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Mixed feelings about success of frozen exotics

Why don’t people go into frozen exotics? Frozen when ripe, the products are more favourably priced than airfreighted exotics and they have a longer shelf life. Yet the market for frozen exotics isn’t really taking off. “Only a handful of exotics really lend themselves to frozen production,” believes Sandeep Singh of Amar Import and Export. “In most exotics the freezing affects the flavour and the perception of freshness of the buyers.”

Marginal volumes
There is only a select group of exotics that can be frozen cut or grated without there being any loss of quality and flavour, Sandeep states. He takes care of the import and export of both fresh and frozen exotics and mainly supplies tokos. Yet the volumes are marginal: more like pallets than tonnes. In the sales within the Netherlands and Belgium there aren’t differences worth mentioning, he says. “Most exotics aren’t supplied in a processed form. Often because there are no suitable applications for this in the industry. Only for these types of products is there an added value to supplying them frozen. In the market for frozen exotics only really long beans and cassava are generally available.”

Fresh enjoys preference
The fact that exotics don’t ‘like’ to be frozen, has a lot to do with perception. “Exotics have had to travel a long road to reach the consumer. These products are inherently special, because they represent a regional character. They come from far away. People want to see their freshness with their own eyes. If you make a frozen product out of it, that feeling is instantly gone and it loses the exclusivity it has in its pure form with its seasonal appearance.” Sandeep doesn’t have high expectation of frozen exotics for now. “The main demand from the market will remain to be for fresh. The fact that frozen exotics are cheaper will do little to change this due to the often inferior quality. Frozen is more suitable for Dutch fruits and vegetables at the moment.”

Yet it isn’t the end for frozen exotics just yet, says Sandeep. Due to increasingly strict regulations from Europe, the Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit (NVWA), and het Kwaliteits-Controle-Bureau (KCB), fresh exotics could suddenly be getting a lot scarcer. “The tighter rules concerning residues of pesticides influence the sales and so also the price formation. If the price difference between fresh exotics and frozen exotics gets too big, it will have consequences.”

Year round supply of fresh exotics competes with frozen
Wim Karsten, of the eponymous Karsten BV, is also in the trade of fresh and frozen exotics. His sales of frozen exotics are also relatively small scale. Yet Wim is positive about the growth that this niche market is experiencing. “In the last year and a half the sales have increased by a quarter. Over the coming years I expect a level but stable growth. Most growth – for us at least – is reserved for fresh exotics. Fresh exotics offer a better taste experience. Frozen often doesn’t get a look in until there are seasonal products with no alternatives.” Because almost all exotics can now be offered fresh all year round, there are enough alternatives. This is where frozen exotics struggle.

More information:
Amar Import and Export
Sandeep Singh
[email protected]

Karsten BV
Wim Karsten
[email protected]
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