VLAM, Flanders’ Agricultural Marketing Board, has been promoting the Belgian Conference pear on the Brazilian market since 2017, organising tastings to show off the variety's sweet, juicy taste and textural versatility, while highlighting the pear's long shelf-life to customers. At the start of the year it was confirmed that the Conference pear would again be able to count on promotional funds from the EU for the next three years, with the main focus being on tastings.
'Belgium gained access to the Brazilian market in April 2017,' said Nele Van Avermaet, VLAM's promotional manager for fresh fruits and vegetables, 'and we were proud to introduce our Conference pears to consumers in the autumn of 2017. In 2017/18, we carried out more than 3,000 tasting days in the main cities of Brazil, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. Conference pears are very well received in Brazil and are preferred by consumers due to their sweet and juicy taste, the possibility of eating them either crunchy or soft, and their long shelf-life.'
However, since the Conference is still a niche product in Brazil, continued efforts are required. 'Rome wasn't built in a day,' said Van Avermaet. 'We need to continue our efforts to strengthen the position of the Conference in the country, by increasing awareness among professionals and consumers.'
In addition to Brazil, Mexico has also opened up to Conference pears. 'We’re keen on introducing the variety to Mexican consumers,' said Van Avermaet. 'However, due to Covid-19, introducing it to this brand-new market will be a challenge. The promotional budget for Mexico is focused on B2B events, so we’re looking for new opportunities to meet the Mexican B2B audience.'
Of course, since the Covid-19 crisis, VLAM is having to do many things a little differently. 'Covid has had a big influence on VLAM's promotional actions,' said Van Avermaet. 'We’re trying to find new ways of promoting our products and addressing our B2B and B2C customers. Within VLAM, we work in different sectors and also worldwide, so we’re investigating different options and are able to learn from each other's feedback.'
Along with the main Conference pear cooperatives, including BFV and BelOrta, VLAM has been present on various virtual fairs, such as PMA and Fruit Attraction. 'We want to remain top of mind for our customers,' said Van Avermaet. 'We’re also looking at new ways of holding virtual meetings. These are strange times, but let’s hope that we find new opportunities to meet each other and to interact.'