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A banana from Ecuador has an edge over bananas from other countries

Bonita wants to recapture place in Western European banana market

Do not mistake Bonita's recent quietness for idleness. At the start of this year Bonita, with it's headquarters in Antwerp, has made a strategic shift to focus on the future. From mid-May Ecuador has been sending +/- 250 reefer container shipments (40 feet) to Europe weekly. They are using a dedicated MSC container service that has replaced their own line of ships 'Island Class' with 'Ecuadorian Line' that will ship from Ecuador to Europe within 16 days. Bonita, as the world's largest privately owned banana producer, is convinced that this change will result in a sustainable business model that will allow them to deliver high quality bananas to European supermarkets. 

Sustainable business model

According to Lodo De Roo, Bonita's Northern European Sales Director, one of the major benefits of the sustainable business model is the flexible (or more flexible) adjustment of weekly supply when demand calls for it. "Retaining the 16 day transit to ship the fresh fruit from Ecuador to Antwerp, and an improved 'cold chain' guarantees a high quality product." Moreover, this working model gives Bonita the opportunity to provide flexible deliveries to other ports as well, and thus more capable of adapting to the demands of our clients/supermarkets that are spread all over Europe."

In the last few years Bonita has grown considerably in Eastern Europe. At the same time, the focus will remain on strengthening their presence in Western Europe. Lode admits that the banana market is challenging. "On the one hand you have the priorities of various supermarkets in Europe, each with their own specific wishes. On the other hand, you have the importers and producers with their specific strategies. Adapting to both worlds is challenging and exciting. The basic building blocks for this market are reliability, weekly arrivals of fresh fruit and punctual customer service."

Challenging year  

According to Lode, 2014 was a challenging year, featuring exciting and unpredictable situations on the global and European market. "Banana producing countries saw a decline in their production in 2014, which was partly due to the changing climate. This immediately impacted the world balance between green supply and yellow demand."

More awareness

"Depending on the promotional price, people must ask themselves if this is sustainable in the long run, keeping in mind that bananas are a weekly 'just-in-time' product: from harvesting, to cooling the bananas within 48 hours, to shipping them within 16 days from Ecuador to the European market, to ripening, to being transported to supermarkets within 7 days and then bought within 3 days. In other words, it takes a lot of effort from many different people/institutions in the supply chain to bring the banana to the supermarket." Lode sees the recent trend of people demanding fruits and vegetable from local producers as an opportunity. "If consumers begin to attach more worth to regional products, such as apples and pears, more opportunities for bananas could be created. Consumers would then be more aware of fruit that is coming from oversees and therefore deserves a correct price."

Uncontrollable parameters 

"In 2015 one of the most important factors for the European market will be the evolution of the dollar, especially for 'dollar driven' economies, such as Ecuador. The evolution of the conversion rate could have major implications for trade in general. Also, the climate is becoming more unpredictable, but the impact on global balance can be great."

Focusing on strategic partner relationships

Bonita's focus is on European supermarkets. "We closely follow how retail will develop according to the changing consumer behavior. Supermarkets and suppliers that will adapt to the changing environment, will distinguish themselves in the long term. The sales team of Bonita will continue to support their current (and future) partners in a joint growth strategy that brings added value for all stakeholders." Besides Antwerp, Bonita has sales offices in Serbia, Croatia, and Italy. In order to increase their market share and bring the customer service to higher levels, the currently established sales team will soon be expanded. In light of this, Lode said that Bonita will soon open a new office in Hamburg.

For more information:
Lode de Roo
Bonita Headquarters Antwerp
Zeevaartstraat 3
2000 Antwerp Belgium
T: 32 (0) 3 234 0393