This year, overproduction and extreme rainfall in Colombia made for a difficult physalis - or Cape gooseberry - and passion fruit season. "There was significantly more passion fruit in the market resulting in low prices, and the physalis had many quality problems due to the huge amount of rain," begins the Dutch company Yex's product manager Stef Odenkirchen.
There were also few alternatives, according to him. "Then you have to fly those products in, but that pushes prices too high to compete with the Colombian product. We fly only the Cape gooseberries in because, otherwise, this product's shelf life is far too short."
"Fortunately, as Christmas approaches, demand for both these exotics is rising. Christmas and Easter are when sales usually peak. But, since it's currently raining, we expect some shortages in December. Inflation is causing some uncertainty in consumer spending, with, it seems, exotics and soft fruit being hardest hit. Still, that's luckily not reflected in physalis and passion fruit retail purchases. Though, day trade sales are somewhat calmer," says Stef.
"Passionfruit growers had a tough year after an excellent market in recent years. That led to lots of new planting, which resulted in a large supply and low market prices. I'm very curious to see if the market will get the same volumes in the coming years. Because if this situation continues, many growers are going to battle, especially with the current exchange rate. Cape gooseberry sales are far more stable."
"All the more reason for us to keep in close contact with our growers," explains Stef. In February, he and sourcing manager Robbert van Essen went to Colombia for ten days to visit large as well as small-scale farms. "The small growers are important to Yex; they're often genuinely passionate about their crop. We want to work with growers with whom we click and who are happy in their work."
"Under our Discovered brand, to which we have linked the best suppliers, we give consumers tips for recipes and uses," the product manager says. "That's a hit, as many of them specifically choose the Discovered brand."
"We supply these exotic fruits to retailers, wholesalers, and the food service sector with Scandinavia, Germany, and Eastern Europe as our main markets. Besides the usual plastic packaging, we carry passion fruit in cardboard and physalis increasingly in sustainable sugarcane packaging," Stef concludes.