Robinson Fresh has formed an alliance with major South American fruit grower-exporter Verfrut to supply the European market, following successful business relationships between the two entities in other regions.
Verfrut is one of the largest fruit producers in the continent, with a range of crops grown across Chile and Peru.
Robinson Fresh, a division of logistics company C.H. Robinson, says that under this business relationship, the companies bring together expertise in cold chain logistics and produce to provide a more integrated fruit offering to Europeans.
Speaking to Fresh Fruit Portal, the company’s director for Europe, Robert Walsleben, said the organizations have been working together in various markets for many years now.
This has predominately been in North America, but Walsleben said that since Robinson Fresh opened its European offices four years ago there have been talks on how they could work together on the continent.
“This business relationship will offer both Verfrut and ourselves the ability to provide European customers with the fruits they want year-round,” he said.
Walsleben explained that South America has generally had a relatively low share of the European fruit market compared to other Southern Hemisphere suppliers like South Africa, but, he said, thanks to this alliance European consumers would be able to enjoy more products from the continent.
“Because of our cold chain expertise we’re going to be able to bring in more of these products over to European customers and they’ll get the same or better eating experience from these products that they’re getting today,” he said.
Family-owned Verfrut supplies several fruit commodities, but its top two by volume are table grapes and top fruit, according to Walsleben. Other fruits include stone fruit, cherries, pears, kiwifruit, clementines and organic bananas.
He said it is the leading grape grower in Peru, employing thousands of workers in the Andean country on any given day during peak season. Verfrut also produces many of the proprietary seedless grape varieties that are in high demand in Europe.
“They do a lot of innovative projects each year where they have new orchards and new plantings going on, with new varieties constantly being planted in each commodity,” Walsleben said.
Robinson Fresh mainly brings in fruit to the European market through the U.K. and the Netherlands, supplying all 27 European Union member states and some other countries outside of the trade bloc.
Walsleben emphasized that every country had its own specific requirements and preferences regarding fruit characteristics, and he added that this year the company was increasing focus on supplying retailers in Central and Eastern Europe.
“This business relationship will help us get the right variety of products to the right markets in a timely manner with the cold chains secure, allowing for longer shelf life,” he said.
“Being able to know which products and which characteristics of each variety of these different products is needed or wanted in these markets is essential.”
He expected that there would be “healthy volumes” in the first year of the partnership in the European market, with import levels set to grow over the coming years as customers sign up to the programs.
“Our customers here in Europe have been asking for more diversified solutions because they are seeing the challenges across other growing regions and there has been demand for us to connect them with Verfrut commodities,” he said.
“There have been a lot of successes and good reviews from customers being able to close that gap in terms of bringing that supply chain to them with the quality, sustainability and the integrity that is needed.”