Nowadays, the market is dominated by large suppliers and direct import lines. Even in the citrus trade, smaller producers and traders are fighting against the big corporations. Nevertheless, there is always room for interesting market niches, e.g. for mail order. The Citrus Ricus company has managed to establish itself in this segment and offers its customers in Germany and Austria untreated fruits from small-scale cultivation in the Spanish region of Valencia throughout the citrus season.
Natural fruits in cultivation
The trading company was founded more than 100 years ago, but has reinvented itself in recent years. The key to market success is the so-called Food Funding concept, explains Ms. Christina Schaffer (Account Manager Germany and Austria). "The biggest benefit of FoodFunding - so-called orange tree sponsorships - is that we know in advance how many orange trees we have, making it easier to control and plan cultivation."
Traditional value chain
The quality of the fruits is at the forefront of Citrus Ricus. On a cultivated area of approx. 50 ha, citrus fruits are cultivated with traditional methods, in an environmentally friendly way. The products are harvested by hand, and then processed. "We also do not use after-treatment or artificial ripening: Often, oranges are fumigated after harvesting so that the peel gets its orange color. We refrain from this treatment and pick only sun-ripened fruits, which are then sent to our customers the very same day."
Citrus Ricus promises exceptional fruit quality. It is in the company name: 'citrus' for citrus and 'ricus' comes from the Spanish word 'rico', which means 'delicious'.
However, this traditional approach has the effect that the campaign starts much later: This year, the first oranges were harvested in the first week of December. The campaign is to end in the middle of April. Schaffer: "With mandarins we were therefore a few weeks earlier at the start: The main Clemenules variety is already on the way out."
The management of the Citrus Ricus company is pleased with this year's sales. "We are now offering our FoodFunding project for the third time and we can already say that we have convinced a few regular customers." We almost exclusively supply private customers in Germany and Austria, as well as a few farm shops, which buy tropical fruits to offer them in their own shop."
Managing Director Guillermo Bas checks the quality of the fruits on the plantation
The majority of the goods are either packed in cardboard boxes or wooden boxes before being shipped to Germany or Austria. Normally, the fruits are then delivered to the customer within 3-4 days. The big disadvantage is that shipping is generally relatively expensive. "That's why the 20 kg packages are the most profitable in terms of price. We also offer mixed packaging - e.g. oranges, clementines and lemons - which is very much appreciated by our customers."
The competition with wholesalers is quite intense: "Our advantage over wholesalers is our continuous promise of quality. A problem is formed by shipping prices, which cause us losses again and again. Losses during shipping are relatively high. We then only have the opportunity to send out new goods, or to return the money to the customer. But our customers do appreciate this warranty service."