Croatian grower brings fresher exotics option for European market

The story of Croatian company Exotic King started in 1996, as the quest for Ivan Šulog to find the kiwano fruit for his 'princess'. After hearing about the health properties such as improving skin tone, hair structure and nail texture, the kiwano became the way to the now co-owner, Martina Sulog's heart.

What started as a hobby, growing kiwano, has now turned expanded into a business offering both seeds for a large variety of exotics, along with the production and export of 37 different types of fresh exotic fruits and vegetables. Over the course of 20 years, the owners have travelled around the world (including continents like Asia and Africa), to collect the seeds, prepared technology which has lead to the year by year development of each new product.

"Today, our products are sold on the Croatian market through the present domestic and foreign retail chains, as well as a number of smaller stores. Currently, our efforts are directed towards finding business partner abroad, to increase or exports to the EU market to 90%. In the short time we are ready to adapt to new demands, and organize a company that will be clearly identified in the European market. Our past experience in manufacturing, and technology that we have give us faith in the future development." shared Martina Perešin Šulog ('princess' and co-owner).

Alongside the domestic market, the company sends most of its exports to the Netherlands, Belgium, UK, France, Italy, Austria, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Germany which are then distributed further. The export products most in demand are squash Butternut, Hokkaido, Kabucha, Prince Crown, kiwano, sweet potato, Yellow watermelons, Jeju melons, Passionfruit, Habanero, Jalapenjo, Pepino, Goji berry, Mongolian berry, Siberian berry, Mongolian cherry, Mini kiwi, Che and lemon grass.

Grown in greenhouses, the Mountain papaya (aka babaco) is currently in season in Croatia for the domestic market. The company will produce 2-3 tons in 2016 and plans to extend production dramatically to 10,000 tons in 2017. The babaco was brought in a couple of years ago and Martina describes it as resembling a short, fat banana, 2 1/2 to 4 inches long, at first green then tuning yellowish then brown as they ripen in the fall; very fleshy and tastes a lot like a banana.

Another unique exotic fruit, being offered for the first time this year is the Pawpaw (native to North America). The pawpaw was planted four years ago and this year will bring the first viable harvest. Martina said that it is perfect for the Croatian climate as it is a very hardy plant, able to survive in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius. It is also resistant to sickness, insects and because it doesn't need to be cut in the spring, it is naturally and ecologically produced. The fruit looks like a mango, but the taste is similar to a creamy banana. It is currently grown on 1 hectare and based on how it received, there is the capability to expand production by 20 hectares or more in 2016. However, seeds are quite limited at the moment which is also limiting expansion. Exotic Kings production of seedling material and grafted young plants is limited at the moment to 8,000-10,000 plants, which is less than 50% of current demand.

"A special advantage of our tropical fruits and vegetables, compared to that which comes from the far away home countries is that it is always fresh, not exposed to long-term transport and numerous manipulations of goods in transit to the destination country. Croatia is a part of the EU and because of the proximity of the site of production, the risk of losses due to poor product quality during transport is reduced to a minimum. Also, our fruits are 'ready to eat.'" concluded Martina.

For more information:
Martina Sulog
Exotic King
Tel: + 385 1 33 12 582
Fax: + 385 1 33 90 293

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