Matteo Malvestiti, Exotic Category Manager for Fratelli Santini, personally curated this line, which includes pineapples, mangoes, avocados, papayas and increasingly popular products like limes and ginger.
The leading product is pineapples, followed by avocados and mangoes. They are available 12 months a year and demand is increasing. 70% of the produce is destined to retailers, while the rest goes to wholesale markets.
Shipments by sea reach Rotterdam, but demand of produce shipped by air is increasing. According to Malvestiti, there are no logistic limits for a growth of the air-shipped exotic fruit sector. "We are flexible and can receive goods in different airports, including Malpensa, Madrid, Paris and Frankfurt. People are increasingly asking for fruit that is riper, which of course also means it tastes better."
Another evident trend is the fact that new countries are becoming suppliers. "Just think about avocados: up until a few years ago, there were just Israel, South Africa and Spain. Now there are Peru and Colombia as well. Countries of origin have diversified for pomegranates too, so much so that now it is only transport costs that make the difference. All these new actors are in fact very much prepared when it comes to certifications and very dynamic as regards investments in new varieties."
This is the case with blueberries, as Peru is growing quickly and causing a few problems to Argentina too. According to the expert, the risk is actually that of a surplus of supply.
Above: single-fruit tray + flowpack. Below: packets ready for the market.
Another new protagonist is Colombia, where government policies allowed for the replacement of cocaine plantations with passion fruit, mangosteen and bladder cherries (physalis peruviana).
As regards avocados, Fratelli Santini mainly imports the "green skin" and green Hass varieties. In the future, the company will get equipped with a Hass ripening facility.
Limes come from Mexico and Brazil (one container a week) while mangoes come from Brazil and Peru, where Fratelli Santini signed agreements with medium-small yet very professional companies.
The season of Peruvian mangoes shipped by air has just started and volumes should increase from Christmas onward. "Consumption of mangoes shipped by sea is dropping. We must admit that, despite the economic crisis, buyers are realising they need to spend more to eat well. Italians are buying more, especially since the population of different ethnicity has their own procurement channels."
The consumption of Formosa papayas is increasing compared to the traditional Golden varieties. The produce is available all year round thanks to the contracts stipulated in Brazil.
80% of ginger comes instead from China.
The company also imports counterseasonal fruit such as cherries from Canada or Chile.
"Clearly, the volume of exotic and counterseasonal fruit we handle on the Italian market is much lower than other destination countries such as US and China. The EU still remains a historic client and is reliable for exporters from the southern hemisphere. Still, we need to realise that China has the largest import volumes, so everybody is interested in it."
"Our country is doing fine as it carries out strict selections on quality so as to stand out against competitors. The professionalism of the entire chain is essential for this. High quality justifies higher prices, otherwise it wouldn't make sense to enter a market filled with other players."