The Indian pomegranate season started slightly later than usual this season, due to delayed rains. Weather also had an effect on sizes, but an Indian exporter who has been in the agri-business for decades now, believes they’re heading towards a strong season. The company believes a lot can be done to improve further, even after all their experience.
Freshtrop is an exporter from India that deals mostly in table grapes, pomegranates and pomegranate arils. Having decades of experience, Mayank Tandon, Sr. Vice President of Freshtrop Fruits Ltd, can easily see the season is going relatively well. “The Indian pomegranate season started a little late this year due to delayed rains, but it’s picking up now. Although the eating quality is excellent, the long summer did take its toll on the sizes of the fruits. Consequently the available fruit is mostly of a relatively smaller caliber. The color and natural shine on the fruit is excellent and we expect the availability to improve further over the next 4 to 6 of weeks.”
The pomegranate aril trade is very important for the Indian exporter. Although the popularity is rising in Asia and Europe, Tandon feels they have opportunities to supply the United Kingdom as well. “We’re handling over 8,000 tons every season, so pomegranate is an extremely important crop for us. We’ve supplied table grapes to some of the most demanding retailers in Europe for over 25 years now, and very naturally Europe has quickly become the biggest destination for our arils as well,” he explains. “However, there is an increasing interest from other Asian markets at this stage. Increasing our presence in East Asia is on our agenda for this year. We’re also very keen to associate with right partner for the UK as we feel the quality of our product and the experience of our organization in assuring quality and food safety puts us in a very strong position to serve the demanding UK market.”
“Consistency in quality, clear communication, obsession with food-safety and hygiene – delivered at a competitive price. This simple mantra defines the soul of our company and lies at the core of everything we do, as we try to move forward taking our employees and the local community along,” Tandon states after being asked what makes Freshtrop a strong player in the market. “We’ve done this for the past 25 years and it’s given us the strength to not only survive, but thrive even during some very challenging times. We will keep innovating and finding newer avenues for value addition for our products and customers as we’ve done in the past. While our ability to deliver 52-week supply gives us a tremendous advantage, we keep exploring ways in which we can improve supply chain efficiencies to deliver better value to our customers.”
According to Tandon, the image and popularity of the pomegranate arils are in a very good place, with a steady increase of demand, compared to other more volatile produce. “Pomegranate arils are actually extremely popular, and interestingly their popularity hasn’t been impacted as much by shifting patterns one sees in other fresh produce, like what we see with increasing uptake of berries. It flies off the shelf packed just as arils alone and works very well even when paired in salads regardless of whether it is a green leafy combo or a fruit mix. The bright red color of Indian Pomegranate arils always adds a dash of attractiveness to the end product along with sweet-tangy taste which comes loaded with the goodness of anthocyanins. This is an incredible quality which has ensured continued rising demand.”
The increase in popularity has resulted in more and more traders trying their luck in the pomegranate aril business. Tandon fears this can jeopardize the safety of the produce, as it requires expertise to handle and export the arils in a manner that will not risk the consumer’s health: “With an increase in demand for any product, there’s a natural tendency to jump on the bandwagon; often with limited understanding of the product category. Arils are no exception to this and lately we’ve seen numerous new offers coming from India. We only hope that there is sufficient caution exercised by these new entrants, since this category of fresh-cut requires extremely high levels of preparedness at an infrastructure level as well as training to ensure there are no compromises on the food safety aspects of the product. This obviously presents a challenge to everyone in the industry since the product is for direct consumption by the consumers.”
Although the popularity of pomegranate arils does come with some risks, Freshtrop can influence the sector best by expanding their own business, says Tandon: “As an year-round product, one of the most gratifying aspect of the arils business is our ability to employ hundreds of local labor, especially women, all through the year, offering them a better alternative to typical seasonal cycles associated with the produce industry. While the arils segment of our business alone generated over 25,000 person-days of employment for local community, we’re hoping to add a significant figure to this number in the coming year, not only limited to the arils segment of Freshtrop.”
The future for pomegranate arils is looking bright and Tandon expects the market to improve even further as the seasons go by: “We are in a unique position with the excellent taste profile of the Indian Pomegranate variety ‘Bhagwa’ and the fact that we can supply all year at extremely competitive prices makes us a very dependable and attractive source for customers. Even for those countries which themselves produce arils from local crops, but find it hard to fill the gaps in their native pomegranate seasons. Overall, I’m very excited about the prospects pomegranate arils hold for the future and we are systematically enhancing our capabilities to serve the customers better as their consumption grows.” He concludes.