U.K.-based fruit importer Desiva Produce is embarking on a new deal to supply Ecuadorian bananas to British consumers. In conversation with www.freshfruitportal.com, founder James Bridges talks about ambitious plans to introduce the country's banana-loving public to the Pretty Liza-branded fruit.
The first shipment of bananas is currently on the water and is expected to hit British shores shortly, as Desiva's inaugural deal with its new South American supplier kicks off.
"We're very excited about the deal and have big plans to grow over the coming months," Bridges told www.freshfruitportal.com.
"The banana business is something that does require a lot of expertise and to be successful you obviously need to have a good product, a good ripening department and obviously a good panel of customers which is something we have been fortunate enough to start off with.
"I wanted to look at another brand, another origin and Ecuador in my mind has excellent quality fruit. There has already been an Ecuador brand here in the U.K. via Banabay and I could see an opportunity for us opening up in the marketplace with a premium quality fruit."
Approximately 48 pallets are arriving on the first vessel which is 2,304 boxes, according to Bridges who aims to increase supply to 5,000 cartons of the Pretty Liza-branded bananas within the next three months.
"This particular producer is exporting from Ecuador in excess of 400,000 cartons per week. They are currently supplying very large quantities to the German and Russian marketplace but were very interested in getting a foothold in the U.K.
"The first load is being transported at the moment so we will see the first arrivals in week 48 and that comes into the port of Dover on the Sea Trade Service.
"We will then transport the fruit to S.H. Pratt & Co which is our ripening service provider where the bananas will be ripened upon arrival."
Desiva Produce, a young company that began last year, supplies select wholesalers in Britain and although there are major competitors in the banana sector, Bridges believed his company could succeed and gain traction in banana sales by building a loyal customer following for the Pretty Liza brand as well as other fruits.
"One of the advantages that we're trying to put out there is our unique selling point that we offer a truly slowly ripened banana. A lot of my competitors are also servicing retail clients, and having already been on that side of the business, I know that quite often there are pressures to supply large orders and requirements of those retail customers which mean sometimes ripening programs are pushed to make sure they get the product into store.
"Sometimes that is not the best thing to do to the banana because it can stress the fruit. Because of the relationship that we have with S.H. Pratt, they understand what we want in terms of slow ripening.
“I'd describe banana ripening as a bit of black magic, a bit of dark art to get the perfect truly ripened banana. If you are able to offer the customer base something that can deliver this continuity that they can rely upon each week then that really does help sell the product.”
The U.K. is an attractive market
Bridges reckoned that Britain's ever-increasing population - currently estimated at 64.1 million - was appealing to fruit exporters, especially those based in the Southern Hemisphere or elsewhere in Latin America looking to supply European markets.
Part of his strategy is to strike deals with South American suppliers and others in order to achieve year-round supply, not just with bananas but also in the top fruit and citrus categories.
Desiva's business vision will concentrate on these three core lines with Pretty Liza bananas, offered alongside Dole bananas from Costa Rica, Melasí apples from Italy and Aroma apples from Austria, as well as sourcing Mandarina Queen easy-peelers from Spain.
"We are developing and looking at suppliers in the Southern Hemisphere to supply premium quality fruit 12 months of the year - that's what it's all about.
"One of the things that appeals to any exporter of fresh produce is when they look at the volume of people living in the U.K. they see huge potential.
"Having said that, it is also an incredibly competitive marketplace. It may not be easy to enter, but if you have the right product with a controlled strategy there is every chance of succeeding and I certainly believe we have a product that will have a chance of being a big part of the banana business in the U.K."