How can a small firm find a place within such a competitive market? According to Fermín Utrilla, of Allium Integral, the key is in differentiation and the search for niche markets.
"I tried to differentiate myself by looking for markets where the big companies did not arrive; that is how I developed red onion microbulbs to cover niche markets in the UK and extra early grano type microbulbs in Spain, which allow you to enter the market one month in advance. The key is to use the varieties and growing techniques, adapting to situations and specific market demands. Small firms like ours have a better capacity to adapt to changing markets, as big companies are generally occupied handling larger volumes."
Fermín Utrilla is an agronomist with plenty of experience as a consultant at horticultural companies in the processes of production, processing, packing, preservation and implantation of quality management systems. Such businesses fell as a result of the recession, which led him to found Allium Integral 4 years ago; a firm devoted to the production, processing and selling of onions from Albacete, Spain's largest production area.
The result of such work includes the red variety Red Emperor, which usually enters the market in August. "Our production from microbulbs can be harvested now, in late June. This way we can fill the gap that there was in the British market between the end of New Zealand's red onion season and the start of the European campaign," explains Fermín Utrilla.
As for Grano type onions, European trends, according to Fermín, are increasingly more price-oriented. "Demand is so fragile that, even in a context of low supply, prices rise up to a certain point, and from there onwards they do not slow down gradually, as they used to, but they plunge."
The main market for Allium Integral is still the UK, where the program "Local for Local" has pushed Spanish onions away from supermarkets. "Spanish onions have always held a good position and superior prices in the Premium segment, for their mild flavour and characteristics that make them suitable for fresh consumption, unlike British onions, whose quality is much inferior."
For this reason, Fermín is finding more interesting markets to be able to adapt. "We have started in Algeria, which we find quite interesting, as they do not demand such high quality standards as the UK, allowing us to offer lower prices. Brazil is another interesting market for smaller calibres."
For more information about Allium Integral:
T: +34 967245160
M: +34 670333363