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Exporting frozen berries to Europe

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The European Union is the largest market of frozen berries in the world. The import as well as consumption of frozen berries in Europe is steadily increasing due to rising popularity of berry fruit, which are considered to be “superfruit”. Germany is the largest European importer of frozen berries, followed by France and Belgium. Strong hygiene control of frozen berries production is of crucial importance for Developing Country exporters because the majority of berry fruit is picked by hand without further washing.


1 . Product Description

Frozen berries are a range of products prepared by the use of freezing process from fresh, clean, sound, stemmed and ripe berry fruit. Berry fruits covered by this factsheet is defined as a type of fruit where in botanical terms fruit is made by one ovary (currant, gooseberry) or as a merger of several ovaries (raspberry, blackberry). Refer to Table 1 for the trade classification. When ‘frozen berries’ are referred to in this survey, it involves the selection of the products in the table below, unless stated otherwise. Please note that frozen strawberries are not part of this survey. For frozen strawberries refer to our studies on the European frozen strawberry market.

The only optional ingredient allowed for frozen berries is sugar in the form of sucrose, invert sugar, invert sugar syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose syrup or dried glucose syrup.

The freezing operation must be carried out in such a way that the range of temperature of maximum crystallization is passed quickly. The quick freezing process is not regarded as complete unless and until the product temperature has reached −18°C at the thermal centre of the fruit after thermal stabilization. Repacking quick frozen berries under controlled conditions is permitted.

Quick frozen berries can be presented as whole and free-flowing (individually quick frozen – IQF), non-free flowing (in the form of block), crumbled (in the form of crashed berries) or as combination of crumbled and whole.

Table 1: Combined Nomenclature codes for frozen berries

Number

Product

08112011

Raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, loganberries, black, white or red currants and gooseberries, uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water, sweetened, with sugar content of > 13 %, frozen

08112019

Raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, loganberries, black, white or red currants and gooseberries, uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water, sweetened, with sugar content of =< 13 %, frozen

08112031

Raspberries, uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water, frozen, unsweetened

08112039

Black currants, uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water, frozen, unsweetened

08112051

Red currants, uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water, frozen, unsweetened

08112059

Blackberries and mulberries, uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water, frozen, unsweetened

08112090

Loganberries, white currants and gooseberries, uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water, frozen, unsweetened

Product Specification

Quality

The basic quality requirements for frozen berries are:

  • good, reasonably uniform colour, characteristic of the type of fruit and variety
  • clean, sound and free from foreign matter
  • free from foreign flavour and odour
  • when presented as free-flowing, practically free from berries adhering one to another and which cannot be easily separated when in the frozen state
  • free from completely uncoloured berries and reasonably free from uncoloured berries (black colour berries can be allowed to have small number of red coloured fruit)
  • normally developed with the shape typical for the variety used and of similar varietal characteristics in each package
  • for aggregate types of berries reasonably free from disintegrated berries or berries not intact
  • after thawing berries should not lose more that 5% of fruit juice

Additional quality requirements:

An important quality indicator for frozen berries intended for further processing is Brix level (sugar content of an aqueous solution). It is expected by the majority of importers and processors that the minimum Brix (sugar) level in frozen berries should be at least 7 - 8°.

For berry fruit prepared with dry sugars the total soluble solids content of the liquid extracted from the thawed berries shall be not more than 35% m/m nor less than 18% m/m expressed as sucrose. For berry fruit prepared with syrup the amount of syrup used shall be not more than that required to cover the berries and fill the spaces between them. The total soluble solids content of the liquid extracted from the thawed berries shall be not more than 30% m/m nor less than 15% m/m expressed as sucrose.

Labelling

The name of the food as declared on the label should include the name of the fruit and the words “quick-frozen” or “frozen”. The label should also include the style, as appropriate: “IQF whole”, “block”, “crumble”, etc. (for example “quick-frozen raspberries crumble”). If a packing medium is used, this should be included on the label too: “with (name of the sweetener and whether used as such or as a syrup)”. In the case of quick-frozen berries in bulk packaging, the information required above must either be placed on the container or be given in accompanying documents, except for the fact that “frozen or quick-frozen (name of the fruit)” and the name and address of the manufacturer or packer must appear on the container.

It is common that product specification declares the variety of berry fruit intended for export and the Brix level.

In the case of retail packaging product labelling must be in compliance with the EU Regulation 1169/2011. This regulation entered into application on 13 December 2014 but the obligation to provide nutrition information will apply from 13 December 2016.

Packaging

Packaging used for quick frozen berries 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), protect the product from moisture loss, dehydration and, where appropriate, leakage as far as technologically practicable and not pass on to the product any odour, taste, colour or other foreign characteristics.

The most common types of packaging of frozen berry fruit in bulk are: polyethylene bags, carton boxes layered with folium and paper bags. The cardboards are packed on EURO pallets (80 x 120 cm), protected by polyethylene foil. Cardboard must be durable enough to not be deformed under the weight on the pallet due to prolonged storage. Cardboards are sealed with tape. Size of the packaging may vary according to the buyers’ requests but usually the IQF fruit is packed in smaller sizes (0.5, 0.7, 1 and 2.5 kg) while crumbled frozen berries are packed into polyethylene bags (from 10 to 20 kg).

1-4_berries.png

2 . Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of frozen berries?

For general overview of the statistical analysis of the processed fruit and vegetables sector in the EU please refer to CBI Trade Statistics for Processed Fruit and Vegetables

Imports

Analysis and interpretation

  • Over the last five years, imports of frozen berries in the European Union grew by 12% in value and by 4% in quantity, reaching €683 million and 302,000 tonnes in 2016.
  • Frozen raspberries account for more than 70% of all European imports of frozen berries, followed by frozen blackberries and other frozen berries. The import within Europe is almost equal to imports from developing countries, mainly due to Poland’s dominance as the main intra-European Union supplier.
  • The European market for frozen berries is concentrated: the top three importers (Germany, France and Belgium) account for almost 60% of total European imports.
  • The highest import growth in quantity in the last five years was seen in Slovenia (92% average annual growth), which was led by the increase of imports of frozen raspberries. Other countries with high import growth were Romania (47% average annual growth), Ireland (23%) and Lithuania (20%).
  • The largest share of imports from countries outside the European Union was from Serbia, which has a 36% market share. Serbia is the largest exporter of frozen raspberries and frozen blackberries in the world, and is gradually increasing its exports of frozen berries to the European market. Chile, as the second-largest European external supplier of frozen raspberries and frozen blackberries, decreased supply in the last five years by on average 4% annually.
  • Developing countries which are gaining market share of frozen berries in the Europe are Ukraine (85% average annual growth since 2012), followed by Mexico (65% growth) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (41%).
  • Over the last five years, exports of frozen berries from Europe has increased annually by on average 11% in value and by 4% in quantity, reaching €378 million and 200,000 tonnes in 2016.
  • European Union exports of frozen berries are dominated by Poland, which is the second-largest supplier of frozen raspberries in the world and the leading supplier of blackcurrants on the European market.

Tips:

  • Benchmark your company against your peers from Serbia and Poland. Carefully monitor crop in Poland and Serbia as in the years with lower harvest there is an increasing demand for frozen berries from other developing countries and a chance to open the market and establish a future position on the European Union market.
  • Learn from other Developing Countries suppliers who are gaining market share in the European Union.
  • Explore possibility to supply different types of frozen berries on the European market. European buyers are seeking for opportunities to diversify them sourcing from more countries beside leading suppliers.

Production and consumption


The data is only available at this aggregate level (PRODCOM) Rev. 2 NACE code 10392100). No data available for frozen berries only.


The data is only available at this aggregate level (PRODCOM) Rev. 2 NACE code 10392100). No data available for frozen berries only.

Analysis and interpretation

  • Consumption of frozen fruit in the European Union is much higher than production, indicating that the European Union is not self-sufficient in the production of frozen berries and that the needs of the industry and end consumers have to be met through imports.
  • Both consumption and production of frozen fruit in Europe is increasing by the annual rate of 5% over the last 5 years.
  • The leading European producing country of frozen fruit is Poland, followed by Germany, while the leading consumption country is Germany, followed by France and Italy.
  • Many European deep-freezing and fruit processing companies invested in recent years in developing countries in order to have more stable and cheaper sourcing of frozen berries. A good example is Belgian Dirafrost (part of the Austrian Agrana Group), which have one production plant in Serbia and two plants in Morocco. 
  • Both production and consumption of frozen berries in the European Union are growing. Consumption of frozen fruit in Central and Eastern European countries is growing more rapidly compared to Western Europe. In the last 5 years the highest increase of consumption of frozen fruit is noted in Slovakia and Bulgaria.
  • One of the important reasons for consumption growth is an increasing popularity of berry fruits which are considered to be “superfruits” with a high level of antioxidants and as popular functional food.
  • According to experts, consumption of frozen berries will continue in the coming years taking some share of consumption of fruit juices. The explanation can be found in the fact that frozen berries are increasingly used for making of home-made drinks such as smoothies and not-from concentrate chilled juices.
  • The main production segment of frozen berries in the European Union is re-packing of imported bulk frozen berry fruit into retail packs for the retail segment. Some of the largest European companies in the retail segment of frozen berries are: Polish Hortex Holding, UK based equity firm Permira (owner of Iglo Group – branded frozen food), Italian Eurofood (Green Ice frozen berry fruit production), Swedish based Findus Group and German Frosta.

Tips:

  • Monitor closely the market situation and production of frozen raspberries in Poland. Poland is the leading intra-European Union producer of frozen raspberries and in the years with lower crop in Poland a demand is fulfilled by imports from other countries. Regular information about crop, processing and market situation can be found on the leading European information service for processed fruit and vegetables FoodNews
  • More specifically you can find information on international raspberry production on the website of the International Raspberry Organisation.
  • Current trends in the production of fresh berries can be found in the presentations of the International Berry Congress which is held annually. It is important to closely monitor introduction and spreading of new varieties that are grown by the leading producing countries.

3 . Which trends offer opportunities on the European market for frozen berries?

General overview of the most relevant market trends for developing countries exporters can be found on CBI Trends for Processed Fruit and Vegetables

  • Popularity of frozen berries in the European Union is increasing as they belong to the group of products which are sold by the marketing term “superfruits”. Due to very short shelf life fresh berries are not available for the mass consumption but they are used as frozen throughout the year by European consumers. With the high level of antioxidants like anthocyanin they are also used in pharmacy and cosmetic industry.
  • In emerging markets in Eastern Europe, the income growth is creating a new middle class, eager to experience new goods and services. This will mean increased demand for richer and more varied diets including frozen berries and, importantly, increased demand for large domestic appliances such as freezers.
  • Meanwhile in mature economies, more people are shopping for food online. This is a significant opportunity for the frozen category. In the UK, online baskets show a 25% increase in frozen sales compared with store shopping. Online consumers are younger and relatively wealthy.
  • New technologies that combine freezing and drying are developing. The example is freeze – drying (lyophilisation) where the aim is to have dried berries with the shape of the product unchanged. Still the EU market of freeze-dried berry fruit is very small and there are no clear indicators how this segment of the market will develop in the future.
  • Corporate and environmentally responsibility initiatives are increasing the impact on the EU markets. Particularly the fair-trade market, organic market and functional foods market are growing.
  • Demand for organic products, including frozen berries, is continue to increase. According to IFOAM the European countries with the highest spending on consumption of organic food are Switzerland (189 €/kg per capita yearly), Denmark (159€) and Luxembourg (143€).

Tips:

  • Anuga trade fair is the best place to monitor market trends and to meet potential prospects in Europe. It is held every 2 years in Cologne in Germany. Another trade fair that is important to visit is SIAL, which is held every 2 years in Paris in France.
  • Developing countries exporters can benefit from the current “superfruit” trend. Use of the scientifically proven health – benefit medical research is commonly used in the marketing of berries fruit. Some strong selling points of frozen berries are high level of antioxidants, anthocyanin and L-ellagic acid which are not decreased by the process of freezing.
  • Use of the internet and social media are great opportunities to introduce your company and market frozen berries on the European markets.
  • Consider diversification of your offer to emerging markets in Easter Europe.
  • Use the increasing opportunity to sell organic frozen berries.
  • Developing Countries exporters can consider opportunities for selling of freeze-drying berry products on the European market and thus diversify their offer with the new product category.

4 . Which requirements should frozen berries comply with to be allowed on the European market?

For the general overview of the buyer requirements in the EU please refer to CBI Buyer requirement for processed fruit and vegetables

Specifically for frozen strawberries consult the EU Export Helpdesk where you can select frozen strawberries under specific HS code 08.

For information on commonly requested standards check the International Trade Centre's Standards Map, an online tool which provides comprehensive information on over 210 voluntary sustainability standards and other similar initiatives covering issues such as food quality and safety.

Legal Requirements

All foods including frozen strawberries sold in the European Union 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 of specific products originating from particular countries, they 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. At the moment (from March 2016) frozen raspberries imported from Serbia are increasingly controlled for the presence of Norovirus.

The most common problems that European Union importers are facing when importing frozen berries from Developing Countries are risk of contamination with Hepatitis A virus and norovirus as well as contamination with high levels of heavy metals and pesticide residues. In 2013 multinational hepatitis A virus outbreak occurred in Europe which is connected with infection from frozen berries. The tracing data were exchanged via the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and showed that Bulgarian blackberries and Polish redcurrants were the most common ingredients in the traced lots/cases. In 2014 RASFF reported presence of hepatitis A virus in 2 cases of mixed frozen berries from Poland and Bulgaria and one case in mixed frozen berries from Spain. Presence of norovirus is reported in 2 cases of importer frozen raspberries from Serbian and one case from Chile.

Labelling Requirements

In December 2014 EU Regulation 1169/2011 went into effect. New labelling legislation forbids to mislead the consumer and to attribute to any food the property of preventing, treating or curing a human disease. Another change is allergens labelling where allergens have to be highlighted in the list of ingredients and requirements on information on allergens will also cover non pre-packed foods including those sold in restaurants and cafés. Also nutrition information is mandatory for most products. However, berries are not on the obligatory list of allergens.

Common and niche requirements

Food safety certification is a common request by the European Union importers. The most usual 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 the European Union. For organic production you can consider IFOAM standard. The EU regulates both organic food and drink produced and/or processed within the EU and organic goods from elsewhere (Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008 with detailed rules concerning import of organic products from third countries). These can readily be imported from non-EU countries whose rules on organic production and control are equivalent to the EU's - currently Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Tunisia, Switzerland and the USA.

For all other non-EU countries, importers can have their organic products certified for import into the EU by independent private control bodies approved by the European Commission.

Tips:

  • Hepatitis A and norovirus contamination could be occurring at the freezing processor or in primary production of berries and therefore compliance with Good Hygiene Practice, Good Manufacturing Practice and Good Agricultural Practice is recommended and commonly requested by buyers for countries producing berries for freezing. Good Hygiene Practice is especially important in production of berry fruits as in practice they are not washed after harvesting so maintaining clean hands during harvesting season in primary production before freezing is of the crucial importance for food safety.
  • To find out the Maximum Residue Levels ( MRL) that are relevant for frozen berries, you can use the EU MRL database in which all harmonised MRLs can be found. For berries there is definition of maximum residue levels for 457 different pesticides.
  • Check with the importers and experts if the food safety certification company used is approved by the European Union buyers.

5 . What competition will I be facing on the European frozen berries market?

General overview of the competition relevant for developing countries exporters can be found on CBI Field of Competition: Processed Fruit and Vegetables. Also read Top 10 Tips for doing business with European Buyers.

The implementation of food safety systems and regulatory laboratory testing of frozen berries on MRLs and presence of heavy metal is just the first step of entering the European market. On the market there is already a lot of competition in the form of substitute products and other companies which you should be aware of.

Product competition

Major substitute products for frozen strawberries are fresh berries and other type of fresh fruit. Important substitute products are other frozen fruit and especially types of frozen fruit that belongs to “superfruit” category.

Fresh berries and other fresh fruit competition

Fresh berry fruit is strong competitor to frozen berry fruit. However fresh berries are seasonal products and have very short shelf life comparing to frozen berries. Fresh fruit consumption is officially supported and promoted through “5 a day” campaign which supports daily intake of 5 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables. This campaign is supported by the European Fresh Produce Association (Freshfel). Findings from the latest Freshfel consumption monitor show that per capita fruit consumption in the EU28 in 2013 stands at 188.60 g/capita/day. This is 10.1% more than in 2012 but 1.5% less than the average of the years 2008-2013.

The largest European suppliers of fresh berries are European member states: Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. In Europe, the United Kingdom remains the most important market for fresh berries. They are expected to be available 52 weeks a year as fresh.

Many berry producers all over the world are battling with the lack of harvest workers. Many producers increase their tonnage and it is becoming more and more difficult to recruit workforce. E.g. in the UK, the companies are failing to attract the Polish workers that so far have been the most important workforce. The difference between wages declines, they find more vocational jobs at home and many are reluctant to come to the UK because of the poor availability and high cost of accommodation in

UK. Nordic countries like Finland and Sweden have been to some extent able to utilize the seasonality of their produce and have been able to attract Thai rice workers, who work with opposite seasonality in their own country. The regulative situation is however not clear when it comes to their expanded recruitment. The lack of workforce for harvesting of fresh berries could increase the price of the locally produced berries in the EU.

Frozen “superfruit” competition

There is large range of frozen fruit available on the European market that has gained popularity in recent years. In this range particular competitors to the products covered in this survey are the following frozen fruit which is often sold under that marketing term “superfruit”: blueberries, bilberries (wild blueberries), cranberries, cloudberries, Açaí berries, sea-buckthorn, aronia (chokeberry) and goji berries (also known as wolfberry).

Company competition

Developing countries exporters of frozen berries should be aware of the main competitors from countries not only in export of frozen berries but also in export of other frozen fruit. Apart from Serbia and Poland there are a lot of other frozen fruit competitors from Canada, USA, China and Mexico. The offer from competing countries includes frozen fruits such as cranberries, frozen pomegranate kernels, goji berries, frozen sour cherries, frozen rose hips, pineapples and variety of frozen tropical fruit.

Tips:

  • You can try to diversify your offer with fresh berries especially if you are able to cover out of season offer in Europe. However, this is quite a different ballgame requiring sophisticated logistics. For more info see the CBI market surveys on Fresh Fruit and Vegetables.
  • If your company can produce more types of frozen fruit, try to enrich your offer as the European buyers of frozen fruit are not specialized in buying only of one type of frozen fruit. Some type of frozen berries are offered by a limited number of countries and those products fill the increasing demand by the European buyers. One example is export of frozen black currants which is dominated by Poland.
  • Try to find data about competitors from other countries who are present on the European market. You can quickly make a selection by searching on export promotion organisations from competitors’ countries. The list of trade promotion organizations is available on the ITC website.

6 . Which channels can you use to put frozen berries on the European market?

Figure 7: Common trade channels for frozen berries on the European Union market

common_trade_channels_frozen_berries_0.png

Figure 8: Use of the frozen berries by the fruit processing industry in the Europan Union

use_of_frozen_berries.png

Around half of the imported frozen berries in the European Union are re-packed and sold by the retailers (Figure 7). For this segment only whole IQF fruit is used. Some smaller part of the whole IQF fruit is also used for frozen bakery applications (muffins, cakes etc.).

Another half of imported frozen berries is used by fruit processing industry through different forms of concentration with or without addition of other ingredients. The largest proportion of concentration of frozen berries accounts for production of concentrated juice with the Brix level which can go up to 80 Brix. Those concentrated juices are further used by fruit juice industries but also in fruit spreads and ice cream industry. Another small proportion of industrial usage of frozen berries accounts for fruit preparations industry which sells products to bakery, dairy (fruit yogurts mainly) and ice cream industry. They usually use Class II frozen products in blocks or crumbled.

The final segments do not often import frozen fruit directly but via European traders. For example Dutch dairy cooperative Friesland Campina use frozen berry preparations as ingredients in yogurts but rarely source frozen berries directly.

A smaller proportion of frozen berries are used by ingredients producers which are using freeze drying and similar processes in order to produce powders and similar products which are used in food supplements and cosmetics industry. Berries like arctic cloudberry, sea buckthorn and cranberry are used in cosmetic products basically as antioxidants. Berry solids i.e. seeds are also used as exfoliants – especially in natural/organic products.

Some examples of different trade channels for frozen berries in the European Union are the following:

Tips:

  • Retail segment, although it is smaller, usually pays more for imported frozen berries but requests only first class IQF whole berries. Also the Brix level is not as important as in industrial segment.
  • Try to produce berries with high (natural) sugar content as it will be paid better by the European importers. A high Brix level of imported frozen berries is of crucial importance for all fruit processing segments and for developing country exporter it means competitiveness on the market.

7 . What are the end-market prices for frozen berries on the European market?

Indication of margins according to final retail prices for frozen raspberries is not precise and Developing Countries exporters can have only a very rough general overview of the price development. However, very roughly, it can be estimated that the CIF price represents around 30 and 40% of the retail price of a retail pack of frozen strawberries (which is usually packed in 300 g retail packaging). The best option to monitor prices is to compare your offer with the offer from the largest competitors. The prices are also different between producing countries. For frozen raspberries during the last season, Ex-works prices had the most common range between 2 and 3 €/kg but they also differred between the countries and between type of product. Below example showed the difference between Poland and Serbia considering type of products:

  • Poland (Pollana variety):
    • IQF whole raspberries: average 2.6 €/kg, Ex works
    • Raspberries crumble: 1.80 – 2 €/kg, Ex works
  • Serbia (Willamette and Meeker varieties):
    • IQF whole raspberries: 2.5-2.8 €/kg, Ex works
    • Raspberries crumble: average 1.95 €/kg, Ex works
  • Chile:
    • IQF whole raspberries: average 4.3 USD/kg, CIF

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