Exporting fresh pineapple to Europe
Imports of fresh pineapples into the European market have stabilised at around 900 thousand tonnes in recent years. In 2017, there was a good supply of pineapples and volumes to Europe reached 942 million tonnes. The pineapple trade is dominated by the MD2 type variety and a few multinational companies: Dole Food Company, Del Monte Foods, Fyffes and Chiquita. Smaller exporters from developing countries must seek to distinguish themselves with quality, price, and sustainability. There are also opportunities in new varieties that have advantages with regard to logistics, convenience and the increasing attention given to flavour.
Contents of this page
- Product description
- Product specification
- Which European markets offer opportunities for pineapple exporters?
- Which trends offer opportunities on the European pineapple market?
- With which requirements must fresh pineapples comply to be allowed on the European market?
- What competition will you be facing on the European pineapple market?
- Which trade channels can you use to put fresh pineapples on the European market?
- What are the end-market prices for pineapples?
1. Product description
The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a tropical plant with edible fruit. It is a member of the Bromeliaceae family. Pineapples are indigenous to South America. Pineapple plants can withstand both drought and rainfall between 500 mm and 3,000 mm per annum. Pineapples are cultivated from a crown cutting of the fruit of the plant.
Until the mid-1990s, pineapple production and trade was dominated by the Smooth Cayenne variety, which is characterised by high sugar and acid content and which is well suited to canning. In the mid-1990s, Del Monte experimented with a new hybrid pineapple variety, MD2, which has an even sweeter taste, higher vitamin C content and a longer shelf life.
The MD2 variety has now replaced Smooth Cayenne pineapples as the preferred variety in every major market. Over 80% of all European imports are MD2. Most other pineapples are of the types ‘Smooth Cayenne’, ‘Sugarloaf’, and ‘Victoria’. In general pineapples for fresh consumption weigh between 1 and 2.5 kg.
Table 1: CN commodity code for fresh pineapples
|08043000||Fresh or dried pineapples|
Source: Eurostat Comext
2. Product specification
Pineapples are divided into three classes: Extra Class, Class I and Class II. Most pineapples sold in the European market are Class I or Extra Class.
Information on the quality requirements for each class can be found in the:
- UNECE standards for pineapples
- standard for pineapples in the Codex Alimentarius, the ‘food code’ of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
- General Marketing Standards of Regulation (EU) No. 543/2011.
At the very least, pineapples should be:
- intact, with or without crown, which if present may be reduced or trimmed
- sound, i.e. produce affected by rotting or deterioration, such as to make it unfit for consumption, is excluded
- clean, practically free of any visible foreign matter
- practically free from pests
- free from damage caused by pests affecting the flesh
- fresh in appearance
- free of abnormal external moisture
- free of any foreign smell and/or taste.
The development and condition of the pineapples must be such as to enable them to withstand transportation and handling.
The European quality standards in Regulation (EC) No. 1580/2007 specify that imports of fresh fruits and vegetables from third countries to the European Union (EU) must conform to the EU Marketing Standards or their equivalent.
Pineapples do not ripen after harvesting. Exposure to ethylene produced by other fruits (for example bananas) may soften the fruit, but it will not make them any sweeter.
Size and packaging
Fresh pineapples are classified according to Size Codes A–H, with average weights (including the crown) ranging from 2750 grams (Size A) to 800 grams (Size H). The minimum weight for a pineapple is 700 grams, except for some small-size varieties, which may weigh less. See the Codex Alimentarius Standard for Pineapples.
Packaging requirements differ by customer and market segment. Buyers require new, clean, high-quality packaging that ensures proper protection for the produce. Talk to your customers about their requirements and preferences concerning packaging. General characteristics include the following features:
- Wholesale packaging in carton boxes or crates which can vary in size.
- Most fresh pineapples are packed in boxes containing 5–10 pineapples, with approximately 12 kilo net weight.
Labelling on consumer packaging must comply with the rules and regulations applying to the European market. Labels must not contain any toxic ink or glue. See also the:
- Codex General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods (CODEX STAN 1-1985)
- Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.
If the nature of the produce is not visible from the outside, the package must be labelled with the name of the product, and possibly the name of the variety and/or commercial name.
Labels for pre-packed or other fresh fruits should provide the following information:
- name under which the product is sold
- product’s commercial identification, i.e. class, size (code), number of units, net weight
- name and address of the producer
- place/country of origin
- traceability code.
In addition, the label should include any certification logo (if applicable) and/or retailer logo (in the case of private-label products).
3. Which European markets offer opportunities for pineapple exporters?
General information and about trade developments in the European market is provided on the CBI Market Intelligence Platform. This section provides insights on the trade and consumption of fresh pineapple.
Pineapple is a typical product from developing countries
The European market for pineapples is supplied almost exclusively by developing countries. After a decade of rapid growth between 1995 and 2005, total imports of pineapples into Europe have stabilised between 850 and 950 thousand tonnes in recent years. The value of imported pineapples is slowly rising (see Figure 1).
The market for pineapples has matured and large companies have set up business in producing countries. This means that, as a smaller supplier, you will have to optimise your performance or distinguish yourself if you want to stay in the game.
- Distinguish yourself with outstanding quality, special packaging, labels and social compliance.
Multinationals dominate the pineapple and banana trade
The transport of fresh pineapples by sea, using reefer ships, is often combined with the banana trade. The companies that dominate the worldwide trade in bananas (Dole, Del Monte, Chiquita and Fyffes) are heavily involved in the production and trade in fresh pineapples as well. These companies operate their own plantations, packing houses, cold storage and other distribution facilities. They source additional supplies from outgrowers (contract farming).
- Try to avoid competition with the dominant pineapple companies. Focus on niche markets (for example socially responsible fruit, environmentally friendly or organic production) or specialties (such as baby pineapples).
- If you are a producer and you have difficulty distinguishing your product or lack marketing strength, consider joining or supplying a multinational operation.
Most countries import directly from the country of origin
Many major markets such as Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy and France import directly from the country of origin. Three quarters of the total trade value concerns direct import by the consuming market. So as an exporter you have the option to select and directly supply the market that suits you best.
- Select the European market that suits your company and product best. See more information on geographic differences in the sections below about buyer requirements and market channels.
Overall, the Netherlands is the largest importer of fresh pineapples, primarily because of its major seaports and its position as the main arrival port for large banana carriers that also carry pineapples. Although much of the pineapples are traded directly, the logistics of these trade flows are still mostly managed by the Netherlands and Belgium. You have to consider these countries as important hubs for your pineapple exports.
- Use the Netherlands or Belgium for multimarket access. The experience and redistribution capacity of these leading import hubs offer a more flexible market approach.
- For general trade in pineapples, consider establishing direct trade relations with the leading destination markets.
Europe is not a competitor in pineapples
The European production of pineapples has no significance for the European market. According to the Statistics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (Faostat) Portugal is the only European country that produces pineapples. But with a production volume of around one thousand tonnes its impact is unlikely to reach further than Portugal and Spain. Your competition will be strongest from other (developing) countries, such as Costa Rica.
- Define your quantitative position by comparing production and yield statistics for pineapples on the Faostat website.
- Always be prepared for changes in the European market. As Europe depends heavily on the supply of pineapples from Costa Rica, opportunities can arise suddenly if Costa Rica is unable to deliver.
Consumption strongest in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain
The United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain and France are the largest consumer markets for pineapples in Europe, according to import and export statistics. They all import a net value of between €90 million and €120 million. The United Kingdom showed an exceptional recent growth. According to British supermarkets, pineapple was the fastest growing fruit in 2017 with a 15% increase.
In general European consumers are interested in tropical fruit such as pineapples, but its consumption in Europe also depends on availability, the retail price and how the product is presented. The major consumer markets in Europe are logical destinations for your export, but you must not ignore the potential of smaller markets and trade hubs.
4. Which trends offer opportunities on the European pineapple market?
The CBI Trend mapping provides information on general trends in the European market for fresh fruits and vegetables. This section provides details about specific trends in the fresh pineapple market.
Pineapples become more convenient
Freshly cut: Supermarkets facilitate consumers by selling special peeling tools or by offering freshly cut pineapple in consumer packages. Fresh pre-cut pineapple has found a significant consumer group in Northern Europe and is a rapidly growing segment.
Baby pineapples: ‘Baby pineapples’ are also developing new market potential. Their size is excellent for individual consumption and the stems are soft and edible, making it an easy-to-eat variety. Baby pineapples are sometimes also used as decoration.
Conserved pineapple: A large share of pineapples is consumed as conserved fruit, mostly canned. Frozen and dried pineapple is also becoming more widely available.
The convenience trend is strongest in Northern Europe, especially in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In the southern part of Europe, more time is spent on eating and food preparation, and this is favourable for suppliers of fresh whole pineapples.
- Select the varieties that are easy to cut, and add consumer information about peeling and cutting.
- See the CBI market intelligence platform for more information about exporting processed fruit to Europe.
Flavour is important
Because fresh pineapples do not ripen after being harvested, the flavour and sweetness of the fruit is an important selection criterion for importers. European consumers have a preference for sweet pineapples with juicy flesh. Although the MD2 variety is the most popular, opportunities exist for other sweet varieties. Lesser known varieties are mainly sold in street markets, ethnic shops and greengrocers. For example, with their superior flavour, ripe, air-freighted Sweet Cayenne pineapples are primarily destined for the specialist and catering segments.
- Make sure to supply pineapples that are harvested with the right ripeness and flavour.
Growing interest in sustainable fruit
In Europe, trends are developing towards more sustainable approaches to production and processing of fresh fruit. Environmental and social issues are becoming increasingly important. Social and environmental certification schemes include actions aimed at sharply reducing and registering the use of pesticides, ensuring employee safety and/or including price guarantees for producers.
Certification schemes that are in line with the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP) are more likely to be accepted by European supermarkets.
Reducing carbon footprint
For fruit importers, lowering the carbon footprint is becoming increasingly important as consumers and retailers are paying more attention to this topic. In the case of pineapples, the best flavour is delivered by air-freighted, sun-ripened fruit, while environmental considerations and price favour transport by sea. This is a trade-off, and buyers will differ in both demand and approach.
- Increase your chances with major buyers by reducing your company’s impact on the environment, and show them your efforts in the area of sustainability.
The increased attention to health and the environment is also generating interest in organically produced pineapple. The demand for organic pineapple is especially strong in northern European markets.
- Read also the general study about trends in the fresh fruit and vegetables.
- For the export of organic pineapples to the European market, use a specialised importer, who understands the market and has access to niche markets with their particular requirements. Use, for example, the Organic-Bio database.
5. With which requirements must fresh pineapples comply to be allowed on the European market?
Buyer requirements can be divided into
(1) musts (for example, legal requirements), which must be met in order to enter the market;
(2) common requirements (which have been implemented by most competitors), with which you should comply in order to stay abreast of the market; and
(3) niche market requirements, for specific segments.
The food safety requirements for fresh pineapples are the same as for other fresh fruit and vegetables. You can find a complete overview in and at the:
- general buyer requirements for fresh fruit and vegetables
- Trade Helpdesk that provides an overview of export requirements for fresh pineapples (code 08043000) per country.
With which legal and non-legal requirements must your product comply?
Minimise pesticide residues
Pesticide residues constitute a crucial issue for suppliers of fruits and vegetables. With the aim of avoiding health and environmental damage, the European Union has set maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides in and on food products. Products containing more pesticides than allowed are withdrawn from the European market.
Note that buyers in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria set MRLs that are stricter than those specified in European legislation.
- Find out which MRLs are relevant for papayas by consulting the European MRL database, in which all harmonised MRLs can be found. You can search for your product or the pesticide used. The database has a list of the MRLs associated with your product or pesticide.
- Reduce the amount of pesticides by applying integrated pest management (IPM) in production. IPM is an agricultural pest control strategy that includes growing practices and chemical management.
- Read more about MRLs on the European Commission website on food safety. Check with your buyers if they have any additional requirements regarding MRLs and pesticide use.
Comply with phytosanitary requirements
Fruit and vegetables exported to the European Union must comply with European legislation on plant health. The European Commission has laid down phytosanitary requirements to prevent the introduction and spread of organisms harmful to plants and plant products in Europe. These requirements are managed by the competent food safety authorities in the importing and exporting countries.
- Verify with the national plant protection organisation or food safety authority in your country if and under which conditions you may export fresh pineapples to Europe. These authorities normally work with international standards, but always check with your buyer as well.
What additional requirements do buyers often have?
GLOBALG.A.P. and other certification as guarantee
Since food safety is a top priority in all European food sectors, you can expect most buyers to request extra guarantees from you in the shape of certification.
The most commonly requested certification for fresh pineapples is GLOBALG.A.P., a pre-farm-gate standard that covers the whole agricultural production process, from before the plant is in the ground to the non-processed product (processing is not covered). Whether GLOBALG.A.P. is required also depends on the destination country, market conditions and market channel. For example, it has become nearly impossible to supply northern Europe without GLOBALG.A.P., since it is a standard requirement for most supermarkets.
Examples of other food safety management systems that can be required are:
- British Retail Consortium (BRC)
- International Food Standard (IFS)
- Food Safety System Certification (FSS22000)
- Safe Quality Food Programme (SQF).
These management systems are supplemental to GLOBALG.A.P. and are recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
- Identify the food-safety management systems that are usually requested in your target market. Expect GLOBALG.A.P. to be one of them.
- Read more on the various food-safety management systems at the Standards Map.
- Always remember that food safety is a major issue. Work proactively with buyers to improve food safety, be transparent and remain up to date with regard to buyer requirements and regulations.
Social and environmental compliance
There is a growing attention for the social and/or environmental conditions in the producing areas. Most European buyers have a social code of conduct which they will expect you to adhere to. As regards fresh pineapples, social compliance is important, and for most large retailers it is a must.
Implementing GRASP provides you with a good basic social certification. GRASP is part of GLOBALG.A.P. and gaining in importance.
You also increase your chances by implementing standards that are recognised by the Sustainability Initiative Fruit and Vegetables (SIFAV). This comprises an initiative from traders and retailers to become 100% sustainable in sourcing fresh produce from Latin America, Africa and Asia by 2020.
Rainforest Alliance has become a common standard in the pineapple trade, because some of the largest companies such as Dole have adopted Rainforest Alliance as their preferred certification.
A few specialised buyers provide extra opportunities for socially certified products. They use certification schemes such as Fair for Life or Fairtrade. In general fair trade certification is losing importance in Europe.
- For a complete overview of buyer initiatives for social compliance, see the buyer requirements for fresh fruit and vegetables on the CBI marketing intelligence platform.
- Examine your company’s current performance, for example by completing a self-assessment on the Business Social Compliance Initiative on the amfori/BSCI website.
- Consult the Standards Map database for additional information and to learn about differences between fair-trade labels.
What are the requirements for niche markets?
Growing demand for organic pineapples
An increasing number of European consumers prefer food products that are produced and processed using natural methods. The market for organic pineapples is much smaller than the conventional market, but demand is growing and the supply is limited. In order to market organic products in the European Union, you must use organic production methods according to EU legislation. Furthermore, you have to use these production methods for at least two years before you can market your fresh pineapples as organic.
In addition, you (or your European importer) must apply for an import authorisation from organic control bodies. After being audited by an accredited certifier, you may put the EU organic logo on your products.
- Implementing organic production and becoming certified can be expensive, so assess the market potential before making any investments.
- Read more about the principles of organic agriculture on the website of IFOAM Organics International.
- Consult the Standards Map database for information about the various organic certifications.
6. What competition will you be facing on the European pineapple market?
This section details market-entry opportunities and barriers relating to pineapples, as well as information concerning competition at the company and product levels.
Pineapple is a major tropical fruit, which is largely dominated by a few large enterprises. Competition is strong, especially when supplies are high. Temporary shortfalls in supply or demand (for example due to drought) can have considerable impact on prices.
Competition from Costa Rica
Costa Rica, Brazil, the Philippines the world’s leading producers of pineapples. Together, they produce about 8.2 million tonnes annually (accounting for a third of all pineapples worldwide). In recent years, the Thai production volume was overtaken by increasing volumes in China and India.
Costa Rica is the principal supplier for Europe. Brazil and Thailand do not export any significant quantities of pineapples, and the Philippines focuses on supplying markets in Asia and the Middle East. The export opportunities to Europe mainly depend on logistics. Due to the perishable nature of the product this is a key issue.
Production in Costa Rica is organised predominantly by large multinational companies. Costa Rica’s production is still increasing, and yields are high (approximately 56 tonnes per hectare).
Costa Rica compared to other suppliers
In 2017, Costa Rica exported €758 million worth of pineapples to Europe all year round, which accounted for 83% of the total European import value. Other suppliers that manage to supply the rest of exports are mainly Ecuador (€37 million with a high share of air-freighted pineapples), Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana (both €28 million euros), among the several smaller export countries. Ecuador is a growing supplier with good-quality pineapples, but also Colombia increased its production and is participating more in the supply of the European market. The growth of these countries goes at the expense of Panama.
If you export from western Africa you will have a good logistical position near to Europe. Western Africa is also interesting to importers because there is less influence from multinationals. This is not a guarantee, which can be seen in the decreasing export from Ghana to Europe (see Figure 5), where suppliers did not make a quick enough shift to the popular MD2 variety or other sweet pineapple varieties with potential.
- Keep up to date on the supply from Costa Rica via the website of the National Chamber of Pineapple Producers and Exporters (CANAPEP). Up-to-date market knowledge is important to estimate your potential and determine your timing.
Dominant variety: MD2 pineapple by sea
Pineapples from Costa Rica are transported by sea. Costa Rica almost exclusively sells fresh pineapples of the MD2 variety. Ghana also supplies a small quantity of MD2 pineapples. Although it is the main variety destined for Europe, for small and medium-sized exporters it will be difficult to compete with the multinational suppliers that are active in Costa Rica.
- Make sure your price and quality match those of Costa Rica when supplying MD2 pineapples.
Opportunities for other pineapple varieties
Although the MD2 variety has been dominant in recent years, there are opportunities for other varieties that cater to special tastes or needs (for example, baby pineapples or extra-sweet varieties).
To complement the range in supermarkets, European importers buy air-transported pineapples of the Victoria, Sugarloaf and Smooth Cayenne varieties from Africa. These air-freighted varieties are in even greater demand when there is a shortage and sea transport takes too long.
- Anticipate which new varieties can be marketed by remaining in close contact with (potential) buyers. Use their knowledge to decide which varieties you will produce.
Certification and the need to meet both legal and non-legal requirements pose major obstacles to producers and exporters entering the market. The success of new entrants is determined by quality and distinctive products.
The buying power of large retail chains is strong, particularly in the supermarket channel. Supermarkets demand uniform quantity, relatively large volumes and primarily sea-transported pineapples.
For pineapples, well-ripened quality and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are important, as are supply chain transparency and information sharing. Buyers in Europe tend to prefer long-term partnerships as a means of ensuring the supply and quality of products.
In southern European countries, street markets and specialist shops are more dominant. They demand smaller volumes, and buyer requirements are somewhat less strict, although European legislation applies throughout the European Union. In spite of the weaker buyer power of smaller shops, these customers have a wide range of choices among the various suppliers and varieties.
- Enter the north-western European market by participating in major retail programmes. Contact an experienced importer/distributor that has the right contacts with supermarkets.
- Use the experience and logistical power of importers and service providers to reach smaller outlets as well. Select your importer according to your company features in terms of size, target group and type of pineapples.
- Establish a credible track record of providing transparent information on your company and product quality. Being part of a stable partnership and a trustworthy supplier can help you to establish and maintain your position in the market.
- Read our tips for finding buyers.
The diversity of fruit supplied to the European market has increased in the past decade, thereby increasing the competition for pineapples. If the price for pineapples is very high, consumers are more likely to buy other tropical fruits.
Within the pineapple segment, consumers have the choice of buying whole pineapples or freshly cut pineapples. For food preparation purposes, canned pineapples can substitute fresh ones. The best way to convince the consumer to buy your pineapples is by providing the right variety with excellent sweetness and quality.
- Use storytelling to highlight the origin and producer of your products, and novel packaging and premium quality as methods for distinguishing your product from the rest. Make sure that your pineapple has excellent ripeness and flavour.
- Try not to compete on price alone, building partnerships with buyers and striving for excellence in product quality and handling instead.
7. Which trade channels can you use to put fresh pineapples on the European market?
This section provides information about the various channels through which fresh fruits and vegetables are marketed in Europe.
Supermarket versus specialist
Pineapples are sold primarily in retail stores. It is important to distinguish between the supermarket channel in and the specialist retail channel, which includes fresh grocers and street markets.
Supermarkets are the most important channel in north-western Europe. In France and Spain it is common to see hypermarkets. Specialist retail, such as fresh grocers, is more dominant in southern Europe.
Each retailer has its own way to differentiate in presentation, quality and price. Most pineapples are part of a large category and big brands but you can also encounter smaller channels that appreciate a differentiated product.
Processing requires crownless pineapples
The processing of pineapples such as canning often takes place in origin, managed by well-known brands. Some of the processing takes place in Europe. Especially the freshly cut and packaged pineapples are gaining in popularity. In order to supply processors in Europe, you must be able to deliver crownless pineapple.
Food service can absorb larger sizes and crownless pineapples
Food-service (for example catering and restaurants) is a smaller channel for fresh pineapples, supplied by wholesalers and cash-and-carry. It is an important channel for marketing larger fruit sizes. Pineapples can be required with crown, crownless or large sized packages with freshly cut. Other out-of-home markets, for example gas stations and convenience stop & go shops, primarily sell pre-cut pineapples.
Taste and size throughout Europe
Consumers in Western Europe prefer smaller-sized pineapples. Large retailers are increasingly selling individual portions of freshly cut pineapple. The right flavour and sweetness are important to consumers throughout Europe, in particular in southern Europe.
- Make sure that you are supplying the right type and quality in order to fulfil the requirements of European retailers and fresh processing.
Importance of distinguishing your product from that of well-established multinationals
Most pineapples are traded through the same channels as bananas; the actors in this market are often multinationals and highly specialised in these fruits. In the supermarket channel, there are well-established supply chains of large multinational companies, each with its own production facilities and sometimes using outgrowers, which deliver high volumes at low prices. Joining such well-established supply chains could offer the benefit of scale and experience, although it will decrease your independence. When looking for opportunities in the pineapple trade, distinctiveness and specialised importing companies are key elements for success.
- Distinguish your product from the rest through innovation and/or additional attention to CSR or special varieties, in order to avoid competition with the major players.
- If you export pineapples without having your own production facilities, focus on alternative or specialised trade channels instead of on the large supply chains. Producers can also consider contract farming or cooperation with the major multinational pineapple companies.
8. What are the end-market prices for pineapples?
Figure 6: Breakdown of consumer prices for pineapples (indicative)
Pineapple has a relatively low price per kilogram and prices vary according to quality, supply volumes, variety, size and added value. Specialising in a distinctive product can increase your earnings, but you must be price-competitive in every category.
Indicative consumer prices for pineapples in Europe (based on supermarket range) are as follows
- Normal small and medium sized: €1.50–2.50 apiece
- Special or larger varieties: €2–7 apiece
- Organic pineapple: up to 50% higher retail price
- Fair trade pineapple: up to 50% higher retail price
- Freshly cut pineapple: €7–10 per kilogram (packaged in weights of 100–500 grams)
- Canned pineapples: €0.50–4 per kg (200–500 g per unit)
- For consumer prices, consult the online shops or ranges of supermarket chains. Good options include Tesco, Albert Heijn (search for ‘ananas’) and Carrefour (search for ‘ananas’).
- Consult your contacts in Europe (build a network!) or look on websites such as France Agrimer to find current wholesale and trade prices. Remember that these are wholesale prices and not linked to prices you find in the supermarkets.
- For information on fair trade prices for producers, see the pricing database on the website of Fair Trade International.
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