Ben Dor develops varieties with which to compete

With 400 hectares of stonefruit production and exports that comprise 60 percent of that production, Ben Dor Fruits and Nurseries is firmly entrenched in the global fruit market. But with stiff competition from growers in countries with lower input costs, Ben Dor leans on their breeding program to develop new stonefruit varieties that will give them an edge over their competition.

Ronit Genigar and Ilana Shabtai from Ben Dor

Started in 1983, Ben Dor exports stonefruit, runs a nursery and has their own breeding program. It's the latter aspect of their business that Ben Dor's Ido believes gives them an edge in the stone fruit market. Because Spanish and Italian growers are closer to the main European markets, Ido believes having a superior product makes up for the fact that their transportation logistics are more complicated.

Odem apple variety is an early variety, available in the summer before the Northern Hemisphere harvest

“Our breeding program is what makes our business unique,” said Ido. “We have higher labour costs and higher transportation costs, so we couldn't survive just selling normal products – we can only compete with better products.” Ben Dor develops new stonefruit varieties on their land in Israel, but it also has a breeding program in South Africa, and it tests and grows new varieties in California, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Turkey and the U.K. Because Ben Dor supplies supermarkets on a year round basis, it grows its fruit throughout the globe, so it has to make sure new varieties can grow in different climates.

The Nashi pear variety

“There are diseases that exist in one place and don't exist in another, so we have to make sure a new variety can survive where we plan to grow it,” said Ido. “We need to see how new varieties will react in different places around the world.” Aside from disease-resistance, Ben Dor breeds to satisfy the specific tastes of its target markets. Ido noted, for example, that U.K. consumers prefer stonefruit with a melting, juicy flavour, while Israeli consumers prefer crisp fruit with a high sugar content. While they used to breed varieties mainly for size, now, Ido explained, they focus more on getting the right taste. Additionally, the unique Israeli climate imposes further considerations when developing new fruit varieties.

Plum with size and shape of a mango

“We don't get as many chilling hours in Israel as stonefruit growers in Europe enjoy,” said Ido. That has led Ben Dor to develop fruit varieties that are less exigent when it comes to the number of chilling hours they require, and it requires its breeders and growers to take into account the specifics of each country. Its set up has, so far, been successful, with contracts with some of the U.K.'s major supermarkets.

A cooler full with unique varieties

“We've been working with Marks and Spencer for 27 years now,” said Ido. “We work with other U.K. supermarkets too and while it's demanding to meet the high specifications of those retailers, it's very rewarding.” He added that those contracts with English retailers helped them weather the recent economic crisis, and those partnerships, along with their continually improving line of stonefruit, are essential to their continued success.

Red Druz pear variety

“Our biggest threats are rising costs and the exchange rates,” said Ido. “There will always be competition, but as long as we keep one step ahead by developing better products, we'll be fine, because you can't compete unless you have a better product.”

For more information:
Ben Dor fruits & nurseries
Tel: +972 469 311 61

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