The overseas season is in full swing at TripleF Fruit in the Netherlands. The first Gala and Braeburn apples arrived from New Zealand last week. The importer has now received Pink Lady® apples from the Taylor family too. Company director, Matthijs Nijhoff, shares his vision of what he calls the 'top billing trade' from New Zealand.
"Fortunately, this import, which is of a large volume, is still in a limited number of hands. We're getting sufficient volumes this year. We've been working with this family business for more than a decade."
Fewer Braeburns, more focus on Pink Lady®, Royal Gala, and NZ Queen
"Last year a large European receiver got far too many Braeburn apples. That made the season very difficult for everyone. It was tough to get a realistic price for these top apples. So, many of our growers decided to replace some Braeburn apples with other varieties. These include Pink Lady® and Royal Gala", says Matthijs. "The Taylor family's Pink Lady® apples are fantastic, as you can see. This family is rightly one of the best growers and packers in the world. Pink Lady® volumes from New Zealand, as well as Chile and South Africa, are larger than last year. That's our approach too."
According to the director, the corona crisis isn't causing any significant issues for overseas fruit. The coronavirus pandemic has generally caused us minimal hindrance from South Africa, Argentina, and Chile. In contrast, the complete lockdown in New Zealand did cause packaging capacities to become delayed. Fortunately, they gained control over this within two weeks."
People need each other all over the world
When asked how European stocks affect the demand for overseas fruit, Matthijs answers, "At the start of the year, there was quite a reaction to protect local products. We didn't think that was the correct reaction. Certainly, considering the lockdown, we think you should realize even more than ever that people all over the world need each other. Now, different parties have decided to get involved. The demand is, therefore, being partially met. The top fruit we import is separate from the current European stock. Ultimately, consumers prefer a fresh, tasty product rather than a year-old one."
TripleF Fruit's director is pleased with the current overseas fruit market. "We had a good overseas stone and soft fruit season. Now, we have plenty of overseas top fruit. This season started well too. The demanded volumes have also been sent. The weather conditions in Southern Europe mean we are expecting a reasonably good stone fruit run too. With stone and soft fruit, we see we can make a difference with, in particular, the special varieties. At the beginning of the year, we also reinforced our Berries division. There, with our way of working, is still much potential."
"Pear sales are excellent too. There are fewer European pears this season, but the ones we do sell have considerably better flavor and shelf life, and they have even been awarded European produce of the previous year. Demand has simply been solid as a result. After all, by continually offering bad quality, you cause consumers to become uncertain about your product and in our experience our good quality overseas pears, like Abate Fetel or the colored Forelle, took a hit because of this uncertainty."
"Roll up our sleeves and do it together"
Reflecting on the founding of this independent company in 2013, Matthijs says, "You achieve this by falling down and getting up and learning a lot. The volumes we as TripleF Fruit do, are substantial. You can't do that alone, but with a solid team. We've been working under the TripleF Fruit for more than three years. We can be partially satisfied with where we are now. It would be strange to be 100% satisfied after seven years, wouldn't it?"
"We're very ambitious and want to take a few more serious steps with our growers and clients. We have a strong focus with our three large product groups. Perhaps we'll add more in the future. But, for now, we want to forge ahead with what we've got. Our Southern Hemisphere partners' family businesses are growing faster than sales to our regular European buyers. So, we need to roll up our sleeves and move forward together."
When asked about his long term goals, the businessman answers, "The corona crisis has shown me how fragile everything is. KLM is in trouble; practically everything luxurious is on hold. Extremely innovative, forward-thinking companies that do fresh trade are now, suddenly, being sequestrated. That tells you something. For us, at TripleF Fruit, the lesson is - we must do what we love; what we're good at. We must try and be, and remain, the best at that too."