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Helge Sparsoe - Fyffes

“We knew that putting a new consumer brand into this category would be something radically new"

Fyffes is one of the oldest and best-known brands in the fresh produce industry, originally a banana importer, the company is now involved in the production, procurement, shipping, ripening, distribution and marketing of bananas, pineapples and melon.

Almost four years ago Helge Sparsoe came on board to take the role of CEO.

"I had the pleasure of joining Fyffes in the midst of a worldwide pandemic called COVID, which made my onboarding very interesting. One of the first things we did was to develop a medium to long term strategy for Fyffes, it had been operating on a more short-term basis. Our strategy consists of three fundamental pillars for our future. The first one, Operational and Organisational Excellence which is the one we were focused on to the end of 2023, is all around improving the foundation of the company. And that means advancing our own systems, the way we operate the culture of Fyffes, enhancing skills and capabilities and talent within the organisation.

"Safety and people are the cornerstone of what we do and how we operate. In addition to that, we have gone from being a commodity driven, price focused company, to one of a consumer centric value-added company. During that transformation, we identified certain areas we believed we could do better in, such as Corporate Affairs and our whole ESG sustainability agenda. Not that we weren't doing well, but we felt that we could do much better and today, I'm glad to say that we are actually going over and above industry standards in what we do and how we do it. We have also pulled our supply chain together over our three categories, bananas, melons and pineapples. We now have the same quality standards for all."

Fyffes are now moving into the second pillar: Consumer at Heart. They wanted to know more about their consumers so, they started a significant consumer insights survey, speaking to more than 13,000 consumers in eight different markets. The purpose of the exercise was to understand what's going on in the category of tropical fruit. "We talked to consumers about bananas, about pineapples, about melons, to understand what's important for them. Why are they buying and how are they selecting the various different fruits that we sell? More importantly, if bananas, pineapples or melons are not part of their day-to-day routine, why is that? What are they buying instead? What can we do as a supplier within these categories to potentially get the sale or grow consumption. This has led to the development of a new brand."

A new brand
Last year at Fruit Attraction in Madrid, Fyffes announced their new brand Trudi's, this was introduced for the company's mainland/continental European banana sales. Bananas sold in the UK and Ireland will still go under the Fyffes brand.

Helge said that from the consumer survey they learned that when consumers buy bananas they are on 'autopilot'; the fruit bowl has no bananas, they go to the shop and buy them, take them home and eat them.

"What we found from our research was there are two consumer groups when it comes to buying bananas, the brand label enthusiast involved and the eco involved buyer, these are two very, very big consumer groups, but what is on the shelves is not what these consumers look for. We thought it was time to change, we want to get people out of autopilot, and engage them in the category, bring in some excitement!"

The survey asked the consumer what they thought of Fyffes. Could they name a brand of bananas? It was only consumers in the UK and Ireland who named Fyffes as a banana brand.

"In mainland Europe the Fyffes brand is not known as a consumer brand, but it is certainly known as a B2B brand. If you go and ask our main customers, which are retailers, they all know Fyffes. What we wanted to do is bring excitement to the consumer, to engage with these two very, very large consumer segments which we identified. The Trudi's brand will not replace Fyffes, but is an additional offering to our existing portfolios for the right retailers, for the right consumers. In European markets, we may have Fyffes and Trudi's alongside each other on the shelf. There may be cases where a retailer or consumers prefer Trudi's over Fyffes. It will depend on what the retailer and consumers want, and it may differ from country to country."

Fyffes are currently talking to retailers in Europe, it will depend on individual retailer strategy or portfolios if Trudi's will become an additional offering.

"We believe something is missing today within the category, Trudi's as a concept is what we call 'Good Fruit, Doing Good' because what we found in the in the survey is that consumers know that bananas are good for you, so we don't need to tell them that. What we're bringing to the consumers is that by buying this brand, you're contributing to the communities where Trudi's or Fyffes' bananas are grown. This concept appeals to both consumer segments which we identified; the people who love brands, and the people who are very conscious about the impact, or the footprint our company has in the world. Three things are very important to these consumer groups, that is gender equality, nutrition, and education."

"We need to understand the impact we have in the communities where we operate"
In parallel with the consumer insights and the consumer survey, Fyffes have also done two sustainability reports and have made big improvements. They have also conducted three human rights due diligence assessments, and will do a fourth in 2024.

"What we have also looked at as a company is the responsibility we have in the areas where we are either buying fruit from or we have our own production. We want to create a sustainable, fair value chain from end to end, we want to take our responsibility of what we do very seriously. Meaning that we need to understand the impact we have in the communities where we operate. We also need to understand what is important for these communities and how we can be a fair and responsible supplier or, in many cases, employer."

Before the consumer research, Fyffes also ran community studies in all the places where they operate. What they found was that there are three topics which are important to people living in the communities and which Fyffes could positively influence: Gender equality, nutrition, and education.

"So, we have 'Good fruit, Doing good', so when consumers buy bananas a certain proportion of that price will go towards funding certain projects that we have selected in the region where these bananas are produced. And those projects bring either gender equality, access to healthy nutrition or education. So, what that means is that we are giving the consumer the chance to make the right choice that is the concept of Trudi's."

A premium brand
Concerning the pricing of the bananas under the Trudi's brand, Helge said that was not something they could control as the retail price is set by retailers. What Fyffes can guarantee is that the price that that they sell at to the retailers comes with a premium that allows contribution to the causes mentioned.

"The idea is that it will be sold to retailers at a premium and we will contribute from our side. We have already set up a fund where we will contribute internally to the to the identified activities in the various areas. The money may also go to a specific charity, it could be a specific programme or training. We will support the three pillars, as I said, gender quality, nutrition, or education. We will communicate the project results to consumers via billboards, or in print, social media, and via the retailer. There will also be updates on our website where they can see how their banana purchase was not only doing something good for themselves, but also helps others."

Another major change at Fyffes is that they are sitting down with retailers to understand how they can work together and collaborate on a longer-term basis.

Taking the industry by storm
"I think we took the industry a bit by surprise by launching a new brand and that's okay, because one of the things we have also done as part of our strategy is sit and ask ourselves, how do we want people to describe Fyffes in the future? We want to be seen as a company who took care of the supply chain, work long term, fairly and sustainability. We also want to be seen as the disrupters of the industry, as the company that brings new exciting things to the table, we believe that that is somewhat missing in our industry.

"We knew that putting a new consumer brand into this category would be something radically new. We had such a huge reaction at Fruit Attraction in Madrid, back in October 2023. We had a couple of people coming over and saying, 'What are you guys doing?' which is what we were looking for. We launched this in the month of October, explaining the concept to retailers in time for their annual negotiations for 2024. Since then, we have had a follow up at Fruit Logistica in Berlin, where we showed the next step -activation - and we took the opportunity to show some examples. We are in talks with several retailers in multiple markets, now that they have seen the concept. We are discussing how we would tailor the campaigns around Trudi's. Our hope is to have the Trudi's brand on the shelves by 2025. After the annual negotiations this year, we may see a couple of pilots during 2024."

For more information:
Susanna Kerr
Tel: +353 (0) 87 795 3544
[email protected]