"The fruit has an exceptional flavor this year thanks to the temperature oscillations between day and night and the lack of moisture; factors which cause the fruit to ripen slowly. This motivates the consumer to buy more, as reported by the supermarket chains, which are congratulating us," said Sergio Sainz, commercial director of Cuna de Platero, regarding the current strawberry season. "Although sales are good and prices are acceptable, they can't make up for the current lack of fruit. Compared to this same time of the previous season, the volume available is about 50% lower," he added.
Cuna de Platero was founded more than 25 years ago by growers who already had experience in the cultivation of strawberries. Last year, the company had a turnover of 100 million Euro. Cuna de Platero currently owns 900 hectares of crops: 600 hectares of strawberries, 200 hectares of raspberries, 150 hectares of blueberries and 10 hectares of blackberries. This year, they expect to sell 45 million kilos of strawberries, more than 2.5 million kilos of blueberries and more than 2 million kilos of raspberries. "We have sufficient volumes to sell our fruit to markets and customers of our choice without any surpluses," says Sergio Sainz.
The cooperative has new facilities to receive, pack and ship the fruit. They feature an integrated computer and robot system that shares all information about every order during all stages of the process. All this was shown to FreshPlaza during its visit to the company's packaging plant. "With this new technology, we have improved in terms of efficiency, quality and speed, while at the same time reducing the stress on our employees at the plant," says Sainz.
Using its Global Berry Partner marketing model, the company is able to offer a regular, year-round supply of its four berries. From December to May, the strawberries are grown mainly in Huelva; from June to November, in northern Spain, in the province of Ávila. The raspberry cultivation in Huelva lasts for almost the entire year, thanks to the Adelita variety. As far as blueberries and blackberries are concerned, the company supplements its own production in Huelva with imported fruit, allowing it to supply its customers all year round.
"We want to offer our customers a good service, and that is why we are always looking for new formulas, so that the consumption of soft fruit keeps growing," says Sainz.
The strawberries that are currently on the market come from different countries, and they also have different prices. "We do not suffer much from competition from Egypt, as Huelva has well-defined markets. We are even replacing the fruit from other origins thanks to the logistical advantages of importing our fruit, as well as the quality, sustainability and food safety we offer."
There are more and more chances to grow organic fruit, according to the commercial director. "Although we have always considered the possibility of growing organic fruit, we hadn't actually come to realize how important it was, but the trend seems to be consolidating. We see that many supermarket chains are already dividing their sales departments into traditional and organic areas. Growing organic soft fruit is not easy; many tools are needed and we want to be sure that it is profitable for our growers. This is something we would to continue pursuing in the future."
Cuna de Platero ships most of its fruit to European markets and reports growth in the Mediterranean countries, especially in Spain. "Before we focus on markets outside the EU, there are still enough potential consumers to reach in Europe, where, in order to generate more demand, we still need to improve our communication." Life expectancy in the Mediterranean European countries is increasing, owing to healthier living habits. People not only want to live longer, but also better, and this trend is very popular in Spain, where the demand for berries is on the rise," concludes Sainz.