Turbana, Fyffes partnership gets into melon deal

02/13/2006 12:00:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

(Feb. 13) CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Four months after Europe’s top banana marketer bought into it, Turbana Corp. is expanding into new commodities and eyeing other products — and other companies.

“The opportunities are there. What we have to do is choose the right ones because we want to do things right,” said Juan David Alarcon, Turbana’s chief executive officer.

A recent move by new partner, Fyffes, for example, could broaden Turbana’s offshore melon deal. Dublin, Ireland-based Fyffes took ownership of half of Turbana last September. On Feb. 8, Fyffe’s announced it had acquired a 60% share in Nolem SA, the largest melon exporter in Brazil.

“They are one of the world’s largest melon producers,” Alarcon said. “They have a distribution network in Europe. We are looking for alliances. When we brought Fyffes into the picture, we were looking for a strategic partner. Now we see something has happened.”

Brazil has a small October and November window for shipments to the U.S., Alarcon said. The melons, which will be packed under the Fyffes label, will lengthen Turbana’s December-to-spring deal, he said.

Turbana also recently struck a sourcing deal for Costa Rica cantaloupe.

Turbana’s first boatloads of cantaloupe arrived Jan. 15 at Turbana’s Freeport, Texas, and Bridgeport, Conn., ports.

Turbana started shipping honeydew — which started Jan. 1 — from Panama last year. Turbana’s Central American melons run through the end of March. The cantaloupe and honeydew will be packed under the Fyffes label.

BIGGER TURBANA, FOOTHOLD FOR FYFFES

Turbana, the U.S. marketing arm of the Uniban SA cooperative, Colombia’s biggest exporter of bananas and plantains, sees itself becoming a larger company, not only in bananas but also in other fruits from its Central American and South American production sourcing region. Turbana also wants to acquire other companies in its North American and European distribution region, Alarcon said.

“We want to buy other companies that are leaders and have good programs that we can bring into the Turbana network,” he said. “By 2010, we will be a totally different company.”

Brian Bell, a Fyffes spokesman, said the move for Turbana gives Fyffes a foothold in marketing its products in the U.S. through an established player.

”This is an initial step for Fyffes to re-enter the U.S. market,” he said. “The main brand promotion activity to arise from it will relate to Fyffes Gold pineapples.”

The deal, he said, leverages the Fyffes’ 30-year relationship with Uniban.

“Turbana is a well-established brand in the U.S. market, one of the largest suppliers after Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte,” Bell said.


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