Provefrut, Ecuador’s biggest exporter of frozen vegetables, is planning a major investment programme as demand for Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) products continues to grow. According to a report by Future Market Insights, global demand for IQF fruit and vegetables is set to surge over the next decade, with convenience, price and rising popularity among consumers cited as the main drivers of growth.
IQF (Individual Quick Freezing) technology involves freezing fruits or vegetables at temperatures as low as -40ºC. This retains the texture, flavour and nutritional value of freshly harvested products eliminates the need for any chemicals or preservatives because the presence of microorganisms is significantly reduced.
The Quito-based company ships around US$55m of frozen broccoli, cauliflower and Romanesco a year to Europe, North America and Asia, employing 2,000 people at its three processing plants.
Sales manager Alfred Zeller said demand is rising across all markets. “The foodservice industry is our biggest customer but we’re also seeing strong interest from retail and believe more could be done to stimulate consumer demand with new product offerings,” he told Fruitnet.
Over the next two years, the company will plough US$7m into overhauling its production, freezing and packing lines, boosting its capacity to 50,000 tonnes a year. This will enable it to expand its conventional and organic product range for both the foodservice and retail markets.
Around half of Provefrut’s volume is destined for the US, with a further 30 per cent going to Europe and the remainder to Japan.
While sales growth has been robust in both the US and Japan, the weak euro has made for a challenging year in the European market. “We are talking about a continual loss of value of about 20-25 per cent over the past years, on top of which, prices in other export market are generally higher,” said Marcus Schroeder of Provefrut’s German Siemssen Tiefkühl Produckte.
Nevertheless, Zeller is confident that Ecuador’s new trade agreement with the European Union, which came into effect on 1 January, signals the start of a new period of stability and growth for the company and for Ecuador’s agricultural industry in general.
“This agreement will at last provide the peace of mind and stability to enable us to enter into long term contracts with European customers, as well as develop new products and align ourselves with strategic partners from other parts of the business,” he said.