Fruit Logistica, one of the largest international trade fairs in the fruit and vegetable industry, was held from 8-10 February in Berlin, bringing together attendees from all over the world, and providing a platform for exhibitors to showcase their products and network with potential buyers.
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The fair was a mix of old and new, with a focus on the latest trends and innovations in the industry. The Dutch exhibitors had a good participation, with Hall 3.2 entirely occupied by Dutch exhibitors. In Belgium, exhibitors were relieved after a difficult winter season, while German exhibitors discussed the ongoing cost increases in the value chain. The Polish stands saw a boost in traffic after the relocation to Hall 27, whilst the UK stand saw a move to Hall 21. The Turkish attendees, however, were disappointed with their new placement in the CityCube/Hall B and expressed concerns about the low traffic at their stands.
Meanwhile, Israeli exhibitors were happy to meet existing and new clients, and North American exhibitors were pleased with the interest they received for their products and services, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Despite challenges posed by recent events such as the earthquake in Turkey and Covid-19 travel restrictions, the fair was a success for many exhibitors, who reported a positive and optimistic outlook for the future.
Netherlands: Fruit Logistica like it used to be
After the April edition of Fruit Logistica, this year's trade fair was like it used to be. Although there were somewhat fewer Dutch exhibitors than we were used to in previous years, there was still a nice Dutch participation. Hall 3.2 was even entirely occupied by Dutch exhibitors and there was also a large Dutch presence in hall 1.2. Exhibitors were positive about the number and quality of visitors. While in other years the second day was often the busiest day of the fair, this year the first day on Wednesday seemed to be the busiest. On Thursday too, the halls were well occupied at least until mid-afternoon. Friday was traditionally a somewhat quieter day.
Whereas in previous years, introductions of innovations were sometimes saved for the fair, this has seemed to be less and less the case in recent years. In recent years, cardboard packaging seemed to gain the upper hand, but this has changed. Several trade parties indicate that supermarkets are keen to present themselves as sustainably as possible, but when it comes to prices that they do not overreach.
Prices and also high costs throughout the chain continue to hang over the market. Gas and container prices may have normalised somewhat, but cost increases have mostly outpaced selling prices, putting the necessary pressure on the chain. Add to that the economic situation, and sales of the more expensive products such as soft fruit, exotics and organic products in particular are under pressure. Consumers are buying huge amounts of fresh produce in the promotions, but regular sales of these are lagging behind.
The cold in Spain has caused a sharp drop in the supply of greenhouse and outdoor vegetables, causing those prices to go sky-high in recent weeks. You don't hear outdoor growers grumbling either. The drought in Europe caused significantly lower yields resulting in high prices. Onions were already selling for 80 cents per kilo during the exchange week and people were already fantasising whether the magic euro barrier might be reached this season.
Belgium: Positive atmosphere among Belgian exhibitors
Relief reigned among Belgian exhibitors during Fruit Logistica. For many it was a difficult winter with substantially less in Belgian production. Among tomato and strawberry specialists, however, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, as a large proportion of growers are picking up lighted cultivation again and the first volumes are expected again in March/April anyway. One fear that then nevertheless resurfaces is the possibility of oversupply. "That, however, is a worry for later. After all, it is never boring in fruit and vegetable markets," explained a trader.
And so a positive feeling lingered. Last year's emaciated version gave way to this year's crowded aisles. Moreover, it was noticeable that many of the stallholders were content with the old timing of the fair, similar to that of years pre-Corona. "February is ideal because it falls between the seasons. This way, the Madrid and Berlin fairs complement each other."
By contrast, many innovations were absent from the Belgians' stands. They mainly wanted to talk to existing and potential customers. Because of the difficult apple market, the focus there seemed to be on new varieties. "It is difficult to make money with the current apple prices, so more and more traders are turning their eyes to new varieties and club varieties to differentiate themselves," says an exporter. Examples of the varieties on display included Qtee and Piqaboo pears, but Rubis Gold also caught the eye again.
Germany: Pandemic trends topic of discussion at German stalls
In contrast to the previous year, the German-speaking exhibitors were represented in large numbers. In the German-speaking region, too, all those involved in the value chain are confronted with the omnipresent cost increases. Depending on the product area, the consumer's reluctance to buy due to inflation nevertheless seems to be leveling off again to some extent. In order to counter this negative trend, several exhibitors confirm that strategic decisions are needed from politicians.
After the several years of the pandemic, the longer-term trends, such as automation, innovative packaging and the increased processing of fresh products, are coming to the fore again. Convenience products and small containers in innovative packaging are enjoying increased popularity.
Poland: Stand relocation boosts traffic
The Polish stands had also moved this year. They were no longer in the CityCube, but instead could be found in hall 27. Overall this change made the exhibitors very happy, as they saw a lot more traffic than before. The Polish apple exporters were heavily promoting their stocks of Red Jonaprince, as the Gala season was just about over and this is the next variety to focus on. The trend of pear cultivation in Poland could also be seen, with many stands showcasing their pears or the packaging for pears.
United Kingdom: British machine manufacturers see business boom
The UK stand saw a move from its traditional location of Hall 8.2 to Hall 21, the footprint of the pavilion was quite a bit bigger than in previous years and certainly made an impact in the hall. Some other UK exhibitors had also been moved to Hall 21, but quite a few were disappointed with footfall in the new hall as it was much less than than before.
WB Chambers had a booth on the UK stand and announced a new coalition of berry growers, Team Berry, which will work together to provide a good, steady supply of UK berries.
The machine manufacturers were very positive as business has been booming for them as companies faced with labour shortages and are looking at mechanisation. One company invested £6 million in a new manufacturing site last year. Other have upgraded machines and introduced new software to stay ahead of the game.
France: Mixed first impression for French exhibitors
After a slightly different Fruit Logistica last year, as it was postponed until April, there was much expectation around this edition. In Hall 22, which brings together the majority of French companies, first impressions were mixed. If for many exhibitors the first morning was quiet with the "feeling of a lesser presence", other felt the timings, both on the exhibitor and visitor side, were well balanced.
For this 2023 edition, there was a general impression of a more "airy" French Hall with "wider" aisles. In the afternoon, the attendance was already more marked. As in other years, the second day was the most crowded.
For this edition, two new exhibitors were present this year. Some French exhibitors introduced their new paper packaging launched last year, and others presented some new varieties launched last year too.
Italy: Trends show shift towards local, vertical farming, and data-driven irrigation
General satisfaction was felt among many Italian operators who attended Fruit Logistica this year. But what are the trends registered? In recent years, there has been a certain generational change in the fruit and vegetable sector, especially for foreign companies. In the seed sector, the global has made space, in part, for the local. Packaging made of paper and cellulose-derived materials has many facets and has been present at several suppliers. But at the same time, the savvy ones say that it is an excellent opportunity that reinforces and complements plastic, but can never replace it completely. Also because plastic itself is fully recyclable and reusable, you just have to put it in the right circuit after use. Cultivation in a small and protected environment - vertical farming - has come out of its shell and is cleared through customs. It will never feed the world (at least not in the short term), but it is a growing trend and several exhibitors from around the world have brought their products to the fair. Another growing trend is the use of data from satellites to manage irrigation (and fertilisation) in an increasingly scientific and less empirical manner. By crossing such information 'from the sky' with that 'from the ground', artificial intelligence can optimise consumption, improve yields and reduce waste, says an irrigation expert.
For some Italian exhibitors, the trade fair also represented the relocation of part of the office for three days from Italy to Germany to meet customers from all over the world via pre-scheduled appointments. "We welcome new business opportunities, but the event serves us above all as a moment to consolidate relationships." According to another operator, Fruit Logistica showed more relations and more interactions between companies and turned the spotlight on the need for a comparison in terms of growth between companies from different nations. The creation, on an international level, of club varieties has fostered this comparison, which is very constructive. "We can no longer afford to make a mistake with a project, a variety, or a market strategy because it means not only losing money, but time and competitiveness, which are sometimes more precious than money itself."
After the pandemic, last year the fair was held in April, causing some difficulty for many producers, especially Sicilians, to take part because they were busy with their crops. According to some people, it seems that this year, with more usual dates, there were fewer exhibitors and visitors compared to the pre-Covid period. "Perhaps the increasing and excessive costs of participation are starting to weigh on the companies that want to exhibit. Moreover, almost all European food fairs are held every two years, whereas Fruit Logistica is annual. An event that, added to other annual exhibitions, is starting to weigh on company budgets."
Spain: Differential quality seals highlighted at Fruit Logistica 2023
This year was marked by losses in many of the Spanish fruit sectors (from stone fruits to figs), as many participants in Fruit Logistica referred to, and the commitment to 100% natural processed foods without additives has attracted attention; although fresh products continued to be the great strength of Spanish companies. The foods awarded with the Flavour of the Year Awards also held a special place within the offer on display.
In addition to the products themselves, Spanish developments in machinery and packaging also stood out at the fair, as in each edition.
In the absence of official figures, Fruit Logistica 2023 closed with the feeling of a lower Spanish participation (both of exhibitors and visitors) compared to the pre-pandemic editions. In fact, while the presence of Spanish exhibitors was close to 400 in the 2019 edition, 270 were confirmed for the edition of 2023, with the Region of Murcia being the strongest and with the largest number of companies of all the Spanish regions, with 63 companies. Although there were all kinds of opinions, many exhibitors noted a slight drop in the number of visitors to their stands, with hall 18 being perhaps the busiest.
The cold waves have left Spanish vegetable crops at a very low percentage of their production capacity and crazy prices days before the start of Fruit Logistica, which brought some commercial tension to the fair due to the shortage situation. Also soft fruit, always in full season during the celebration of this fair, show a more limited production than usual. Among the biggest concerns for Spaniards are the high production costs, the availability of water and therefore the investment to make efficient use of it, as well as the need for labor.
Anecoop was the only Spaniard among the ten finalists for the Fruit Logistica Innovation Award 2023 thanks to its "Brocomole" cream, made up of 97% broccoli and avocado, which ended up winning the 3rd prize.
Although fresh products continued to be the mainstay of Spanish companies, the production of fresh cut and snack food continues to grow, as well as 100% natural processed products without additives. The main fruits and vegetables with differentiated origin quality labels were present at the fair, highlighting their differential value at an international level; this year with the addition of the peaches Melocotón de Cieza, which in 2023 will be able to be marketed under its PGI throughout the European Union, as well as the new Naranja Valenciana (Valencian Orange) brand announced by the PGI Cítricos Valencianos.
Portugal: High spirits among Portuguese exhibitors
The smell of good food constantly went around the Portuguese stands, as warm lunches were cooked for all the Portuguese exhibitors. They had seen lots of traffic in Hall 5.2 and were noticeably having fun, with all smiles and jokes all around. There were a lot of apples, kiwis and stone fruit being shown on the stands, which were mostly directed at the European market.
Greece: Mixed opinions of effect of new location on footfall
The Greeks were also moved from their usual hall and were now in 8.2. It was described as a ‘walk-through hall’, with waves of traffic coming through, but never being very busy. Some stands claimed to have a very busy first day, while others in the same hall stated the first day was absolutely dreadful in terms of traffic. Lots of stands showcased their kiwis, as the season is winding down after a busy season.
Turkey: Hall change and recent earthquake marks mood among Turkish attendees
The Turkish exhibitors were moved into the CityCube/Hall B this year and some of the exhibitors were not too happy about their new placement. They had seen a lot less traffic than they were used to in Hall 1.1 the previous years. According to several of the exhibitors, the organisation of the Turkish Pavilion had played poker with the Fruit Logistica organizers, bluffing they would not come to the fair if they could not return to Hall 1.1. Instead of taking an offered position in Hall 8.2 or hall 25, the organisers of the Turkish pavilion chose not to accept and wait it out for a week, after which the positions in hall 8 and 25 were filled, leaving only the CityCube as an option. From what was said at the Turkish stands, some of the exporters will opt out of the Turkish pavilion and handle their own stand, if the Turkish pavilion is in the CityCube again next year.
Naturally, a lot of exhibitors had trouble traveling to Berlin, after the horrendous earthquake in Turkey last week. Some of the companies’ management were not able to fly in, and instead had to rely on representatives of the company that reside in other European countries. There were many stories of people connected to the victims in one way or another, and although some were positive Turkey will rebuild fast, it, understandably, was too early for optimism for some of the Turkish attendees.
Israel: Fair a success for Israeli exhibitors
Technology and new varieties of table Grapes and pome fruit was on offer from Israel with great interest from potential buyers.
The Israeli companies at the show were happy to meet existing clients while new clients visited too.
Overall they describe this year’s fair as a success, which was well attended and extremely busy, despite lower numbers on Friday. The last morning was used to visit competitors, compare notes and make some joint plans for the rest of the year some exhibitors noted.
South Africa: Hopes for a more settled 2023
The South Africans were out in force as always, growers of the many different products have been finding it tough with challenges with everything thing to growing conditions, weather, packing and shipping. They are hoping for a more settled year in 2023.
China, East and Southeast Asia: Number of Chinese attendees still considerably lower than pre-Covid
Although recently Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted for Chinese travellers, the number of Chinese stand holders and visitors was still considerably lower than back in 2019, the year before pandemic. Chinese companies cited limited time to plan for attendance, as well as delays applying for visas to Germany, as reasons they were not able to attend. Most of the Chinese stand holders were growers and exporters of Chinese garlic, ginger, pomelo, chestnuts and pears. Ginger prices have been high this winter, due to less production and strong global demand. Pear export prices have also risen to new highs in recent months, thanks to strong demand on the Chinese domestic market. The international onion market is also on fire with very high trading prices.
In addition to fresh fruit and vegetable exporters, China was present through different technology and innovation companies. A large Chinese sorting technology and machine developer participated in the machine halls on the first floor. In addition, a company developing data tracking devices for international shipment presented its international sales team. Finally, a Chinese producer of fresh keeping technology participated as part of the Chinese hall.
International trade and market development has been hampered by strict Covid regulations; some developments have continued. A Chinese shiitake growing company that exports frozen shiitake logs for regional production has recently opened a shiitake factory in Spain and one in Poland. That said, not so many Chinese buyers seem to have attended the show. Egyptian citrus exporters to China shared that their buying contacts have been skipping Fruit Logistica, instead directly travelling to Egypt or other sourcing regions to visit orchards and packing facilities. After two weak seasons, this year a strong season is expected for Egyptian citrus going to China. Kenyan growers are applying for certification to get more orchards certified for avocado exports to China, which were approved last season. A Japanese seed breeding company that cannot export fresh strawberries to Europe is celebrating that it can now send its strawberry seeds directly to the European market.
Vietnam was well represented with around ten different growers and exporters of passion fruit, dragon fruit and other tropical items. During the height of the Covid pandemic, exports from Vietnam have been badly hurt by scarcely available and very expensive air freight. Recently, with the travel market rebounded, exports have been picking up. Indonesia was present with two companies only; one exotic fruit exporter and one company specializing in sustainable packaging solutions.
North America: Challenges reviewed, but optimistic mood for 2023 among exhibitors
Most North American companies were located in Hall 23 with a few scattered across different halls. The number of exhibitors from the US and Canada seemed pretty similar compared to previous years. However, they all agreed that show attendance wasn’t back to pre-pandemic levels. Despite the lower attendance, most exhibitors were pleased with the interest they received for their products and services. A few first-time exhibitors were excited about the international attention for their products. ‘Amazing first experience’, ‘lots of new opportunities’, and ‘great seeing a wide array of clients from around the world’ was some of the feedback they shared.
In addition to exhibiting, quite a number of American and Canadian companies were present by walking the show floor. They were particularly interested in seeing European trends as these trends will usually make their way over to North America in a few years.
Many exhibitors shared how 2022 was a very challenging year in terms of logistics and increased costs throughout the supply chain. However, they were also optimistic for 2023 and hope for the situation to improve. They all agreed that logistics are a lot smoother compared to last year.
South America: Positive atmosphere among exhibitors
The South American countries had a very busy show this year, as many exhibitors commented that they are happy with the sales leads. The halls of the America's, halls 23 and 25 were really busy for the first two days. The passages in-between stands started filling up from mid-morning on the first day with large crowds of visitors making their way to meetings.
Producers and exporters from Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Argentina had many companies at the show with a wide range of fruit and vegetables as well as root vegetables on display and available for tasting.
Panama and Honduras only had one company each with a stand. Despite this they were happy with the interest and potential sales to follow up after the show.
The Peruvian country pavilion was a hive of activity with producers and exporters putting their best foot forward. They commented that all their customers asked about the political situation in Peru as well as the riots and the effects on exports.
The exporters and producers said they were candid and honest with customers that while some companies had forced stoppages, they are doing everything possible to ensure that exports flow.
Horticulture: Less horticulture companies present
Multiple CEA players were present at the Fruit Logistica again. However, remarkable was that the number of horticulture companies had significantly decreased this year. EU greenhouse suppliers mentioned that they are seeing lower investments coming into the market. Whereas, tech suppliers have seen a drastic increase in low tech greenhouses, especially in Morocco and Mexico. It’s remarkable that low-tech (tunnels, net greenhouses, etc.) can now obtain such a proper quality with simple additions such as sensors. Furthermore, LED suppliers of vertical farms are still going strong although the industry is facing a certain setback in terms of investments and bankruptcies. Multiple vertical farm system suppliers let it slip that they are mostly focusing on the North American market as they don’t see a drop in interest there, yet.
Our next Global will continue on Thursday 16 February: Global Market Overview Apples!