Consumer demand for low-sugar products, exotic fruit and vegetables and superfruit offers opportunities for exporters from developing countries. Possibilities can also be found in the increasing demand for sustainably sourced products; for example, certified Fair Trade and Organic products. The trend of vertical integration of supply chains offers an opportunity to establish long-term partnerships with European buyers.
The impact of excessive sugar consumption on health is currently an active area of scientific and political debate (Figure 1). Following a guideline for sugars intake from the World Health Organisation, several European countries are considering the introduction of new regulations or public health policy measures to lower sugar intakes in their countries. For example, the newest regulation in the form of a sugary drinks tax is set to come into effect within the United Kingdom in 2018.
Figure 1: Number of scientific publications on sugar consumption, 2006–2015
Source: Innova Market Insights
Sugar intake is under pressure, although it remains the key ingredient in delivering the sweetness and taste for which consumers are looking. To maintain stable sales, companies are introducing sugar replacements to their products or lowering the amount of sugar used. The number of new product launches with labels such as “no added sugar”, “sugar free” or “low sugar” is increasing (Figure 2).
Figure 2: New food and beverage product launches with sugar related claims, 2011–2015
Source: Innova Market Insights
Due to sugar intake campaigns, the consumption of fruit juices decreased by more than 5% in the last year. This trend specifically affects the demand for one-litre packs of fruit juices made from concentrates. To confront this trend, the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN) started a campaign to improve the image of juices on the market. During 2016, AIJN juice promotion programmes started in 14 countries, informing consumers about several key facts related to the consumption of juices.
On the other hand, fruit juice processors started to develop new products where juices are used as ingredients. Fruit-based drinks are usually made from water and juice with added minerals and vitamins, which leads consumers to perceive them as healthier alternatives for juices. This trend is growing more important and is expected to become one of the key trends for the juice industry in the near future.
- If you are a juice producer, consider joining forces with the European juice industry and promote your product as “liquid fruit”, with components such as vitamins, antioxidants and water, so your products can be perceived as healthy and safe goods for consumption. See the guidelines for juice marketing campaigns of the European Fruit Juice Association. For current achievements of the fruit juice promotional programme, read more in the Fruit Juice Matters report.
- Consider replacing added sugar in your products with other sweet ingredients. An interesting possibility is using concentrated fruit juice as a natural sweetener in jams or dried fruit. Other possible sweetening options are lucuma powder, mesquite, stevia, banana puree and tree syrups (maple, birch, agave, yacon, and so on).
According to Innova Market Insights, “Clean label” established itself as a key trend in 2015 (Figure 3). Clean label relates to the consumer demand for more natural products; for example, without artificial ingredients or with simplified lists of ingredients.
Common clean claims on product packaging are “free of additives/preservatives”, “natural“ (which still does not have a specific definition), “organic” and “environmentally friendly”. In the last five years, the use of these supply chain claims showed an annual growth rate of 72% and 45%, respectively.
Figure 3: Compound annual growth rate of new product launches tracked with a clean label claim
Source: Innova Market Insights
- Consider investing in technology to shorten your production process and supply chain. Some examples are not-from-concentrate juices or high-pressure processing of juices and smoothies.
- Consider investing in natural ways of preservation. Some examples are sundried fruit and vegetables, dried fruit and nuts without preservatives or bleaching, vegetable juices preserved with natural acid or vegetables preserved with natural fermentation.
Frequent fluctuations of production volume in the leading production countries are making it more difficult for fruit and vegetable processors to keep a stable supply of raw materials. These fluctuations are likely to increase due to global climate change. A strong dependence on only a few countries for the production of specific products adds to this problem. Increasing demands for food safety and sustainability also motivate vertical integration, which allows much more control of these aspects. Vertical integration may come as a subsidiary, a joint venture or a long-term cooperation between exporter and importer.
In several production countries, processing companies started to invest in fruit orchards so as to ensure stable supplies. Some examples are the following:
- In Brazil, large processors are already producing on their own orange plantations.
- In China, processors grow industrial varieties of apples on their own orchards.
- In Chile, large fruit processors have started their own production of peaches.
- European processors have started strawberry production in northern Africa and eastern Europe.
- Italian processor Ferrero has started investing in hazelnut orchards within several developing countries in South America and eastern Europe.
- Other examples of investment in fruit orchards by fruit processors are happening in Ecuador (pineapples) and Mexico (strawberries and vegetables).
- Use the opportunity to subcontract with European processors, not only for final products but also for the production of fresh fruit and vegetables as ingredients.
- Consider supporting the enlargement of production fields in conjunction with farmers. Processors prefer to deal with a smaller number of larger producers rather than with larger numbers of smaller producers.
Although sustainable certification such as Organic and Fair Trade has created an interesting but limited market niche for several years, mainstream conventional companies are now introducing other sustainability initiatives as well. This interest of large companies is expected to have a positive impact on existing Fairtrade and similar initiatives, as well as encouraging the use of sustainable alternatives such as UTZ, Rainforest Alliance and several others internal to the trade, including SMETA and BSCI.
Fair Trade certification is also becoming more complicated, including several types of certifications and types of logos that are used on the products. One new initiative is “Fair Trade and Organic”. Another new and important issue is ensuring that farmers earn a sufficient income for a normal life. Commonly accepted certification schemes often do not guarantee this aspect, because it is not commonly agreed on what a living income actually is.
In the next several years, the strongest impact of sustainable initiatives is expected in the juices and purees subsector. Leading European beverage and food companies have formed a coalition aiming for 100% sustainable juice and puree by 2030. With the support of the European Fruit Juice Association, they will work on the certification/verification of their supply chains and address specific sustainability issues such as smallholder inclusion, working conditions, soil erosion and degradation, and climate resilience.
- Review good practice examples of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on the Fruit Juice CSR Platform. This platform is co-initiated by the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN) and Sociability, and it is endorsed and co-funded by the European Commission.
- Get CSR certified to become more competitive on the market. Certified companies will be more easily selected as a supplier. You can start your own assessment with the self-assessment tools of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform or the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA). You can invite suppliers or farmers in your supply chain to use the same tools.
- Get familiar with sustainability initiatives on the International Trade Standards Map portal.
- Communicate with end consumers in Europe on an emotional level by providing specific information on the effects of your sustainable approach in your country or community.
The organic market in Europe continues to grow. In 2015, it increased by 13% and reached nearly 30 billion euros. In Germany, the largest European market, the market grew by nearly 10% in 2016 to €9.5 billion. Switzerland has the highest per capita consumption of organic food worldwide, followed by Denmark and Sweden.
The fact that the number of processors and importers grows more rapidly than the number of producers indicates that organic production does not keep pace with demand. This fact offers opportunities to you.
- Consider investing in organic production; the demand for organic nuts and dried fruit is growing.
- Try to combine Organic certification with other sustainable initiatives in order to increase your competitiveness on the European market.
As the “superfruit” and general “superfood” trend continues, producers are placing new superfood products on the international market. A notable trend is the increasing consumption of pomegranate juice. Coconut is also establishing an image of superfruit, not in its traditionally popular forms such as desiccated coconut but as coconut oil and as cosmetic ingredients. Processing factories produce either coconut water as a side product or high-quality coconut chips if they decide not to remove oil or water.
Although South America still produces the largest volume of superfruit (açaí, acerola, camu camu, lucuma, maca, and so on), African and Asian products are now receiving more and more recognition. Some recent examples are dried baobab and moringa.
- Be prepared to customise your superfruit offer to different buyers. The market is segmented and some buyers request finalised prepacked products for final consumers (or the catering sector), while other buyers use superfruits as ingredients.
- If you are exporting superfruits onto the European market, you should consider mutual investments in health and nutrition research on the benefits of superfruits with other producers, European processors and traders. The procedure for placing a health claim on products in Europe is difficult and involves a lot of steps.
- Get Organic certified if you export South American superfruits. Powdered products, such as maca or lucuma, are in high demand within the health food and organic food segments.
The European Union is frequently increasing its food safety requirements. In January 2016, the European Union announced amendments of the maximum residue levels to lower pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables. The maximum levels for several contaminants and preservatives are also under revision; for example, sorbates, which are used in the preservation of dried fruit and jams. The fungicide Thiabendazol will be banned, which is relevant for producers of mango products.
- Regular analysis of pesticide residues should be part of your monitoring plan. Make sure that you are up to date with the changes to the requirements in Europe.
- Implementation of a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) system is a minimum requirement for European importers, but certification such as BRC (British Retail Consortium) is preferred.
- For more information, see our study of Buyers requirements for processed fruit and vegetables on the European market.
Fruit purees, which are used for the production of juices and frozen fruit, showed increasing demand in 2016. Some fruit preparations such as sweet potatoes have seen a rise in demand due to the positive image of sweet potato as a healthy vegetable. Fruit preparations such as frozen banana puree have also been in demand. This demand is caused by the increased production of “smoothie” types of fruit and vegetable drinks on the European market.
Figure 4: European imports of processed fruit and vegetables, 2012–2016, in k €
Source: ITC Trademap
- Consider broadening your offer of purees and fruit preparations to include exotic types of products, in addition to the most consumed fruit and vegetables that are sold in high volumes.
Vegetable-based milks, meat alternatives and vegan offerings have rapidly become one of the key trends on the European markets. Consumers are looking for innovative options to decrease their consumption of meat and animal products.
- Find opportunities in the increasing consumption of foods of non-animal origins; for example, edible nuts, which are promoted as a healthy alternative to meat proteins. Another opportunity can be found in “edible nut milks” to replace animal milk, such as hazelnut, almond or coconut milk. However, this process requires investments in production technology.
- Consider adding value to your offer of dried fruit and juices, or use the side products of juices by extracting valuable ingredients such as proteins or natural colorants. Examples of natural colorants are black carrot, carrot, elderberry, plum, beetroot or sour cherry.
Due to busier lifestyles, people more often eat away from home or “on the go”. However, healthy food trends and balanced diets are still important, even for snacking. Favourite “fast and healthy” foods are breakfast cereals. New product launches include mueslis that can be prepared by pouring milk into the packaging, even without heating.
- Find opportunities to offer edible nuts and dried fruit as healthy snacks or ingredients in breakfast cereals.
- Cabbage vegetable chips offer opportunities for suppliers of frozen cabbages and kales.
- Discuss with your buyers what the best formulations are for frozen fruit mixtures that consumers can use to make homemade smoothies.
- Consider investing in added-value products such as fruit bars or ready-to-eat fruit purees.
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