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Convenience food in constant innovation to keep market share

Las investigaciones se centran en ofrecer productos más completos y saludables.

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The economic crisis also affected the sector of convenience fruits and vegetables. Their expansion slowed down and their development is not as it used to be in the past decades. Sales of this segment grew by 12% in 2007, by 6% in 2010, and by 5.5% in 2011, while in 2012 fell by 3.5%. The volume of convenience fruits and vegetables marketed in Spain that year reached 69,155 tonnes and an approximate turnover of ⇔180 million.

HORECA channel was the most affected by that decrease, as consumers cut their expenses out of their households (-4.1% in 2012 according to Mercasa report 2013). The volume of convenience fruits and vegetables devoted to catering industry fell by 2.5% in 2012, down to 12,322 tonnes, whereas distributionís market share increased by 2.51%, up to 56,833 tonnes. Presently, catering industry has a market share of 18% and distribution holds the remaining 82%.

The sector regrets this situation and is trying to fix it, as states Eduardo CÛrdoba, Primaflorís commercial director. He highlighted HORECA channelís expectations and business opportunities in an interview published by our magazine in March 2013: ëAs soon as they realised that convenience food offers many advantages to catering enterprises, they will finally bank on it. Lesser workforce is needed, they are cleaner products, easier to preserve, and above all, have constant price all year round so that restaurants can fix their prices better, not being constraint by market ups and downs. Distribution is an already mature channel, with moderate growth levels, so the challenge now is catering.í

Consumption

Despite the slowdown of growth, the sectorís development is still positive. And a large extent of their commercial success is a result of exports, as consumption in Spain is at stagnation, even falling slightly, since some years ago. And the figures corresponding to 2010 and 2011 prove so. Consumption of convenience fruits and vegetables per person per year was 2.96 kg and 3.35 kg in 2010, but both categories fell in 2011, by 5.4% (2.80 kg as for fruits) and by 1.44% (3.30 kg regarding vegetables).

Consumption of these products in Spain is far from the levels reached in other European countries. It is about 3 kg per person per year, pretty much lower than the 20 kg of United Kingdom, 12 kg of France, and 8 kg of Italy. Other countries where convenience food has good market penetration, although not as good as in the latter, are Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. In Eastern countries, whose economies are more and more developed, this segment is starting to experience great development, which hasnít been unnoticed by large international holdings. But average consumption in Europe is 6 kg per person per year hence there is still a large way to reach North American levels, about 30 kg.

New strategies

The sector keeps working on innovation and development of new lines of convenience food presentation, as they understand that this is the only way to keep this segment of business growing. The aim is boosting new occasions of consumption and new reasons to consume these products. Advances in processing, preservation, and packaging technologies open the door to new presentations and healthier and healthier recipes. Example of it are catering products, whose range of salads now includes Antiox (antioxidant), Cardio (good for the heart) and Inmuno (good for the immune system). Besides, other firms like Vegetales LÌnea Verde bank on complete products: ësalads with proteins, fruits, nuts,Ö ingredients that oneself would add to their saladí, stated Andrea Battagliola, head of Marketing, Research and Development.

The growth of private brands, presently close to 85% according to FEPEX, is also affecting the planning of new commercial strategies, which forces enterprises to optimise all their processes in order to make those private brands competitive.

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