This week FreshPlaza has published a series of articles taken from an interview with Coen Bos, Chief Operating Officer at Fyffes as he speaks openly about the most important developments on the market, the chances and threats, new markets and the future of the company that reached a turnover of a billion Euro last year.

Click here to read part I

Click here to read part II

In what way can you define yourselves?

“That’s a question you must ask yourself every day. We have to keep on questioning what we bring to the product and the chain. As soon as you no long add anything to it, you are unnecessary. I think we define ourselves in efficiency. Due to the large scale we can be cheap. And you need to be reliable. You see, a retailer can’t be worrying about the supply. You used to have a buyer for every product. Nowadays one person controls almost the entire fruit packet.
This person really does not want to be worrying about whether there will be enough fruit and whether the quality will be good enough every week. If retailers do business with us, they need to know that the fruit will be there every week, that it will be in the right box and have to right price to quality ratio. I think we do reasonably well in general. I think we also play well into the specific wishes that every retailer has. It’s far from easy and takes enormous focus.”

What about competition?
“I think there will always be healthy competition. There are a few good operators on the market who know what they’re going and won’t make it easy for us, but that’s the fun in this job. It’s never dull. We also have a team of very good and experienced people in every department, who can match up to the competition together. Most of them have worked with us for years and there’s hardly any drop out. Many join as when they are still young and stay until they retire. I think our customers recognise and appreciate this.”
What is Fyffes’ stance on takeover?
“We like partners. This is why our history is full of (partial) takeovers. With (partial) takeovers we are interested in the company first of all. The first thing we try to do is to keep the management, and if possible the owner.
We strive to maintain the company’s own identity and to only supplement where we can find synergies, where it makes sense. The (partially) taken over companies continue to operate autonomously for a large part. They can work more efficiently, as they can receive fruit from us. It’s not a requirement, it’s a possibility. In general, they soon notice that it brings certain advantages with it. In many takeovers the management is troubled about their future place of work.
But in our takeovers, the previous owners and the management are still happy. No one changes position, life just keeps going on. They have only received a partner who has brought some advantages with them. This could be the brand, the fruit or the technical or financial support. It’s all there. That’s how we work with partners.
Of course, we aren’t afraid of complete company takeovers. Again, it is important to keep the management. Takeovers have been an important factor in the growth that Fyffes has gone through over the last few decades.”
What is your biggest threat?
“More and more retailers are joining forces and combining their strengths. I think this could be a type of threat. We have to remain sharp and keep doing things better than others. This is a continuous process. I also think that there will eventually be a worldwide food and water shortage. If you look at the way the populations of China and India are growing, you have to wonder how they’re all going to be fed. I think this will impact our trade. It may be more difficult to obtain our product. This is one of the reasons that Fyffes must also move toward own production. This is perhaps not a threat on the short term, but it is on the long term.”
Where will Fyffes be in 2020? Will the company have a turnover of 1.5 billion and even more locations?
“Over the last few years we have grown by around 8 to 10%. I don’t think it’s impossible for us to grow 70 to 80% in the next seven years. Mainly by acquisitions and by entering new markets. This will of course include new locations. We will start in China. We want to have our first ripening and distribution centre operating there by the end of the year.
At first it will be small scale. We want to see how it all works there first. I think we could do the same in India, and perhaps in more Eastern countries. We are also not that strongly represented in the United States, where I can see growing possibilities.
We aren’t in the Middle East. Our competitors are strongly represented there. The only way to approach this market is by collaboration of acquisition.”