Fresh Del Monte alert to change

As seen in FruitNet.

Mohammed Abbas, Fresh Del Monte’s chief operating officer, says the company is always on the hunt for new and better products, as well as technologies to boost growers’ resilience to extreme conditions

Are there any exciting new products in your exotics range?

Mohammed Abbas: We are always looking for ways to create better products that our consumers will love. At the beginning of 2023, we launched the Del Monte Zero, a carbon-neutral certified pineapple that takes into account all activities from farm to market. This fruit is available in select North American and European markets.

Our Pinkglow pineapple has been steadily growing in popularity. Demand is currently outpacing supply and sales have doubled over the last year. After years of R&D, we were able to create a pink pineapple that only we can produce.
Honeyglow is seeing similar popularity. This extra-sweet, golden pineapple continues to increase in demand. In North America alone, sales were up more than 50 per cent in the second quarter of 2023, compared with the same period last year.

Is climate change becoming an increasing worry for exotics producers?

MA: These climate issues are not going away, and we’re seeing atypical weather patterns at the farm level. Sustainability and growing responsibly have always been our north star as growers, producers and marketers of fresh produce. As the global temperature continues to rise and we deal with extreme weather conditions, we have begun to rely on technology and smart farming more and more. We use drones to create stress maps of fields to more accurately and efficiently apply organic fertilisers and curative treatments. Our scientists and researchers are working diligently to improve and uncover farming methods to help optimise our yields while preserving and protecting our soil. We believe collaboration with other large growers can help the industry more quickly adopt changes and find new solutions to common problems.

What other challenges are you facing?

MA: Since 2020, we’ve been hit with various pandemic-related challenges that resulted in shortages of raw materials and shipping availability and culminated in unprecedented inflation and higher interest rates. To lessen the impact of these challenges, we are focused on optimising our use of capital and our operating assets in all areas of our business.

Like everyone, we’ve also experienced rising costs over the last few years. We’re working to efficiently optimise our resources through the use of technology and data. Robust, real-time data helps us better anticipate pricing, supply and demand, allowing us to make better-informed decisions.

Are you looking at any new sources?

MA: We always are, especially for exotic fruits and specialty crops. Recently, we developed a local fruit supply in Europe for categories like kiwifruit and melons, which we plan to develop in the future. Del Monte Korea successfully launched a Vietnamese banana programme. This same source has supplied us with dragon fruit and young coconuts too. New source development is always the top priority for us as a fresh produce supplier.

What about new export markets?

MA: Our focus is worldwide, but we recently increased our presence in Switzerland and Greece, while China is growing fast. In North America, we are driving further expansion with various new tropical fruits.

We market our proprietary exotic products, like Honeyglow and Pinkglow, through various always-on campaigns, ranging from in-store activities to new usage education and integrated consumer campaigns. Del Monte Korea recently began its “Sweet & Different” campaign for Honeyglow pineapples, with online ads on an e-commerce platform and promotional pop-up shops.

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