend of this level is increasing.
From the supply side, Chile is seen as a quality provider and reliable supplier.
So what is Poland missing and how can Chile fill that gap?
Due to its geographical and climatic condition, Poland is not a significant producer of Mediterranean fruits. The Chilean products with the best opportunities are citrus with oranges and mandarins; table grapes, especially Red Globe; and kiwifruit among others.
Which fruits do Poles prefer?
Fruit consumption in Poland is divided betwen 80% local production and 20% imports, while the country is a significant producer of apples. From domestic production 30% is concentrated in apples, followed by pears, plums and berries. In terms of imported fruit citrus and bananas are probably the most important, but also fresh grapes.
The country is one of the biggest blueberry producers in Europe. Do you think that will help Chilean exporters in terms of growing consumption? On the other hand is there a possibility of competition with the domestic supply?
Growing fresh fruit consumption is still in development in Poland and is supported by government campaigns, especially in schools. In the medium to long term Chile will probably supply fresh blueberries and berries to the local market. For the moment demand is low, but from the point of view of frozen blueberries and berries there exists demand, and Chile is tentatively exporting to Poland.
What is the best way to do business with Poles? Are there some cultural issues that exporters need to know, particularly in this industry?
The fact that Poland has been a member of the European Union since 2004 has led to a business environment that does not differ much from other E.U. countries. English is the official language of business but at times it is useful to have a translator to assist in meetings. As an significant portion of fruit imports come from Spain, it's not unusual to find Poles who speak Spanish. From the contact our office has had with Polish importers there is significant interest in knowing Chilean exporters to start fresh fruit importing deals in a direct way.
Which Chilean companies are exporting there and who are the most important retailers?
In 2010 there were 14 Chilean companies who exported fruit directly to Poland, including Del Monte Fresh Produce Chile and Rio Blanco. The most important retailers are the global retail chains in Europe: Carerefour, Tesco, Makro, Real and Auchan, among others. It should be noted that traditional distribution channels continue, which means small neighborhood shops that make up an important part of sales, especially in food.
What is the likelihood of Poland serving as a platform for distribution to other markets like the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Ukraine?
Poland is a very fragmented market and important in itself, so importers tend to only focus on that country. The Czech Republic and Slovakia usually deal seperately. The case of the Ukraine is different and it could have more synergy with Polish importers. It's not unusual that some Polish buyers do so as well in the Ukraine, but many don't have a good view of the Ukrainian market because it brings with it financial complications and additional risks.
What is the biggest challenge facing Chilean exporters in Poland?
The most important challenge for our exporters is overcoming the lack of knowledge about Poland and Central Europe in general. As a reference we should mention that these markets, together with Russia and the Ukraine, are priorities for the Chilean Association of Exporters (ASOEX) in Europe, for the grow potential they present.
What promotional methods are undertaken by Chile in that market, and how do consumers feel about the Andean country?
The promotion plan for fresh fruit that ASOEX is running in Poland includes actions such as tastings in retail outlets such as supermarkets, invitations for specialized journalists, and advertising in specialized media. In terms of Chile's image, we could say the Polish consumer doesn't have a very developed idea or knowledge of our country. In the area of importers however, there is a clear picture with positive attributes like quality and supply capacity.