The main conference held on the second day of Macfrut looked at trends, consumption, variety development and marketing: innovation and supply segmentation are needed
New consumer behaviour, variety innovation and prospects in international markets: these are the topics that came up during the Italian Berry Day, the great novelty of MACFRUT 2021, promoted by NCX Drahorad and ItalianBerry.it in collaboration with the international trade fair for the fruit and vegetable sector.
The conference was kicked off by Marco Pellizzoni, Commercial Lead Consumer Panels & Services of GFK Italia, who provided an overview of purchasing behaviour in the berry category: ‘This year, the fruit sector recorded a 6% drop in purchases compared to the average and berries have been a driver of growth in the sector’. In fact, berry volumes have increased by 26% and the number of consumer households in Italy has grown from 19 to 20.1 million.
‘In order to meet the demands of Italian consumers for higher quality produce, we need to focus on variety innovation,’ Andrea Pergher, Technical and Sales Support for Southeast Europe and the UK at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, said. He provided a detailed picture of the trends in the global blueberry market: flavour and crispness are differentiating factors for consumers. He added: ‘This is a time of evolution for blueberries and quality must be the factor that sets products apart, but packaging also plays an important role. Packaging needs to be adapted to different market needs: it must not only be sustainable but also bigger in order to increase volumes.’ Another trend to look at is the demand for local produce, which has to be taken into account if the category is to grow.
Next to take the floor were Marta Betancur, Vice-President of SHAFFE (Southern Hemisphere Association of Fresh Fruit Exporters) and Andrés Armstrong, Executive Director of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, who provided an overview of the opportunities and challenges involved in exporting berries from the Southern Hemisphere. ‘Despite the pandemic, logistical issues, climate change and plant protection in several countries, the Southern Hemisphere is on track to transform berry consumption through new varieties and consistent quality and supply,’ Marta Betancur commented. ‘There are plenty of opportunities available in the Chilean blueberry market and these fruits are available throughout the year, which is helping to drive consumption,’ Andrés Armstrong of the Chilean Blueberry Committee added. ‘In addition, the low market penetration of blueberries brings development opportunities, especially in Europe and Asia. Important new research is also being done on blueberries, which is showing that these fruits have more health benefits for consumers than previously thought. Therefore, investing in marketing and communication is key to increasing consumption.’
This global overview then continued with a presentation by Amin Bennani, President of AMPFR - Association Marocaine Producteurs Fruits Rouges, who provided an overview of the berry sector in Morocco: ‘Over the last five years, Moroccan berry production has increased exponentially: berries are no longer produced only in spring and summer, but are now also produced in autumn. We have expanded the selection of varieties and improved cultivation techniques, which allows us to target both domestic and foreign markets.’
Thomas Drahorad, President of NCX Drahorad Srl, concluded the first part of the conference by presenting cost and margin prospects in the berry sector, and concluded with a plea for cooperation: ‘With consistent prices and easier scheduling aimed at improving quality, we can expect margins for the entire supply chain to increase by 25% per year.’
The second part of the conference included several presentations, starting with Giovanni Panzeri, Chief Commercial Officer of Gorillas Italia, a German start-up offering home delivery in 10 minutes, which has recently opened a branch in Milan: ‘Our aim is to reduce the steps involved in the supply chain by dealing directly with producers so that we can become a new distribution channel for them.’ Tommaso Pantezzi, Head of the Fruit growing and berries Unit of the Edmund Mach Foundation, talked about the experience of growing the northern highbush blueberry above ground. Thomas Basi, Statistics and Market Observatory of CSO Italy said: ‘In Italy, farming areas are growing continuously (+10% over 2020). The most suitable regions for cultivation are still Piedmont, Trentino, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. Organic berry farming is also increasing, with up to 600 hectares under cultivation as of 2019. However, there are still issues when it comes to expanding the cultivation area due to the fact that orchard and labour costs are high.’ Nour Abdrabbo, Sales Director of Unitec said: ‘In order to earn the market’s trust and increase consumption, we need to take a comprehensive approach to selecting fruits of the right size, colour and quality. Nowadays, selection must rely on technology.’ Luigi Garavaglia, R&D Manager of ILIP presented the new packaging solution that extends the shelf life of berries by up to 48 hours compared to non-active packaging. Matteo Molari, Managing Partner of Molari Berries & Breeding presented a case history on raspberries: ‘We need to get consumers to recognise varieties and encourage them to buy a product not because of the brand, but because of the quality of the product itself.’
The afternoon session was dedicated to technical workshops held by Arrigoni - “Growing berries in non-native environments - protective screens for every environmental need”, ILIP - “LIFE+BIOACTIVE - the new dimension of ILIP’s active packaging”, and NCX Drahorad - “Prices, assortment and quality: berries in the Italian large-scale retail trade (2019-2021)”.