How to approach the tricky challenge of consolidation in the Italian pear business? Focus on a single product? Or consolidate as part of a broader produce offer?
At the annual Interpera meeting in Ferrara this week, two newly established commercial ventures attempted to push forward two contrasting respective models that they regard as the answer to the fruit’s future survival.
On the one side was Opera, a consortium specialising in pears led by former Melinda managing director Luca Granata; on the other, Origine Group, headed up by Apofruit Italia’s general director Ilenio Bastoni and Spreafico sales manager Alberto Garbuglia, which has brought together nine of the country’s major suppliers to develop sales of pears under the Pera Italia brand, kiwifruit under its newly launched Sweeki trademark and, potentially in the near future, other fruits.
Speaking at the event, Luca Granata underlined the marketing credentials that made his time at Melinda such a roaring success, offering a clear and concise summary of the Opera initiative’s form and aims.
The consortium, he explained, aims to specialise solely in pears, comprising as it does a club of producers who together control around 200,000 tonnes of the fruit.
The volume of fruit involved is important, Granata said, since the project will bring together a billion pears produced on 10,000ha of land. Laid end to end, that’s enough pears to encircle the earth’s equator twice.
“The operation involves 18 members who employ between 60,000 and 70,000 people and are dedicated to pears,” he explained.
“The situation in the pear sector is critical and to adjust our aim we will require significant action. We have to start with the concept of ‘we are condemned to quality’, because producing in these areas costs more and it has always been so.
“We need to get a win-win-win system up and running, one which means everyone – the consumer, distributors, the brand and the environment – benefits once again.”
For Italy, increasing exports of fresh pears is vital since the domestic market is in decline. As has been seen in the rest of Europe, it has become necessary for Italian exporters to conquer new markets.
In 2014, Opera members sent around 23 per cent of their crop abroad, but in 2015 there is already a sign of improvement with the likelihood that this figure will be closer to 30 per cent.
Later in the meeting, Origine Group’s Ilenio Bastoni, as reported by Fruitnet media partner Italiafruit, underlined the importance of coordinated action among his own consortium’s members.
“We are aiming at new markets and new varieties, and we think it’s fundamental to manage the sale of the fruit in a coordinated manner in order to limit our losses,” he commented.
“Our strength lies in having a multi-product model. We have a platform which aims to make its [member] companies more efficient, presenting itself to clients with a single voice and reducing overall costs by €0.001 per kilo.”
Alberto Garbuglia, meanwhile, underlined the need to do more in the export arena: “We have to develop new markets. Abate [Fetel] is the Ferrari of the pear world and we have to take it to places where they buy Ferraris,” he said.
“An example of a possible destination? China. That could be a huge outlet for pears too.”
Additional reporting by Rolando Drahorad