Chilean frozen fruit industry challenged by drop in fresh production
Valle Frío, Chile's leading exporter of frozen fruit to the United States, plans to close 2024 with sales of US$100 million.
After joining the Nutrisco food holding company in July 2022, the company managed to increase its sales by 45%, reaching US$55 million by 2022.
For this year, the company intends to expand its focus to new markets, since 80% of its sales are directed to the North American market, it's looking at Asia, with a growth projection of 30 to 40% in 2024.
In a conversation with FreshFruitPortal.com, Jose Pedro Moreno, general manager of Valle Frío indicates that "the United States shows a high interest and demand for this type of product, and we see that consumers show an inclination towards choosing products without additives and healthier, preferring the consumption of food in its natural state and without added sugar".
The United States is the main market for Chilean frozen fruit, representing 43% of the country's total sales.
"However, 2023 saw a 24% drop in exports to that market," says Moreno. "In this context, it is relevant to highlight that Valle Frío achieved a 30% growth in the American market during the same period, despite the general challenges faced by the industry."
Effect of the drop in fresh produce production
Due to the drop in production of blueberries in Peru in 2023, there was an increase in the demand for Chilean blueberries to supply the market.
In this regard, Moreno comments that "this situation has led to the exportation of almost the entire national harvest of fresh blueberries, which meant that there was less supply for frozen blueberries and therefore increased prices in this format".
Expansion plans at Valle Frío
An $8 million following the incorporation of Valle Frío into the Nutrisco holding company in 2022 has been earmarked for capacity expansion and the implementation of new technologies, automation processes, and improvements in energy efficiency.
"With the introduction of new technologies, we aim not only to improve efficiency but also to have a more sustainable operation. As a result of this investment, we have been able to freeze 50% more fruit at our main plant in Curicó, while using practically the same amount of energy as before the modernization, which represents a significant advance in terms of energy efficiency," says Moreno.
The general manager says that the main focus for 2024 will be to increase the company's share in Asia, a market with great potential.