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"Alberto Ramírez, of Gustavo Ferrada: "There's still a long way to go"

From citrus growing to the promising future of fresh cut

Grupo Gustavo Ferrada started 60 years ago with the sale of citrus fruits in the domestic market and began exporting fifteen years ago, gaining a considerable number of customers in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Now, in its third generation, with a volume of about 55 million kilos of citrus fruits per year and a turnover of approximately 28 million Euro, it is devoting great efforts to a new project with its second company, Gufresco, with which it is gaining ground in the fresh cut market.

"Our experience as citrus marketers has allowed us to get involved in a new and very exciting project, fresh cut. For a long time, we have supplied oranges for processing into orange juice, until eight years ago, with the creation of the company Gufresco, we started our own production of fresh orange juice for certain hotel chains in the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands. Once we had a foothold into the market with the orange juice, the same customers suggested it would be very helpful to be able to acquire sliced fruit for breakfast," explains Alberto Ramírez, CEO of the Group.

Gufresco took its first steps in this direction by marketing sliced fruit from a producer in Barcelona. Less than two years ago, it started its own production with investments in machinery and the adaptation of its facilities to follow current food safety regulations, and this has allowed them to expand their customer base.

Hotels: the main customers until the products spark the interest of large retailers
According to Alberto Ramírez, the greatest potential lies in supermarket chains. "It will be a great step forward when the products reach the supermarket shelves and are sold like any other commodity in the fresh section. We know the market is there, but for now we focus on the many other possibilities within this segment, with regular customers such as hotels, offices and business centres, restaurants, hospitals, gyms, vending machines, trains and airlines, etc. Hotel chains are our main customers, especially those which attract a greater number of visitors during the summer. For this reason, the peak season for fresh cut lasts from March to October."

"The domestic market is our main destination, since we currently do not see it as an exportable product, given its shelf life. But unlike in the UK or Scandinavia, countries which have served us as inspiration for this project due to their high and specialised consumption, Spain is still an untapped market for these products, taking into account that is a major producer and fresh fruit is sold for very affordable prices. For this reason, it will take more effort to convince consumers and make them understand the reason for the difference in price, starting with the convenience of being able to eat fruit that has already been peeled and sliced, or that 100% of its content is pulp, without skins and stones, etc."

Hygiene and the integrity of the cold chain are essential
"It is essential to adapt the facilities following all food safety requirements, as hygiene, as well as product quality, which relies on the integrity of the cold chain, come first. We control the entire cold chain for 80% of our production, while the rest is delegated to third parties in charge of refrigerated transport."

According to Alberto Ramírez, the most consumed fruit in the fresg cut segment are pineapples, followed by white melons, cantaloupes, oranges, watermelons, kiwis, mangoes, strawberries and grapes. "There are fruits with which we work year-round, such as pineapples, which are imported from Costa Rica; melons, from Costa Rica and Brazil; kiwis, mostly imported from Italy, Greece and Chile, or strawberries, which we import from the Netherlands and Belgium when the Spanish season ends. Most of our sliced fruit has a shelf life of six days, although apples and persimmons, with the help of natural preservatives, can last for up to fifteen days."

While sliced fruit is the main product, they also supply ready-to-eat salads

With regard to prices, there is little difference when it comes to seasonal fruits produced in Spain, and when these are imported prices are slightly higher, something which applies to pineapples year-round. However, "we try to keep prices stable throughout the year," affirms Alberto Ramírez.

Cristian Martí, of Gufresco's marketing department.

For now, the fruit is packaged in natural conditions, but they will soon start working with modified-atmosphere plastic cups. The most common packaging format is the two kilo tray with fruit in bulk for hotel kitchens and catering firms. Furthermore, there is also a take away line for offices, with 100-200-400 gram trays.

"We are new in this and we are continually expanding. We try, as much as possible, to mechanise the production, although this is not possible for some fruits. There is much to be done, but I think this segment has a great future and we'll continue to be committed to it," concludes Alberto Ramírez.

For more information:
Cristian Martí
Avda. Nules, 92. Burriana, Castellon.
T: +34 964577130
M: +34 609441179

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