In 1982, the main markets for Medjoul dates were the Western European countries, the UK, and Israel. “However, if you want to develop, you have to start focusing on other markets, rather than forcing higher volumes on existing markets,” says Israeli cooperative’s Fresh Produce Managing Director, Yaniv Cohen.
Right: Yaniv Cohen, marketing director of Hadiklaim.
“We see the increase in Medjoul supplies. So, we would like to create demand in new markets.” The cooperative identified four target areas. “Our first goal was Eastern Europe, then the Far East, Latin America, and Africa. We generally start with lesser quality dates in new markets. This is more convenient because they are less expensive. It is the same fruit, they just look a little different.”
“In the past few years, we have been quite successful in Eastern Europe, in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia. People in these countries are starting to consume Medjoul dates,” Cohen says.
“The Far East is different. It is a very eclectic region. For example, in India, we grew by 300% in the last three years. That market can absorb sweet products like Medjouls. But, in China, for example, we sell Medjoul in small quantities there. There we sell Deglet Nour. Medjoul dates are too sweet for the Chinese palate. We are quite successful there.”
Hadiklaim also sells good quantities of Deglet Nour in Vietnam. “We do quite good business in Singapore and Thailand too.”
They are, however, focusing their efforts on marketing their dates in Japan. “We see Japan as a main target. The Japanese market is very hard to penetrate. It is, however, a strong economy and people are willing to pay good prices.”
This cooperative has been doing business in Argentina for many years. But, not in significant volumes. “We managed to enter the Brazilian market with significant quantities for the first time last year. Our next target is Chile,” explains Yaniv.
“For now, the target market is Africa. We see great potential there. The middle class is growing on that continent. Not in all the countries, they cannot all pay the prices for Israeli dates.”
According to the MD, global economic changes are their greatest threat. “Medjoul dates are the most expensive dates in the world. So, if the economy were to weaken, fewer people would be able to afford our product. Exchange rates are continually dropping while we are trying to maintain market prices. Obviously, competition from other countries that will be able to produce much cheaper Medjoul will always affect the market.
Cohen would like them to see the price of Medjoul dates as a secondary consideration in supermarkets’ decision-making process. “We try to educate buyers when we talk to them. It is not always easy. Not everyone differentiates quality and variety when it comes to dates. This is our main obstacle - to educate people about this product.”