Exporting dried tropical fruit to Europe
Europe is the largest market for dried tropical fruit. Consumption of dried tropical fruit is driven by various factors, including the healthy snacking trend and new product applications like fruit snacks. The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and the growing markets in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries offer opportunities for developing country suppliers. Educating buyers about less known tropical fruit and how to use them can increase consumption. New product developments, food safety and social responsibility standards can also provide a great advantage to suppliers to European markets.
Contents of this page
- Product description
- Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of dried tropical fruit?
- Which trends offer opportunities on the European market for dried tropical fruit?
- Which requirements must dried tropical fruit comply with to be allowed on the European market?
- What competition will I be facing on the European dried tropical fruit market?
- Which channels can you use to put dried tropical fruit on the European market?
- What are the end-market prices for dried tropical fruit on the European market?
Dried tropical fruit is the product prepared from ripe fruit which is native or grown in tropical regions (climatic zone surrounding the equator), processed by drying, either by the sun or other recognised methods of dehydration, with or without added sweetening agents (such as cane sugar) and food additives. In some production methods (such as for banana chips), the product is not actually dried but fried in hot oil, similar to the production of potato chips. Another aspect of banana chips is that the raw material used is not ripe but green fruit. Another method is to soak the fruit in syrup before drying, creating a very sweet shelf-stable product. This is widely done for soft fruit, such as papaya and pineapple.
Depending of the species and variety, dried tropical fruit can be cut into different shapes. The most common are halves, slices, pieces, spears, chunks or cubes.
The most popular dried tropical fruit in Europe include dried bananas, mangos, pineapples and papayas. However, other types of dried tropical fruit are also becoming popular on the European market, such as guavas, carambola (star fruit), durian, rambutan, passion fruit, jackfruit and pitahaya. Dried tropical fruit is used at home, as a snack or cooking ingredient, away from home in hotels, restaurants and other places, and in the food industry, such as in bakery and confectionery products, as well as in breakfast cereal mixtures.
This study covers general information regarding the market for dried tropical fruit in Europe, which is of interest to producers in developing countries. See Table 1 for the products which were used for statistical analysis. However, the range of dried tropical fruits is wider than is possible to show in statistical analyses, as some statistical codes include many different products besides dried tropical fruit. For more specific information, see our study about Dried Mango in the United Kingdom and Desiccated Coconut in Europe. Please note that dried dates are not included in this report as they are mostly grown in subtropical regions.
Table 1: Combined Nomenclature codes for dried tropical fruit
|08134065||Dried tamarinds, cashew apples, lychees, jackfruit, sapodillo plums, passion fruit, carambola and pitahaya|
Picture 1: Dried banana slices
Source: Max Pixel
Picture 2: Dried pineapple
Picture 3: Sugar-infused dried papaya
Picture 4: Dried passion fruit
Source: Max Pixel
Specific quality standards for dried tropical fruit have not been officially defined by the European Union. The most common standards used are standards published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). However, until now UNECE has only defined two specific standards for dried tropical fruit: for mango and for pineapple.
The basic quality requirements for dried tropical fruit are:
- Fruit free from insects, mould, damages, blemishes
- Moisture content: this differs between different types of dried tropical fruit. Generally, for natural dried fruit (without added preservatives or sugars), the moisture content must be lower than for fruit with added preservatives or sugar. For natural dried mangoes the maximum moisture content is 15% and for pineapples 20%. For dried mangoes treated with preservatives the maximum moisture content is 20% and for treated pineapples 44%.
- Food additives: some types of food additives are allowed in the production of dried tropical fruit. Additives used in production of dried tropical fruit include sodium chloride and calcium chloride (protecting from moisture increase), sulphur dioxide (prevents rotting and colour change) and citric acid (antioxidant preventing colour change). Sugar or fruit juice are also allowed and often used in the production of dried candied (sweeteners infused) tropical fruit.
- Quality classification: Although European legislation does not define classification of dried tropical fruit concerning allowed defects, suppliers usually use three classes: Extra, Class I and Class II. This classification determines the percentage of defective products, by number or weight.
The name of dried tropical fruit on the label should include the name of the fruit and the word “dried”. However, in some cases instead of word “dried”, in order to better describe a product, some other description can be used, such as “dehydrated”, “sun dried”, “freeze dried”, “soft”, etc.
It is common that specifications on the label include the crop year, style of cut, variety and origin of product. “Best before” followed by the date is usually optional for natural dried products, but mandatory for soft fruit (high-moisture dried tropical fruit).
In case of retail packaging, product labelling must comply with the European Union Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers. This regulation defines nutrition labelling, origin labelling, allergen labelling and legibility (minimum font size for mandatory information) more clearly. However, dried tropical fruit is not included in the allergen list of the regulation.
Information for non-retail containers must be given either on the container or in accompanying documents, although the name of the product, lot identification, and the name and address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor or importer, as well as storage instructions, must appear on the container. However, lot identification, and the name and address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor or importer may be replaced by an identification mark, provided that such a mark is clearly identifiable with the accompanying documents.
Picture 5: Shipping label example
Source: Integrated Business Communications Alliance
Picture 6: Example of allergen advice on retail packaging
Source: QuickLabel Systems
Packaging used for dried tropical fruit must protect the organoleptic and quality characteristics of the product, protect the product from bacteriological and other contamination (including contamination from the packaging material itself) and not pass on any odour, taste, colour or other foreign characteristics to the product.
Dried tropical fruits are usually packaged in plastic bags or plastic liners placed in carton boxes of different sizes. Packed products should be transported on EURO pallets (80 x 120 cm) and further transported in containers. Twenty-foot containers may contain 1600 12.5 kg cartons or 2,000 10 kg cartons.
Dried tropical fruit does not require special temperature of transport or storage. However, extremely low or high temperatures should be avoided. At high storage temperatures fruit sugar particles may form on the surface of the product, hardening and discolouring them. Such crystallised fruits may, however, be reconditioned using steam.
The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany offer the best opportunities for exporters of dried tropical fruit. Besides these three largest markets, opportunities can be found in the growing markets of Eastern Europe and Baltic countries.
Imports of dried tropical fruit is increasing
- Since 2012, European imports of dried tropical fruit have grown by 4% in value annually, but decreased by 7% in 2016. In that year, they reached €17 million and 7 thousand tonnes.
- Values grew faster than volumes, indicating an increase in import prices due to higher demand than supply. However, this may also be influenced by a shift in the import mix, towards higher value products.
- In terms of value, import from developing countries has increased faster (5% annually) than intra-European imports.
- Intra-European imports are about as large as imports from developing countries and sometimes even higher. After importing the bulk product, value is added by simply repacking into retail packaging or further processing.
It is expected that imports of tropical dried fruit will continue to increase in coming years, especially in the segment of natural dried tropical fruit. This expected increase will be driven by the increasing demand for healthy food and particularly by the popularity of healthy snacks, such as dried fruit and nuts mixtures, and dried fruit bars.
The United Kingdom is the largest importer of dried tropical fruit
- European import of dried tropical fruit is quite concentrated, as three leading importers (the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany) account for approximately half of total imports.
- The highest average annual import growth in value over the last five years was in Croatia (171%), followed by Austria (58%) and the Czech Republic (36%).
- Eastern European countries, Central European countries and Baltic countries show the most significant import growth regarding dried tropical fruit.
Significant re-export from Germany in 2016
- Thailand, Bangladesh and India are leading suppliers of dried tropical fruit to Europe. Although traditionally the Netherlands was the leading European supplier (re-exporter), in 2016 it was ovetaken by Germany. Germany experienced an unusually high increase in imports of dried tropical fruit in 2016.
- Apart from Thailand, Bangladesh and India, developing countries gaining European market share of dried tropical fruit are Ecuador (dried bananas and plantains), Pakistan (dried tamarind and other tropical fruit), Cameroon (dried papayas), South Africa (dried papayas and dried mango), Sri Lanka (dried plantains), Ghana (dried mango) and Burkina Faso (organic dried mango).
- Besides aiming to export to major European importers, consider countries that are seeing growth in imports such as Eastern European countries, Central European countries and Baltic countries.
- Learn from developing country exporters who are gaining a share on the European market, such as ones from Bangladesh, Ecuador, Pakistan or Cameroon.
Identify who the biggest importers of your product are in selected large or fast-growing markets. You can start with an internet search or read more about supply chains in Europe in our study of Market channels and segments for dried fruit and edible nuts. Also read more about specific dried fruit and vegetable products in our Studies on dried fruits.
European re-export of dried tropical fruit is growing
- Since 2012, exports of dried tropical fruits from Europe have grown by 8% in both value and volume.
- It is expected that re-exports of dried tropical fruit will continue to increase in the next several years.
The Netherlands is the largest European re-exporter of dried tropical fruit
Exports of dried tropical fruit is highly concentrated. The Netherlands alone accounts for more than half of total European exports.
Norway main export destination for dried tropical fruit from Europe
- The largest export destinations for external European exports in 2016 were Norway, the United States of America, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland.
- In the range of the largest external Europeans export destinations, the highest annual growth in value since 2012 was in the Republic of Korea and Albania.
- The largest exporting country of dried tropical fruit in Europe is the Netherlands. The main European destinations for Dutch exporters of dried tropical fruit are Germany, Spain and Belgium.
- Learn from European exporters about destinations which are increasing imports and target those countries directly rather than through re-exports from the Netherlands or other countries. Interesting destinations to explore are Germany, Spain and Belgium.
- You can start by looking up statistics and signing up for a subscription to specialised trade portals such as IEGVu.
- Learn more about your competitors in our study about Competition in dried fruit and edible nuts.
- Tropical fruit is not grown in Europe (except very limited quantities in the south of Spain or isolated territories such as the Spanish Canary Islands or Portuguese island of Madeira). Therefore, direct production of dried tropical fruit does not exist in Europe. However, there are different types of further processing of imported dried tropical fruit.
- The leading producer of dried tropical fruit differs per country. The leading producer of candied (sugar or juice infused) tropical fruit, especially pineapples and papayas, is Thailand. The leader in the production of banana chips is the Philippines. Leaders in the production of natural and organic dried mango without additives are South Africa and West African countries, such as Ghana and Burkina Faso. China is increasing its production of dried tropical fruit and is introducing new types of dried tropical fruit on the European markets, such as star fruit and durian.
Consumption of dried tropical fruit is fluctuating
- Apparent consumption of dried tropical fruit rose until 2016 when there was significant decrease in value. However, the decrease in quantity was less significant (around 10%) indicating that actually similar quantities of dried tropical fruit were imported at lower prices.
Despite the decrease in 2016, which was probably a decrease in value and not so much in quantity, it is expected that consumption of dried tropical fruit will continue to grow in the next several years. This predicted growth will be driven by demand for healthy snacks, with new product launches, such as fruit bars and different types of breakfast solutions, as well as other applications of dried tropical fruit as ingredient.
Note that the figure above displays the apparent consumption of dried tropical fruit calculated as the difference between external European imports and exports to external destinations. Although there is no production of dried tropical fruit in Europe, it is very likely that some imported dried tropical fruit can be imported and further processed before re-exporting, which means adding value.
- Closely monitor the production of raisins and sultanas in major production countries, as it determines the world supply and price development.
- Regular information about dried tropical production, processing and the market situation can be found on the leading European information service for processed fruit and vegetables IEGVu.
A general overview of the most relevant general market trends for developing country exporters can be found on CBI Trends for Processed Fruit and Vegetables. In addition, there are some specific remarks that can be made about dried tropical fruit.
- Consumption of dried fruit in Europe, including dried tropical fruit, continues to increase as dried tropical fruit are finding applications in new product development. At the latest ANUGA trade fair in Germany, several new products with dried tropical fruit were launched. Those products included dried fruit mango chutney, dried fruit bars (made of 100% tropical fruit) and different types of snacks.
- Freeze-drying technology is one of the main influences on the dried fruit market. Although products are not the same as naturally dried fruit, they offer a different structure and new possibilities for applications. Freeze-dried tropical fruit is used in mueslis, in the production of snacks or even grinded into powders. However, this requires another type of investment into equipment and the starting material is frozen fruit.
- Production of fruit bars as snacks is one of the newest European trends, where dried tropical fruit is finding an application as ingredient. They are more frequently produced without added sucrose as a sweetener, but with fructose, stevia or fruit juice as a natural sweetener. Many ingredient combinations are on the market, such as different types of dried fruit with seeds and nuts.
- Many consumers are now consciously searching for a healthy diet, which is likely to increase the demand for foods like fruit snacks. The health-conscious population demands foods with fewer calories and with an optimal combination of essential nutrients.
- Anuga trade fair is the best place to monitor market trends and to meet potential prospects in Europe. It is held every two years in Cologne in Germany.
- Dried tropical fruit exporters from developing countries can benefit from the current trend for healthy snacks containing dried tropical fruit.
- Invest in good drying, processing and cutting equipment so you can meet the demands of different buyers.
- Invest in environmental and corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards, since these are becoming more and more important in the European markets.
In addition to the quality requirements mentioned above, for a general overview of the buyer requirements in the EU please refer to CBI Buyer requirement for processed fruit and vegetables.
Specifically for dried tropical fruit, consult the Trade Helpdesk where you can select dried tropical fruit under specific codes listed in the Product Description chapter of this document.
For information on commonly requested standards, check the International Trade Centre's Sustainability Map, an online tool which provides comprehensive information on over 220 voluntary sustainability standards and other similar initiatives covering issues such as food quality and safety.
All foods sold in Europe, including dried tropical fruit, must be safe. This applies to imported products as well. Additives must be approved. Harmful residues in pesticides are banned. It should also be readily obvious from the labelling whether a food contains allergens.
In the event of repeated non-compliance concerning specific products originating from particular countries, these can only be imported under stricter conditions, such as having to be accompanied with a health certificate and analytical test report. Products from countries that have shown repeated non-compliance are put on a list included in the Annex of Regulation (EC) 669/2009. Currently (from July 2017), there is increased monitoring of pesticide residues on pineapples from Benin and pitahaya from Vietnam.
The most common problems that European importers are facing when importing tropical dried fruit from developing countries are the following:
- Contamination with pesticide residues
- Too high or undeclared content of artificial colours (typically Sunset Yellow FCF)
- Too high or undeclared content of preservatives such as sulphites
- Specifically for dried papaya, the use of unauthorised genetically modified papaya.
The obligation to provide nutrition information for consumers has applied since 13 December 2016, when a new European Union Regulation on food labelling went into effect. The new labelling legislation forbids misleading consumers. Moreover, claims that a food can prevent, treat or cure a human disease may not be made.
Although dried tropical fruit is not on the list of the allergens, notification applies for sulphur dioxide and sulphites at concentrations of more than 10 mg/kg in terms of the total SO2.
Common and niche requirements
- Food safety certification is a common request of European Union importers. The most common certification schemes accepted on the European markets are IFS, FSSC22000 and BRC.
- Environmental protection, organic and fair-trade certification schemes are becoming more and more popular in Europe. For organic production you can consider IFOAM standards.
- The European Union regulates both organic food and drink produced and/or processed within Europe and organic goods from elsewhere (Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008 with detailed rules concerning importing organic products from third countries).
- Refer to Codex Alimentarius for Code of Hygienic Practice for Dried Fruits and for good practices related to production, processing and storage.
- Monitor the latest MRL updates in order to find relevant changes in the allowed residues levels for tropical fruit.
- For information on commonly requested standards, check the International Trade Centre's Sustainability Map.
- Ensure that your product is not genetically modified. For this, engage a laboratory accredited for GMO testing and do the testing throughout the whole production process. Examples from natural dried papaya production show that papaya fields which initially clean were can later become infested with GMO by cross-contamination, caused mainly by birds and insects.
- Use the European Union Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed to learn more about the most common issues in the dried tropical fruit trade and to avoid similar problems.
For more information about competition on the European dried fruit and edible nuts market, see our Competition study.
The main product competitor for dried tropical fruit is fresh tropical fruit. European consumers have become increasingly health-conscious and prefer a healthy diet with an increased consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. This trend can influence consumption of dried tropical fruit, especially if it is treated with artificial colouring, or has added sugars or preservatives. Considering such factors, the stiff competition from fresh tropical fruits will likely be a major challenge for the European dried tropical fruit snacks market in the next years.
Exporters of dried tropical fruit from developing countries should be aware of the main competitors from countries which are well-established producers, as well as from countries that are gaining market share in the European markets. Companies from Thailand, India, Philippines, Bangladesh and West African countries are the major competitors in the sector of dried tropical fruit.
- You can compete in the market segment of natural dried tropical fruit, which entails the production of fruit without the addition of sugars, which is a growing market segment.
Chart 1: Common trade channels for dried tropical fruit on the European market
Roughly estimated, around 60% of the imported dried tropical fruit in Europe is used as an ingredient for further processing, while some 40% is re-packed and sold by the retailers or used in the HORECA sector.
Dried tropical fruit, included sweetened fruit, is used as a snack without further processing except repacking as commercial brands or retail chain private label brands. In the food processing industry, dried tropical fruit has many applications in the confectionery industry, bakery products, fruit yogurts, snack bars and breakfast cereals.
Examples of trade channels for dried tropical fruit in Europe includes:
- Importers and agents (also wholesalers): QFN Trading and Agnecy, Catz International, Chelmer Foods, Zieler, Voicevale and Eurofoods.
- Packer (retail) and processors: Community Foods, Seeberger, Farmer's Snack and Fulwell Mill.
- Dealing directly with European processors will mean added value, as there then is no margin for the connecting traders. However, for many confectionery companies it is not very common to buy directly, as they usually source dried tropical fruit from well-established traders, since this means they can source many different products from one point.
An indication of margins according to final retail prices for dried tropical fruit is not very precise and will only give a very rough general overview of price developments. However, very roughly speaking, the CIF price is estimated to represent around 30% of the retail price of a retail pack of dried tropical fruit. If dried tropical fruit is used as an ingredient, it is even more complicated to estimate the added value, due to the number of different ingredients and the production process.
Prices also very often fluctuate due to harvests which change from year to year, and recently the strong influence of El Niño. In some cases there is also the influence of the materials used in the production process, such as recently the high price of coconut oil, which is used in the production process of banana chips.
A very rough breakdown of the prices is shown in the table below:
Table 2: Dried tropical fruit price breakdown
|Steps in export process||Type of price||
Average share of
the retail price
|Production of fruit or vegetables||Raw material price (farmers’ price)||5–20%|
|Handling, processing and selling bulk product||FOB or FCA price||20–30%|
|Import, handling and processing||Wholesale price (value added tax included)||60%|
|Retail packing, handling and selling||Retail price (for average packaging of 250g)||100%|
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