UPAC Fruit is a fruit grower group based in Chile and Peru. Through them each grower sends his own products to the retailers, which leaves growers with more profit, and buyers with better prices, a direct fair trade business between growers and the end of the chain. Juan Vicuna is the sales director, he explained the company’s services and his experience in the Chinese market.
Growers get higher returns, supermarkets get lower prices
“In a traditional scenario, there are 4 main players in the fruit market: grower, exporter, importer and supermarkets. But we face problems such as a lack of understanding between each link, and the high rotation costs that come along with every intermediary.”
Juan explained: “With this initiative to allow growers higher and fairer returns, we developed a brand that represents the growers - Just Fruit. We believe that having their own brand can give growers added value when exporting, as clients often like to have larger volumes of products from the same origin.”
In some cases, UPAC works with growers that do not yet have an export agency, and helps them to establish their own export companies.
When asked about the uniqueness of this scenario, Juan explained: “On the one hand, we develop special programs for growers, and support them with the available sales channels. We sell their products and they can see their results through an online platform, each grower have his own user. They can see our uploaded information, orders, invoices, etc. with full transparency and lower commission. On the other hand, we are able to guarantee supermarkets a stable supply of high-quality, fair-priced fruits. Soon we will have our own brand with B Corporation and Fairtrade certifications.”
Just Fruit - supplying Chinese wholesale markets with better quality fruits
According to Juan, in Europe and USA, supermarkets often play a key role in the fruit value chain. But China is a different story. In China, the best sales are in wholesale markets rather than in the supermarkets.
“Chinese consumers are seeking higher standard imported fruits, therefore we upgraded our packaging. To give an example, we are working with TopSun, to use high graphic boxes - eg packaging shaped like a cherry for cherry products”.
Just Fruit delivered 35,000 boxes (4.5 kg) of grapes to China by air in the past few weeks. “We first wanted to deliver these products to the Shanghai market as it is a more premium market with quality buyers. But with the lockdown, we had to move them to Guangzhou market. But these products are sold very quickly upon arrival. Apparently, people like this type of packaging,” Juan said.
“In China, consumers like to have fruit with a fresh appearance, so growers sometimes pick out the bloom from the grapes. But this means the products are touched by more people before arriving on the consumer's plate,” Juan explained, “so we are now testing a special and more expensive processing procedure. This is the only way to get what the Chinese market really wants. In the test, we sent one container with fruit in the new boxes and the result was amazing. The fruit arrived with stems in perfect condition, even after 42 days transport.”
“Chilean grapes are of good quality, but with the long transport distance, to be more competitive in the Chinese market, we should improve the supply chain techniques, from packing, pre-cooling, materials, packaging, to post-harvest.” Juan said, “sometimes the high costs means better returns, so Chile has to change the way it works. If we want good prices in China, we have to compete with Australia.”
With 25 years of experience, UPAC Fruit has a strong presence in Asia, Europe and Oceania. The company exports large volumes of grapes, cherries, mandarins and clementines to overseas markets. Kiwi, blueberry, apple, stone fruit, mangos are also in their product range.