Multinational tropical fruit company Chiquita is set to ring the changes over the coming year by investing in production, ramping up its marketing efforts and routing a larger proportion of its supply into Europe through receivers in the Netherlands.
The latter change, already reported in the German media, entails moving around half of the 160,000 tonnes it previously shipped via the port of Bremen to the Dutch port of Vlissingen, enabling it to concentrate volumes further.
Matthias Hasselder of Heuer Logistics told Radio Bremen that his group would continue to handle around 80,000 tonnes of bananas shipped in pallets to the north German port.
As reported in January last year, Chiquita has already terminated its 33-year relationship with terminal operator Belgium New Fruit Wharf in Antwerp, opting instead to unload its fruit with another firm, Kloosterboer.
Meanwhile, Eurofruit understands that Chiquita’s new leadership in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has instructed senior commercial managers to re-evaluate the way it markets bananas in Europe.
For many years, Chiquita’s strategy has been to operate towards the more premium end of the banana market in terms of quality and pricing.
But with production costs rising across Latin America and pricing under intense pressure as the power of discount retailers increases across many of its key markets, the group faces a significant challenge in convincing customers to continue buying its fruit when cheaper options are available.
“Chiquita is not necessarily going to move away from that strategy just yet, but what it can do under its new ownership is spend a lot more on developing its production and promoting that supply to customers,” said one leading European importer.
“Once it has made further improvements to its supply base in places like Costa Rica and Panama, it can begin using that to its advantage.”
Another importer, who also preferred not to be named, added: “What we have heard is that Chiquita is going to start marketing its fruit much more aggressively here in Europe.”
With new appointments to its global marketing team expected imminently, the group has already begun making changes.
Last month, Chiquita launched a new brand in Europe called Hola! This will be applied to class one bananas from Rainforest Alliance-certified plantations in Costa Rica and Panama and marketed primarily to clients in the heroic and wholesale sectors.
With other multinationals lamenting the current pricing and currency situation for banana supply into Europe, Chiquita's next steps could have a major impact on the market as a whole.