Exporting tropical frozen fruit to Europe
The increasing consumption of frozen tropical fruit is driven by various factors including the growing consumer desire for convenient and faster-to-prepare foods such as breakfast smoothies. The Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium, as well as the growing markets in Eastern Europe offer opportunities for developing country suppliers. Educating buyers about less familiar 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 European markets suppliers.
Contents of this page
- Product Description
- Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of frozen tropical fruit?
- What trends offer opportunities on the European market for frozen tropical fruit?
- What requirements must frozen tropical fruit comply with to be allowed on the European market?
- What competition do I face on the European frozen tropical fruit market?
- Which channels can you use to put frozen tropical fruit on the European market?
- What are the end-market prices for frozen tropical fruit on the European market?
1. Product Description
Frozen tropical fruit includes a range of fruits preserved by a freezing process. Fresh, clean, sound and ripe fruit is used, which is native or grown in tropical regions (climatic zone surrounding the equator). Due to climatic conditions, tropical fruit is not produced in Europe (except in isolated cases, such as tropical islands belonging to European territories, such as the Canary Islands or Madeira).
Besides freezing, tropical fruit can also undergo operations such as washing, peeling, grading, cutting and blanching/deactivation of enzyme activity, depending on the type of product. Frozen tropical fruits are used for example in ice cream, desserts, jams, pastries, yogurts and beverages. Some tropical fruit is specifically used in the production of ethnic food such as chutneys (frozen mango), guacamole (frozen avocado), aguas frescas (frozen soursop and other tropical fruit) or Ponche Navideño (guavas).
The freezing operation must be carried out in such a way that the freezing process from the surface to the centre of product occurs quickly. The quick-freezing process is finished when the temperature in the centre of the fruit reaches −18°C.
Quick frozen tropical fruit can be presented:
- Individually quick frozen (IQF)
- as a block
- as crushed fruit
- cut in different shapes (chunks, dices, slices, halves, etc.)
- combination of different styles
- tropical purees, juices and concentrates are also sometimes traded in frozen form.
This study covers general information regarding the market of frozen tropical fruit in Europe, which is of interest to producers in developing countries. Please see Table 1 for the products which are used for statistical analysis. However, the range of frozen tropical fruits is wider than shown in statistical analyses. For the frozen tropical purees market, see our study about Tropical Purees in Europe.
Table 1: Products in the product group of tropical frozen fruit
|Combined Nomenclature Number||Product|
|08119085||Frozen tropical fruit (guavas, mangoes, mangosteens, papayas, tamarinds, cashew apples, lychees, jackfruit, sapodillo plums, passion fruit, carambola, pitahaya, coconuts, cashew nuts, brazil nuts, areca “betel” nuts, cola nuts and macadamia nuts.|
|08119011||Frozen tropical fruit with a sugar content exceeding 13% by weight|
|08119031||Frozen tropical fruit with a sugar content lower than 13% by weight|
Picture 1: Frozen mango cubes
Picture 2: Frozen banana slices
Picture 3: Frozen pitahaya (dragon fruit)
Picture 4: Frozen papaya
The basic quality requirements for tropical frozen fruit are:
- good, reasonably uniform colour, characteristic of the type and variety
- clean, sound and free from extraneous objects
- free from foreign flavours and odours
- when presented as IQF not attached to each other
- reasonably free from uncoloured fruit
- normally developed with the shape typical for the variety in each package
- for berry types of fruit (acai berries, acerola, etc.) reasonably free from berries which are not well formed.
Additional buyer quality requirements:
An important quality indicator for frozen tropical fruit intended for further processing is the Brix level (sugar content of water solution). However, the Brix level is more important for the juice and jams industry than for retail packing supply.
Some frozen tropical fruit (such as avocado) are commonly produced with the addition of acidity regulators (citric acid) to avoid the oxidation of the fruit. However, as this treatment alters the original taste, some buyers can request frozen fruit without the addition of acidity regulators.
The name of the food as stated 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”, “chunks”, “crushed”, etc. (e.g. “quick-frozen mango chunks”). If a packing medium is used, this should be included on the label too: (e.g. “quick frozen papayas in sugar syrup”). In case of quick-frozen tropical fruit in bulk packaging, the information required above must either be placed on the container or be given in accompanying documents.
In addition to the type of fruit, it is common that product specification also declares the crop year, variety and the Brix level.
In the 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, frozen tropical fruit are not included in the allergen list of the regulation.
Picture 5: Shipping label example
Source: Integrated Business Communications Alliance
Picture 6: Example of allergen advice on retail packaging
Source: QuickLabel Systems
The most common type of packaging of frozen tropical fruit are polyethylene bags placed in carton boxes. The carton boxes are packed on EURO pallets (80 x 120 cm), protected by polyethylene foil. Cardboard must be durable enough to not be deformed by the weight on the pallet during prolonged storage. Cardboard boxes are sealed with tape. The size of the packaging may vary according to the buyers’ requests.
Retail packaging includes plastic bags, carton packaging, plastic containers or foil bags.
2. Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of frozen tropical fruit?
The Netherlands, Germany France, Belgium and the United Kingdom offer most of the opportunities for exporters of frozen tropical fruit. Besides these major markets, opportunities can be found in the growing markets of Eastern Europe.
Imports of tropical frozen fruit is increasing
- Total European imports of frozen tropical fruit has grown by annual average rate of 17% in value and 9% in volume since 2012, reaching €140 million and 74 thousand tonnes in 2016.
- Value grew faster than volume, indicating an increase in import prices due to slightly higher demand than supply.
- In terms of value, import from developing countries has increased faster compared to intra-European imports.
- Intra-European trade imports are higher than imports from developing countries. However, a large share of intra-European trade represents frozen tropical fruit with added sugar, meaning that after imports from developing countries, European traders are adding value to imported products.
- It is expected that imports of tropical frozen fruit will continue to increase in the coming years, at a high annual growth rate (probably over 5% annually). This expected increase will be driven by the increasing demand for healthy food, the interest in a more diverse menu with exotic fruits and convenience. The popularity of smoothies as part of breakfasts and other eating moments is a specific driver that combines all of these trends in one.
The Netherlands the largest importer of frozen tropical fruit
- European imports of frozen tropical fruit are quite diversified as there is no leading importer who dominates the market. The largest import shares are divided between the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium.
- Although the Netherlands and Belgium are large importers, they do not consume the majority of imported quantities but re-export frozen tropical fruit to other destinations. Large imports are explained by the presence of the big frozen food companies in Belgium such as Ardo or Crops.
- Regarding the largest importers, the highest average annual import growth in value over the last five years was in Poland (39%), followed by Italy (35%) and the United Kingdom (20%).
- Eastern Europeans countries (Bulgaria in particular) are increasing their imports of frozen tropical fruit. Bulgaria increased imports of frozen tropical fruit without added sugars from 372 tonnes in 2012 to 5.6 thousand tonnes in 2016, which is an over 15-fold increase. However, almost all those imported quantities were re-exported from Belgium.
Frozen mangoes increasingly popular
- The largest proportion of imports are frozen mangos, supplied mainly by India, followed by Peru. Frozen mango chunks are popular for the production of smoothies in combination with frozen bananas and other fruit. It is also a popular ingredient in fruit yogurts.
Developing country suppliers are gaining share of European frozen tropical fruits market
- India and Peru are the leading suppliers of frozen tropical fruit (led by frozen mango). Although traditionally the Netherlands was the leading European supplier, in 2016 it was surpassed by India and Peru, meaning that developing country suppliers are increasingly supplying final destinations directly and not through re-exports.
- Besides Peru and India, over the last five years was Vietnam, Mexico, Philippines, Guatemala and Madagascar all experienced a very high annual growth rate in imports. Except for China, almost all developing country suppliers of frozen tropical fruit have been gaining European market share.
- Identify who the biggest importers of your product are in selected major or fast-growing markets. You can start with an internet search or read more about specific frozen fruit and vegetable products in our Studies on frozen products.
- Besides aiming to export to the largest European importers, consider countries that are experiencing growth in imports, such as East European countries.
- Learn from developing country exporters who are gaining a share on the European market, such as India, Peru, Vietnam and Mexico.
European re-export of frozen tropical fruit is also growing
- Since 2012, exports of frozen tropical fruits Europe have grown by 12% in value and by 5% in volume. Exports reached €79 million and 9.9 thousand tonnes in 2016. However, in 2016 re-exports were 4000 tonnes lower than in 2015.
- Exports of frozen tropical fruit are expected to continue to increase by a similar small rate in the next several years.
The Netherlands and Belgium largest European exporters
Exports of frozen tropical fruit are concentrated, with the two largest exporters (the Netherlands and Belgium) accounting for almost half of all European exports.
Switzerland main export destination for frozen tropical fruit from Europe
- The largest export destinations for external European exports in 2016 were Switzerland (19% of total external exports), Serbia (15%), Norway (14%) and Singapore (11%).
- In the range of the largest external Europeans export destinations highest annual growth in value since 2012 was shown in Turkey (196%), Singapore (172%) and Canada (141%). However, total shares of exported quantities outside Europe are very small comparing to intra-European trade.
- The largest exporting country of frozen tropical fruit in Europe is the Netherlands. The main European destinations for Dutch exporters of frozen tropical fruit are France, Germany and Hungary. The highest growth of re-export of frozen tropical fruit in the last five years from the Netherlands was to Hungary (from 43 tonnes in 2012 to over 1000 tonnes in 2016).
- Learn from European exporters about destinations which are increasing imports and target those countries directly, rather than through re-exports from the Netherlands or Belgium. Interesting destinations to explore are Germany, France and Hungary.
- You can start by looking up statistics and signing up for a subscription on specialised trade portals such as IEGVu.
Chances for frozen tropical fruit as it is not produced widely in Europe
- The total production of frozen fruit and vegetables in Europe has been gradually increasing since 2012 (Figure 5). In 2016, production of frozen fruit and vegetables in Europe reached a value of €5.7 billion.
- For now, the structure of the production of the main frozen fruit in Europe is not changing much, and it is predicted that the situation will remain stable in the following years. This means that major production consists of mainly frozen berries dominated by Poland. This provides a lot of opportunities for exotic products not produced in Europe (except limited quantities in south of Spain – Canary Islands or Portugal) including all types of frozen tropical fruit.
- Important players in the European tropical frozen fruit market include Greenyard Foods (Pinguin), Ardo Group, Crops NV, Agrana, Unilever, Loragro, Uren, Newberry, Kreyenhop & Kluge, Polproduct and Vivartia S.A.
Note that the figures above relate to the production of manufactured goods, which includes intermediate goods as well as final goods. This implies that it is possible that there is overlap in production data and import data, since raw materials may be imported and further processed.
- Regular information about crops, processing and the market situation can be found on the leading European information service for processed fruit and vegetables IEGVu.
- Consider contacting the largest producing companies, as they very often complement their offer with imported frozen fruit and vegetables. Frozen food companies in Europe offer a lot of different products, but do not produce frozen tropical fruit, so this provides an opportunity for long-term cooperation for developing country suppliers.
- More information on the production of frozen fruits and vegetables in Europe can be found on the website of the European Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processing Industries (PROFEL).
Consumption of frozen tropical fruit will continue to grow
- Apparent consumption of frozen tropical fruit is constantly increasing at high rates. A high share of imported products goes to industry, such as bakeries and producers of frozen meals, beverages (juices and smoothies), jams and dairy (ice cream and milk-based drinks). Increasing home consumption is additionally driven by the growing consumer desire for convenient and faster-to-prepare foods, especially following the trend of smoothies made at home.
- The largest consumers of frozen tropical fruit are Italy, Germany and France, accounting together for more than half of total European consumption.
- It is expected that consumption of frozen tropical fruit will continue to grow in the next several years.
Note that the figure above concern the apparent consumption of frozen tropical fruit calculated as the difference between external European imports and exports to external destinations. Although there is no production of frozen tropical fruit in Europe, it is very likely that some imported frozen tropical fruit can be imported and further processed before re-exporting, which means adding value.
- In targeting your markets, make a distinction between countries that import frozen tropical fruit for their own consumption and countries that import products and re-export them to other countries. In the first category, more attention should be paid to developments in the retail sector and local consumption trends.
- Consider exporting to the Netherlands or to the main Dutch trading partners in Europe. The Netherlands is the main trading hub for imports of frozen tropical fruit, and by exporting to Dutch trade companies your products can reach all European countries.
3. What trends offer opportunities on the European market for frozen tropical fruit?
With respect to frozen tropical fruit, an extensive study about European market trends is already available. See our study about Trends for processed fruit and vegetables.
More specific trends related to frozen tropical fruit are the following:
- Shortening the supply chain – Companies in the frozen tropical fruit sector are trying to cut out middlemen and to make the supply chain simpler and cheaper. Some companies are investing in vertical integration, such as by establishing their own orchards in producing countries. Also mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnership are taking place. For example, Ardo has recently acquired a majority stake in Canadian VLM Foods. Besides VLM Foods, the deal includes a controlling stake in Compañia Frutera La Paz S.A., Costa Rica’s largest frozen pineapple producer.
- Tropical fruit are becoming particularly popular in spoonable fruit yogurts. According to Mintel mango is on the fifth place as a favourite fruit in yogurts (after berry fruits and peach) followed by passion fruit.
- Tropical berries remain popular – Tropical berries are frequently labelled as “superfruit” due to health benefits. Frozen tropical berries are used as ingredients in the production of drinks but also in some food supplements. Some examples include maqui berries (mainly from Chile) and acai berries (mainly from Brazil). Another example is acerola, but this is more often traded as frozen pulp or concentrate, rather than as than IQF.
- New product developments – frozen tropical fruit made as sorbets or frozen desserts on sticks have been introduced. Examples include maracuja (passion fruit) sorbet by Italian company EDO, frozen pineapple and mangoes on sticks from French company Loragro and frozen sorbets in a glass with passion fruit from Italian company Casa del Gelato. Specifically in the ice cream industry, frozen tropical fruit ingredients, such as guava, lychee or passion fruit, have become increasingly popular.
- Non-dairy (lactose-free) and vegan ice creams are becoming more popular, providing opportunities for suppliers of frozen tropical fruit.
- Increasing popularity of smoothies – Besides retail smoothie brands (such as Innocent), there is a rise in popularity of “healthy breakfast” home cooking. Due to busy lifestyles, consumers in Europe often use food processors at home to make quick smoothies for breakfast. This trend, together with the development of juice bars, led to ready-made frozen smoothies with different ingredients and flavours, very often including tropical frozen fruit.
- To find out more about product and country-specific trends in the sector, read our studies about frozen berries in Europe and France and frozen strawberries in Germany.
- Invest in marketing via social media and participate in leading trade fairs in Europe in order to increase awareness of less-known frozen tropical fruit in Europe. European consumers are usually acquainted with tropical fruit such as bananas, pineapple and mangoes, but much less aware of fruits such as mangosteen, durian, rambutan, santol, lychee or salak (snake fruit). Rare tropical fruit are more commonly found in ethnic stores than in the leading retail chains.
- Suggest new product developments and combinations of flavour to your buyers.
4. What requirements must frozen tropical fruit comply with to be allowed on the European market?
General information on buyer requirements for processed fruit and vegetables is given in our study about Buyer requirements on the European processed fruit and vegetable market. The section below deals with specific requirements applying to frozen tropical fruit in Europe.
The most recent changes relevant for frozen tropical fruit were the changes concerning the maximum residue level of several pesticides, especially the pesticide thiabendazole, which is relevant for mango.
The obligation to provide nutrition information for consumers started to apply from 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.
Repacking of quick frozen tropical fruit under controlled conditions is permitted. Repacking must be done quickly at temperatures between 0°C and 5°C. After repacking, products are returned to freezing chambers at −18°C.
Common and niche requirements
- 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 import of organic products from third countries).
Organic products can readily be imported from non-European countries whose rules on organic production and control are equivalent to Europe’s. However, this is not the case for most developing countries, with the exception of Argentina, Costa Rica and Tunisia.
For all other non-European countries, importers can have their organic products certified for import into the European Union by independent private control bodies approved by the European Commission.
- Monitor latest MRL updates in order to discover relevant changes in the allowed residue levels for tropical fruit.
- Specifically for tropical frozen fruit, consult the EU Export Helpdesk where you can find European Union legislation for your selected products under the corresponding 2009 codes.
- 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.
- Refer to Codex Alimentarius for the Code of Practice for the Processing and Handling of Quick Frozen Foods. By following recommended good manufacturing practice schemes, you can fulfil requirements on European food safety legislation.
5. What competition do I face on the European frozen tropical fruit market?
At country level, major competition comes from different developing country suppliers which are commonly supplying tropical frozen fruit on the European markets. Among others the largest suppliers are India (mango), Peru (Mango, passion fruit, lucuma, camu camu), Mexico, Thailand (mango, papaya, mangosteen), Vietnam, Philippines and Brazil.
At product level, fresh tropical fruit still remains the greatest competitor to frozen tropical fruit. Consumers are under the assumption that frozen fruits are inferior substitutes to fresh fruit, and that their processing involves added preservatives.
6. Which channels can you use to put frozen tropical fruit on the European market?
The specialised importer and food processor is the preferred channel for market entry in this sector.
Many importers are also packers, and in addition conduct trading and wholesale activities.
In some cases, developing country exporters can also supply the different segments directly, especially to companies which use tropical frozen fruit as ingredients for final products.
Compared to the general sector of frozen fruit and vegetables, frozen tropical fruit has a greater share in the food industry than the packing industry for retail.
Food industries which prefer using frozen tropical fruit as ingredients include the dairy industry (especially yogurts and other milk-based drinks), ice cream industry and bakery industry (especially the frozen bakery sub-segment).
Chart 1: European channels for frozen tropical fruit, 2017
Source: Market researcher insights from industry sources
- Customise products strategically when choosing a preferred channel. For packers, the shape, colour and taste of IQF products are more relevant. On the other hand, for the food industry channel, the chemical composition of the frozen product is more important.
- Read our tips about doing business with European buyers of processed fruit and vegetables.
- Also read our tips about finding buyers on the European market for processed fruit and vegetables.
7. What are the end-market prices for frozen tropical fruit on the European market?
An indication of margins according to final retail prices for frozen fruit tropical fruit is not very precise, as the entire sector contains many different products.
The prices also differ between producing countries regarding type of frozen tropical fruit, variety and quality of products. For some types of the more rare tropical fruits, buyers are not very aware of the different varieties, but for the major tropical fruits, the variety can strongly influence the price. For example, Alfonso and Kesar mango varieties are usually more expensive than other varieties, such as Kent, Raspuri and Totapuri (which is used more for purees).
In addition, the price of organic products is generally much higher. For example, the price of conventional frozen mango chunks from Peru typically fluctuates around 3 USD/kg (CIF), while the price of organic mango chunks is around 4 USD/kg.
Very roughly, it can be estimated that the Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) price represents around 40–50% of the retail price of a retail pack of frozen tropical fruit.
The best option to monitor prices is to compare your offer with the offer from the largest competitors.
A very rough breakdown of the prices is shown in the table below:
Table 2: Frozen tropical fruit price breakdown
|Steps in export process||Type of price||
Average shareof 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 250 g)||100%|
Please note that the share of the retail price paid to farmers varies a lot, depending on the producing country, harvesting season and type of the product.
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