Anecoop, the Valencia-based second-tier cooperative group that brings together thousands of Spanish producers, continues to extend its sphere of influence with new projects in the exotic fruit, organics and fresh-cut categories.
This week the group announced the creation of a new company to market its expanding line of greenhouse-grown tropical fruits. Exóticos del Sur brings together eight producers in Almería, the first to develop commercial papaya production in Spain in a project initiated seven years ago with the University of Almería.
In November 2015 the group carried out its first papaya exports to the UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Portugal. This year production is expected to reach 1,500 tonnes, with other fruits including mangoes, pitahaya and starfruit being added further down the line.
Exóticos del Sur’s president, Francisco Barranco, says papayas offer a good alternative to traditional crops for producers in southern Spain. This is a region of key strategic interest to Anecoop as it is looks to extend its production season and boost its role in intensive greenhouse cultivation.
Meanwhile, Anecoop recently created another new company, Janus Fruit, to handle its growing fresh-cut fruit offering. This is Anecoop’s second foray into the fresh-cut sector – it was forced to close its prepared salads subsidiary Mediterránea de Ensaladas in 2009, at the height of the financial crisis, due to poor sales.
Spanish consumers have been more reluctant to embrace fresh-cut than elsewhere in Europe due to the higher price points. Nevertheless, sales of Anecoop’s Bouquet-branded fresh-cut fruit salads are rising steadily and today the group is the biggest supplier in Spain.
Elsewhere, Anecoop beefed up its organic offer last April with the incorporation of Murcian citrus cooperative Toñifruit into its organics subsidiary Solagora. Toñifruit is one of five new cooperatives to join the group during the past year.
Commercial director Francisco Borrás describes the 2016/17 campaign as one of the most complex in the group’s 40-year history, a combination of droughts followed by weeks of heavy rainfall and then freezing conditions causing acute supply shortages in several vegetable lines – a situation made considerably worse, says Borrás, by the slow reaction of the UK retailers.
Citrus and persimmon, the group’s other main winter crops, have been similarly affected, the former due to sizing and quality issues and the latter because the surge in new production has taken its toll on prices, which were around 10 per cent lower than last season.
With volumes projected to rise from the current 290,000 tonnes to 680,000 tonnes by 2021, Anecoop has developed an ambitious marketing strategy to future-proof the category. This includes introducing further segmentation with addition of different quality grades and pack formats and increased investment in promotions.