Supermercados Peruanos fights against “informality” of open markets
A leading fruit buyer in the domestic Peruvian market claims food safety and traceability practices are unknown for the vast majority of fresh produce sold, but retailers are trying to bridge the gap through education.
Speaking with www.freshfruitportal.com during industry event Interpoma in Bolzano late last month, Supermercados Peruanos commercial manager for fruits Samuel Laura said supermarkets only accounted for around 10% of the fresh fruits and vegetables sold domestically.
“What does that mean? The traditional markets of the barrios (suburbs) and in rural areas are almost 90%, and that market is very informal. It’s almost contrary to what we do,” Laura said.
“We ask for the issues of safety, all the certification. We have to show that we comply, and all these requirements and resources mean that if you offer a higher quality product to the customer, sometimes it’s a little bit more expensive.
“But the final consumer doesn’t yet understand that, it’s very new for them.”
He said the government simply didn’t have the resources in place to audit all markets and retail chains sufficiently when it came to food safety.
“We try to do programs to fight that, but the informality is so large that the resources aren’t there to do it in every market.”
One of the more telling examples of why this is so important, according to Laura, can be seen in informal ripening practices for certain fruits.
“In Peru there are certain products that we work with in ripening chambers, done with a type of gas that is permitted for ripening – there are chambers basically in papaya, bananas, avocados and mangoes,” Laura said.
“But there are very few of these chambers in the wholesale markets where practically all the fruits from different parts of Peru.
“We buy from these providers but there are a lot of people who do it in an improvised way, not with a ripening chamber that complies with all the rules; very informal, on the floor, with plastic and gases that are toxic for consumption.”
He said Peruvians were naturally a bargaining people who worked hard to keep spending down, so often they took the risk of buying food without knowing the practices behind the market front.
“As supermarkets, through brochures or marketing, we try to explain this to customers. But the final consumer doesn’t understand this on average, and that’s why retail only accounts for 10% of this product [fresh produce],” he said.
However, there was one fresh produce category in particular where Laura believed supermarkets could get the upper hand.
“The freshest items the consumer can eat are leafy greens, so lettuce, salads. The client values this more, because you have pre-washed lettuce, packed, without burnt leaves, unlike the stand owner who buys once a week.
In leafy greens Supermercados Peruanos seeks to be more competitive on volume and rotation.
“That way when a consumer goes to the supermarket, there is the issue of momentum and they might add another to the basket. Little by little we’re getting that market.”
A conversation at Interpoma could not ignore the event’s centerpiece fruit – apples, which happen to be the main import product in Supermercados Peruanos’ produce portfolio.
“There is a percentage we’re buying from the United States and it’s growing, but basically the market is made up of Chilean apples,” he said.
“To be able to differentiate ourselves , the traditional market also imports fruit directly as is the case in apples, but we import apples with full color, from premium categories.”
He said there were three main varieties consumed in the Peruvian market – Granny Smith, Royal Gala and Red Delicious.
“We’ve tried to bring in others like Cripps Pink, Fuji has come in a bit to the market, there’s Braeburn and other varieties. They have had a lot of merchandising and promotion but they don’t get much of a reception.”
When asked about Italian apple imports, he said the Mediterranean country didn’t have the phytosanitary permits to ship to Peru, but in any case the cost of transport could make prices prohibitive if access were granted.
Freshfruitportal.com was a guest of the Italian Trade Agency, which invited more than 80 buyers and journalists to the trade fair.