As Hortifrut’s European Sales Director, Francisco Ortúzar, points out “due to the specific market needs in each country, the development of our company in Europe is not homogenous. If we are to get a good positioning, we have to take different approaches depending on each market. We cannot proceed in the same way in Germany as in Italy or as in the already consolidated British market.”
In line with this development policy, the multinational opened its first operational headquarters, Euroberry Marketing, in Huelva five years ago and in 2006 the British headquarters, Euroberry UK, opened for business to deal with the strong demand this market was enjoying. They also have a reception facility in Poland.
In Spain, they work with Atlantic Blue, which controls 60% of Spanish bilberry exports and in turn is a Hortifrut shareholder in Euroberry Marketing holding 50% of the company. This season, Atlantic Blue and Hortifrut will have 145 hectares of bilberry plantations on the Iberian Peninsula and both are planting now around 200 hectares of new varieties. Under the brand Southern Sun, their sell their berries in European markets throughout the 52 weeks of the year and in 2007 they may well reach 2,750,000 boxes.
In global terms, the berry market is growing by between 30 and 35% and actually in the United Kingdom this figure is almost 50% but Ortúzar is cautious in the face of the various plantations which will begin to yield in the coming years. In this sense, he affirms, “the berry industry, in addition to developing some European countries should also be working even harder to attract a market in Asia and to stabilise supply so they can have a steadier development”. “Our market share in bilberries in the United States is 25-30% of the total business so we believe we will have to direct our attention towards other countries, where consumption of this fruit is less developed”.
In Europe, the United Kingdom is the company’s leading market. The British market is followed by Italy and the Netherlands, although in the case of the latter, most of the produce sent here is destined to be sent on elsewhere. There is great potential in Germany, but their consumers are not prepared to pay high prices. Belgium is a small market and in France, although they do eat “red fruits”, there is no tradition in bilberries, which is the company’s main product.
A series of alliances with well-experienced companies in the berry sector mean that Hortifrut’s business network extends throughout America and Europe via its own sales affiliates. In addition to Euroberry Marketing, Euroberry UK and Naturipe Farms, the multinational also has branches in Poland with Hortifrut Polonia, Global Farms Argentina, Hortifrut Méjico and Hortifrut USA. This geographical spread means they can grow and sell all types of berries: raspberries, blackberries, bilberries, strawberries, cranberries and also cherries and organic fruit throughout the 52 weeks of the year. In this way, Hortifrut Méjico has become the group’s biggest supplier of blackberries and the company in Argentina is the great source of early bilberries.
Within this extensive business network, and with the collaboration of certain North-American universities, there is also room for the most advanced research and development centres which take care of the search for new varieties.