Sam Gielen and Matthijs Ahsman started Frutos Tropicales Europe (FTE) just three years ago. The team in Bleiswijk now consists of fifteen people and 'sister' company Frutos Tropicales Brasil (FTB) is putting the finishing touches on the construction of its own packing station to process the mangoes from its own cultivation (110 hectares).
Sam Gielen and Matthijs Ahsman
Full focus on overseas
"We have grown rapidly over the past three years, but the product focus has been the same from day one. We focus entirely on the import of overseas fruit with mangoes as the main product and also have avocados, ginger and limes in our range all year round. We also carry some additional products such as overseas grapes, pomegranates, kiwi, figs and lemons, but we are not committed to European fruit," says Matthijs.
"Mangoes will always remain our core business. Recently, the sales of our Ready to Eat assortment have also taken off. As of this year, we ripen and package mango and avocado in both our own brand Flamingo and in private label," says Sam. "At the moment Ready-to-Eat exotics represent only 10% of our sales, but we expect to grow further in the coming years, especially in European retail."
"We firmly believe in specialisation. Customers like to work with companies that work cost-efficiently and specialise in a few products as soon as possible from cultivation. Customers know that they can always contact us for mangoes, avocados, limes and ginger. We target retailers, service providers and wholesalers across Europe, with Germany, the UK and Eastern Europe as the main markets," Sam continues.
September warehouse ready
"Thanks to the cooperation with our Peruvian partner, we were already able to supply our mangoes and grapes partly from our own production. We have also had our own mango production in Brazil for a year, with the construction of our own packing station ready in September. This allows us to source our mangoes from our own sourcing for about 90% of the year, "says Matthijs. "The entire production is focused on European sales and we also ship directly from Brazil and Peru to Spain, Italy and Russia."
The summer period has traditionally been a somewhat calmer period for FTE, but that does not entice importers to put aside its product focus. "When we get a container of mandarins, we get nervous, so to speak, but we don't get fifteen containers of mangoes a week," laughs Sam. "In addition, we see an incredible amount of growth potential within a product such as mangoes, especially now that our Ready-to-Eat range with stable programs is increasingly finding its way to European retail."
"It is also not a problem that nowadays, with an abundance of European fruit, the mango supply is somewhat more limited. In addition to our production in Peru and Brazil, we round off the season with supplies from the Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Ivory Coast, and Senegal. We source limes all year round from Brazil and Mexico, ginger from China and Brazil, avocados mostly from Peru, but also from Colombia and Mexico," Matthijs sums up. "We make an exception for specific specialties. We have an import program with Peruvian blue figs, a niche product with which we can really distinguish ourselves and are now quite a player."
When asked about the plans for the next three years, Matthijs answers with a smile: "Is it not going fast enough? We have made great strides in the past three years and have laid a strong foundation with our own production. We do not have the ambition to run a company of a hundred people, but want to maintain a manageable cost structure. Product focus and cost efficiency will therefore remain our pillars in the coming years. "