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Hans Maagendans, Banafood:
Netherlands: "The only winner in the banana price war is the consumer"
Seven years ago, boasting ample experience in the banana sector, Banafood Services started a new banana ripening facility, just across the border in the German town of Straelen. The facility has a capacity of 35,000 boxes per week and the opportunity to expand rapidly.
According to owner Hans Maagendans, the strength of Banafood is that the company relieves both the retailer and the importer. "For supermarkets, we take care of the entire chain. We ensure that the product is delivered in the right colour, temperature and shelf-life through a tight inventory management system. We do everything we can to deliver the bananas in good condition, but the last couple of steps can make or break the process. To get it right, we pay visits to the shop floor and give advice on how to display the items.”
The customer base consists mainly of Dutch supermarkets supplemented with retailers and wholesalers from Germany. "We basically ripen all brands. We also started maturing other exotics such as mangoes and avocados. For a number of cells, we have adapted the software."
Nielsen figures show that the Dutch purchase of bananas per household has been declining slightly over the last three years. "That's worrisome. I think it has to do with changing eating habits. Also, exotics like mangoes are offered at competitive prices, and the sale of convenience products is gaining ground," says Hans. Niche products, however, have yet to emerge. "I don’t see the so-called baby bananas turning into a huge market anytime soon.”
“I prefer not to use the word banana war, as I think the term conjures up different connotations,” says Hans, “but yes, the fierce competition is affecting everyone in the sector. The price fixes introduced last year have had a huge impact on free-market trading. The first six months of the year are generally a good time for bananas; they’re sold at a good price. So if a supermarket still offers them for 99 cents, it offsets the market tremendously.”
“For Fairtrade bananas and the organic banana market it’s a blow as well. The only ones to remain relatively unaffected are discounters, but mid-level retailers aren’t able to keep up. In Germany, bananas are sold for a price between 1.49 and 1.79 Euro per kilo. Those are normal selling prices. But over here, things are crazy. Nobody is making any money. The only winner is the consumer.”
Publication date: 5/9/2014
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