Apple harvesting is coming to an end for VIP, the association gathering producers and cooperatives in Val Venosta. The 2020/21 sales campaign is in full swing with the arrival of new Golden apples, now available all year round.
"Harvesting operations are almost over, with only late varieties such as envy™ still on the trees", commented Fabio Zanesco, VIP sales manager. "Data are in line with expectations in July. Actually, Golden yields have even slightly exceeded expectations. We can thus talk about a 20% reduction in total volumes."
Zanesco (in the photos) reports that there are different situations depending on the variety. "Traditional cultivars have registered drops between 15 and 25%. This is partly due to the lack of blossoming in spring and partly to the fewer orchards planted in favor of new varieties. As for Club apples, final quantities will be in line with last year thanks to the new orchards."
Grades are medium-large in general due to the fact that there were fewer fruits on trees and because of the weather. Color and quality are good.
"A few months ago, we all wondered whether we would manage to harvest at the right time, considering the lack of labor caused by the Coronavirus. We have though managed to harvest everything as expected, so we must be pleased."
Destocking and sales
"We are delivering the last Golden apples of the past season and the first apples of the new season. In this case too, we complied with the schedule. Despite the high demand during the peak of the health crisis, we managed the stocked produce well. Demand is now good and diversified, so all signals are positive."
There is definitely a difference between European and extra-European markets when it comes to sales. "Overall, Europe recorded volumes below average with good demand on all markets. In Spain and France, volumes are still below expectations, so it will be possible to find a market balance throughout the year on a domestic and European level. Medium-large grades are not usually suitable for many extra-EU destinations, and consumption in Europe is going well."
According to the sales manager, extra-European markets are slightly more complicated due to Covid-19, the increase in logistic costs and the unfavorable Euro-Dollar exchange. "This does not mean we will not export but, at the moment, I do not perceive a strong push from the leading European players."
Consumer demand during Covid-19
There is an increase in the demand for packaged produce. Considering the health emergency, the plastic-free issue has been put temporarily to the side and no retailer has taken a definitive stance when it comes to structural packaging changes.
"Some consumers are currently choosing packed produce, for which plastic films are also used, because it feels safer. However, some markets and consumers feel deeply about the plastic-free issue, so they prefer cardboard trays. Consumers decide based on their lifestyle during the pandemic. Products like apples have the advantage of having a long shelf-life."
The organic produce season
It looks like it is going to be a positive season for organic apples too, with stable quantities of around 32,500 tons. "We have started selling Gala, Golden and Red Delicious and we will soon begin with the Ambrosia and Kanzi club varieties. In addition, we also have the Bonita, envy™, Kissabel® and Natyra® varieties. Of course there is also a wide range of other traditional varieties," reports organic sales manager Gerhard Eberhöfer.
Gerhard Eberhöfer, organic sales manager
As of last year, the entire VIP organic production is processed in the new Castelbello facility owned by the Juval cooperative. It is an automatic refrigerated warehouse with vertical shelves for the storage of 18,000 bins and 12 processing lines that can sort and package 18 and 28 tons/hour. It is a state-of-the-art facility in terms of quality, service and sustainability, capable of guaranteeing the maximum safety and flexibility as well as full traceability.
B2C and B2B marketing campaign
As First Class Apple Partner, VIP activities aimed at professionals and buyers aim at simplifying the access to information with new means and languages.
"We have recently opened the new VIP Linkedin profile for a direct communication with the sector and a continuous exchange of information and news from Val Venosta", explains marketing manager Benjamin Laimer (in the photo).
The training of fresh produce section collaborators from selected big retail chains, now carried out online due to Covid-19, continues. "We believe this is a key element to provide consumers with the best apples and guarantee correct information: the feedback is positive and we are motivated to continue."
As it is impossible to have direct contacts with consumers, special promotional islands will be set up in stores to help consumers choose their preferred apple. Thanks to the "TrovaMela" project, each variety is identified with a different color based on its organoleptic qualities on a scale that goes from "sour" to "sweet".
"On October 12th, 2020, posters have been put up in five cities for two weeks. We will also be more present in the digital world sharing authentic high-quality content. A B2C digital marketing campaign is envisaged for the second part of the season to communicate our values in a unique innovative way on the different web platforms."